Fire & Flop: Exacerbated Attempt Falls Short

A Review of ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House ‘ by Michael Wolff

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Oliver Chin

In some of the controversies that he has gotten himself into over his book, some of Michael Wolff’s behavior has ironically mirrored Trump’s, which he criticized.

Soap operas are fun to watch because of how outlandish and dramatic the events turn out. A book about a presidential campaign that was painted with the narrative of being ill-advised, unprepared and a fluke in almost every way will most certainly sell millions of copies. But if its purpose was to objectively reveal the details about how Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, how much of its validity stands if many of not most of its anecdotes and events cited were modified or completely fabricated? Can it really be even considered an objective exposé if readers end up rereading storylines told by the media and bathing in their anger towards Trump rather than actually learning about the inner workings of the Trump campaign? All of these questions should be asked about ‘Fire and Fury’ by Michael Wolff, the most controversial book released about Trump since his election.

“Making up things to sensationalize a story about a candidate’s campaign doesn’t do anyone any favors.”

The book is incredibly well-written in terms of reinforcing the idea that Donald Trump is an inattentive, unfocused man in a suit, introducing major figures in the Trump campaign, and their roles in keeping candidate Trump level-headed: examples include Steve Bannon as the calculated strategist, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner as the mediator of relations between other older men, a task Wolff mentions Kushner specialized in. All of these profiles were filled in with incredible detail, but what Wolff failed to elaborate on was how any of these characters helped Trump win his election, resulting in the early chapters reading more like a gossip story.

Even Wolff’s opening hook, one of if not his boldest claim about the entire Trump campaign, lacks substance. He argues that the Trump campaign, a losing one from the beginning, planned on losing so that Trump could further cement his position as an outsider by claiming that the election was rigged. However, Wolff’s only supporting evidence is that the campaign was poorly run, without even going over the political ideology of the Trump campaign that lent to his outsider mentality. Wolff takes pleasure in dedicating a whole chapter to giving a biography of Steve Bannon’s personal life and going over how his colleagues respected his intelligence but thought he was an inhospitable person, yet it never goes over his ideology of why he was even affiliated with the Trump campaign in the first place. In fact, the gossip story of a book is so well-written that many of the storylines and events he describes are too good to be true, raising the discussion of whether or not they are even true. How could Wolff have known that Trump was having an affair with a Washington insider, who he did not even specify? This eagerness that Wolff displays to ignore how Trump won and instead insinuating that his victory was a fluke by endlessly criticizing his campaign lends itself to Wolff trying to make his story a more pleasant read to anti-Trump readers.  

Furthermore, it shows that Wolff, who does not discuss the voter base that propelled President Trump to victory in his discussion of the campaign itself, does not understand the anatomy of the Trump base. Many of his voters were not only industrial workers disgruntled with business regulations and the current tax system, but moderates and conservatives who wanted to put forth an answer to excessive political correctness and identity politics.   

The extreme efforts and lengths that Michael Wolff went to dramatize the failures of the Trump campaign and ignore his voter reflect a disturbing trend of bipolarized political coverage. Regardless of whether readers are President Trump’s avid supporters or ardent enemies, making up details in order to de-legitimize his political standing doesn’t help the case that he isn’t worthy of the Presidency, nonetheless any respect from anyone. In the opinion of Raghav Inder, ’19, “Making up things to sensationalize a story about a candidate’s campaign doesn’t do anyone any favors.”

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