At this point it’s difficult to know if my timing was propitious or ill-advised to read the new Michael Wolff book SIEGE Trump Under Fire, his second book on the president.
His first was the widely read FIRE AND FURY Inside the Trump White House.
It should be pointed out, early and often, that Wolff’s reporting has been criticized as superficial and in some cases downright shoddy.
At first glance, SIEGE appeared to me to be a perfect book for enjoyable summer reading. Mostly, it is damn difficult to take this president seriously so I thought the book would provide some entertaining comic relief.
But now, with Iran rattling its sword and North Korea always on edge, the book’s depiction of Donald Trump, regardless of your politics, fails to ratchet up the laugh meter. The president’s job is simply too important, particularly when a country such as Iran is shooting down U.S. spy drones flying in international air space and creating havoc for oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
Wolff’s book quotes the infamous but eerily descriptive line from an aide about Trump – that he’s a 12-year old boy in a man’s body.
He is described as a compulsive liar and a narcissist who, for good measure, is short-tempered, vile and rude.
Surprising, at least to me, is the portrait of a man who is uncomfortable with numbers as well as other details he either can’t understand or chooses not to care about. The inability to comprehend and/or appreciate financials would seem to have been a death knell in the real estate-investment-entertainment world he has lived in and claims to have conquered.
He is described as disrespecting virtually all those around him, including his family members and children (with the exception of favorite daughter Ivanka).
Trump is said to belittle and intimidate most of those in his orbit, one notable exception being longtime confidant Steve Bannon who was among the first to be fired from the administration. Strangely, Bannon and some others who have voluntarily departed or have been banished from the White House are still asked for counsel and advice.
It is Bannon who appears to have been Wolff’s most valuable source of information about Trump. It’s difficult to respect someone so disloyal as Bannon. He’s a relentless self-promoter who apparently sees himself as hip and cool, constantly using the words “dude” and “bro” when addressing people.
But one of the most damning indictments of Trump is attributed to fellow Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Writes Wolff: “McConnell’s contempt for Trump was boundless. He was not just the stupidest president McConnell had dealt with, he was the stupidest person McConnell had ever met in politics …”
What I find alarming at this point is that the current White House has a weak and inexperienced Cabinet that has recently been described as a harbor for former lobbyists –men and women whose power candidate Trump once promised to limit.
The country’s secretary of defense is only “acting,” and is brand new to the job because the previous “acting” secretary, who also happened to be Trump’s nominee for the job, dropped out of the confirmation process following revelations of domestic violence in his family.
As reckless as many of Trump’s decisions are and as scary as they may be there was a view offered in a June 20 column by The New York Times’ David Leonhardt that some may find consoling. Leonhardt says that in fact Trump and his administration have a strategy and its effectiveness has caused Iran to lash out in frustration. Here’s an excerpt:
“On many issues, the Trump administration doesn’t seem to have a strategy. It lurches from tweet to policy announcement, without any clear connection. The situation with Iran is different. On Iran, the administration has at least the beginnings of a strategy, whatever you may think of it.
“Administration officials believe that the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal was too lenient for two main reasons. One, outside of nuclear policy, the deal allowed Iran to continue making trouble in all of the ways it was already making trouble – financing terrorist groups like Hezbollah, trying to build a radical “Shiite crescent” across the Middle East and so on. Two, Trump’s aides believe that Obama’s deal had too short of a time horizon and would eventually allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
“So the Trump administration has set out to ruin the Iranian economy – by reimposing sanctions – in the hope that the resulting pain will force Iran’s government to make bigger concessions.
“It’s a high-risk strategy that increases the possibility of both big success (a less menacing Iran or even the fall of the current regime) and big failure (a terrible war or a further radicalized Iran that builds nuclear weapons in the short term).”
Writing about Trump is dicey – at least on a local level. First of all, I do not live in Washington and do not have Washington news sources. I consider multiple points of view, sort out what I read and hear, and draw my own conclusions.
And there’s a certain amount of sheer folly in offering an opinion on Trump. You would hope to spark debate but that rarely occurs because there is no middle ground where the president is concerned. One side loves him and the other deplores him. The result is a total lack of meaningful discussion, which is dangerous in a democracy.
After Trump’s June 18 rally in Florida officially kicking off his re-election campaign a frequent reader of mine – yes, I have a few – pleaded with me to write about how ridiculous it was for Trump to promise to cure cancer, eradicate AIDS and put astronauts on Mars.
Trump’s outrageous hyperbole can be amusing at times and there might have been some sport in lambasting his latest round of goofy campaign promises. But against a backdrop of a reckless and vengeful Iran – not to mention a reckless and impulsive commander in chief – Trump’s antics just aren’t funny.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org
(Editor’s note: Due to an editor’s error, the intended attribution of quoted material from a New York Times column was omitted from the print version of this column. This version is corrected to include the attribution.)