The venerable publishing company Henry Holt is heavily promoting its new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, written by Michael Wolff, a prolific author perhaps best known for a 2010 biography of multi-media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Wolff’s new book is, as the title suggests, a gossipy look at President Donald Trump and his coterie, heavily based on interviews with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Much of what one might vulgarly call the “juicy stuff” was released pre-publication, and subsequent to those releases, what the public picked up on most avidly were statements quoted by Wolff from Bannon.
Some Juicy Stuff
The statements at issue were more negative about the President’ son, Donald Trump Jr, than about the President himself. Bannon is supposed to have said that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, will be able to “crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV” and that Don. Jr’s meeting with the Russians to discuss their dirt on Hillary Clinton was a terrible idea on several counts.
Specifically, the later quote was that “even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Oddly, Bannon is also quoted as treating his own publication, Breitbart, as less than a legitimate news source. He reportedly said that if a meeting had to take place, it should have been arranged to be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication.”
Despite plentiful opportunities, Bannon has not denied making any of the statements Wolff attributed to him.
Right Wing View
Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart prior to August 2016. He left that post to serve as Trump’s campaign manager. He returned to that post after leaving his White House job one year later. So one naturally wants to know: what is Breitbart saying about the Wolff book?
Oddly, Breitbart’s first report on the subject simply quoted, without indication of disapproval, some of the controversy-generating statements, including the one contrasting Breitbart with more legitimate publications.
The President has made very clear his unhappiness with the depiction of his campaign and his administration in Wolff’s book. He has tweeted that it is “full of lies, misrepresentations, and sources that don’t exist.” In the same tweet, Trump invented one of his derogatory nicknames for Bannon, who is now #SloppySteve.
One can, of course, be “sloppy” in telling truths one should have kept silent about. That may well be the implication of the new nickname. As one twitter denizen observes, “Just about everyone on the right believes this book … to be nothing but lies EXCEPT apparently the part about our conservative warrior, Bannon, betraying the President he helped elect … everyone believes that part.”
Left Wing View
Each side of the aisles tends to relish the civil wars on the other side. The apparent falling out of Trump and Bannon thus delights the left. On twitter, Bishop Talbert Swan asks POTUS, “Now that you and Steve have split up, who gets custody of the Nazis?”
Swan also cautions that POTUS better watch what he says about Bannon. “Hell hath no fury like a Senior Strategist who can corroborate conspiracy with the Russians scorned!”
Nick Walden Poublon, who describes himself on his home page as a “health adviser and advocate,” re-tweeting a cartoon of Bannon and Trump sipping tea together, comments: “Trump is having a very public fight with a depraved, sadistic and dangerous man. Oh … and #KimJongUn too.”
Eric Levitz, writing in New York, treats the book as the latest source out of many sources for the inference that POTUS suffers from “objectively determinable … neurological decline.” As Levitz sees it, “Wolff’s reporting establishes [that Trump’s] cognitive impairment is likely progressing toward dementia.”
The center left also sees this as an opportunity to stress an important Constitutional point. POTUS had his lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter trying to order Henry Holt to cancel its planned publication of the book. The office of POTUS has no such authority, and that fact is itself the theme of a movie now in theatres. The cease-and-desist gambit not only failed, it goosed the publicity level for the book and induced Holt to release it earlier than had been originally planned.