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'Fire and Fury': Truth or Fiction?

No Matter What Side Of Political Fence, Book Is Intriguing

Jo Manning

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"Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House," by Michael Wolff, Henry Holt and Company, 2018, 336 pages, various formats (Kindle; Hardcover; audio).

Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for truth and facts. I was a professional researcher and fact-checker for many years, and have a graduate degree in library science. I have worked in academia and in the corporate world as well as for private clients. I am also a published author in fiction and non-fiction. I have more than a glancing relationship with the worlds of publishing and investigative journalism.

Having said that, "Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House" is difficult to review. There are so many questions surrounding the book.

What everyone is asking is, “Is it true?” There may well be truths, but, “Is it 100 percent true?” No, of course not. Mistakes will pop up in even the most thoroughly researched piece of writing, but I suspended any disbelief and accepted this book for what it is, and I am willing to give this author the benefit of any doubt, because, flaws and nit-picking aside, this is a well written tome that conveys an important message. Those critics who say it is poorly written are wrong. And Wolff is extremely well spoken – he has been interviewed extensively -- and, yes, smart, or else the best con man ever. (Yes, I do remember that fellow who wrote the bio of Howard Hughes, which turned out to be untrue.)

Forgive me for going on, but those of you who read this review need to know where I am coming from. You also need to be made aware that professional jealousy abounds in publishing. Keep this in mind when you read what other writers, and the media are saying about it, some favorable, some negative. Wolff will be making a lot of money from this book, and there are people who will not be pleased.

Wolff is not universally loved. Like Kitty Kelley, who wrote searing tell-alls about celebrities and politicians, he occupies a special class of journalist/author and is perceived as someone who skirts the rules. No one has ever successfully sued Kelley for libel, and whether Wolff will be successfully sued will be interesting to watch. (And, remember, threatening to sue is not the same as actually suing, andwinning your case.)

Wolff says he got access to the White House through his contacts there, and, like a quiet little fly on the walls of that august place, he interacted with a number of denizens of the Trump administration, most notably Steve Bannon, who were all too willing to chat. (He also says he spoke a total of three hours with President Donald J. Trump, which Trump has denied.) People definitely saw him there; he has witnesses. And he was there a number of months.

Michael Wolff

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Michael Wolff

One has to be very careful when speaking with journalists. Will you be speaking on or off the record, for example? This is extremely important. When a journalist is told, “This is off the record,” the journalist, ethically, must not divulge what was said and by whom. It appears to me that the Trump White House had to be exceptionally naïve and trusting when dealing with Wolff and saying what they did to him, or he took them for a ride and spewed everything he was told, carelessly and imprudently.

This is something readers will have to figure out for themselves. But, if what Wolff divulged what was actually said from the many mouths during the many months he spent in the White House there, well, then, it is an excoriating read. If he made things up, that is something else entirely.

To me, what he has written rings true. I could be wrong, but it feels right to me.

This is a disorganized and disingenuous administration mired in chaos, populated by amateurs, buffoons, neo-Nazis, hateful right-wingers, opportunists, and very wealthy people. It seems to have no moral core, much less a grasp or understanding of policy. Anyone following anything from the establishment investigative newspapers (The New York TimesThe Washington Post) and magazines (The New YorkerThe Atlantic) is already predisposed to believe what Wolff says in "Fire and Fury." He says, moreover, that he has tapes and that he took notes. (The "shield law" is legislation designed to protect reporters' privileges, and such he does not have to reveal his sources.)

So, what to make of this extraordinary tome? Time will tell, but there is more to what he writes about this poor excuse for a world leader than the one-liners and sound-bites – “mentally ill”; “a f'in moron”; a “dope”“crazy”; “a child who require instant gratification”rambling”; “repetitive”“out of control”; “illiterate”; and so on and so on – you have all heard these descriptions, over and over again, this past week that have been making the rounds over the cable news channels. But what is in these pages is not just scurrilous gossip; it’s intense and tough going in parts. And, if you don’t know who some of the more obscure players are, or what the issues facing this country are, you will have a problem connecting the dots. (Do you know Erik Prince, Hope Hicks, or Stephen Miller, to name just a few of the innermost circle?)

Do I think you-all should read it? Yes, I do, whatever your political orientation. These are troubling times, indeed, in our country and Wolff may have done us all a great favor with this book. Rot needs to be exposed. Whether this will engender any remedies is, of course, another issue. But this is a start and perhaps the establishment press has been too careful in dissecting this very important state of affairs in our beleaguered country; they need to step up.

As of the date of this review, mega-mouth Steve Bannon was removed from the alt-right Breitbart News. His comments, widely quoted from "Fire and Fury" about the Trump children (Don Junior engaged in “treasonous” behavior by meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower, and Ivanka is “dumb as a brick” endeared him neither with his former boss nor with the people at Breitbart. And see this report today from Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/trump-staffers-are-so-miserable-white-house-fears-mass-exodus-2018-776477

Apparently, the mainstream press may have finally gotten it — that there is no joy in this White House. Author Michael Wolff will take you through the particulars.

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