The most disappointed people in America this last week must be those execrators of President Trump who opened their Amazon package only to find that the copy of Fire and Fury they had ordered was subtitled The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945. It’s a well regarded 2009 volume by University of Toronto historian Randall Hansen, who is surely grateful for the unanticipated royalties.
But it’s not the red meat the customer was looking forward to consuming. Author Michael Wolff, whose royalties from a million sales in a week are much greater than Hansen’s, has made no secret that he expects his book will “end” the Trump presidency. He apparently thinks his book will reveal to millions of Americans, for the first time, that their emperor has no clothes.
That’s unlikely to happen, for two reasons. One is that his Fire and Fury is laced with errors that reveal that the author, however knowledgeable about Manhattan media moguls, doesn’t know much about national politics. Dick Armey was never speaker of the House, Kellyanne Conway was not a “downballot” pollster, Trump was not ignorant of existence of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Wolff affects a Trump-like insouciance about such inaccuracies. “If it rings true, it is true,” he told NBC’s Katy Tur. She responded, “Congratulations on the book and congratulations on the president hating it.”
The other reason Wolff’s ambitions may prove as unfulfilled as those of the former Trump aide who appears to have been his chief source, Steve Bannon, is that the gist of his indictment — to the extent it’s not fake news — is simply not news. Americans today, like American voters in November 2016, are aware that President Trump makes outrageous and inaccurate statements.
They know that his White House, like his campaign, is often in shambles, as have been many other presidential campaigns (read Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s Shattered on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign) and first-year White Houses (go back and read about the Bill Clinton White House in 1993). No one supposes Trump has the discipline and gravitas of a Dwight Eisenhower. But neither have most of his successors.
Fire and Fury can be seen as the latest attempt to overturn the result of the 2016 election. Others have not fared well. Entertainers’ attempts to persuade presidential electors not to vote for their pledged candidate failed. And the charges that Trump secured his victory by “collusion” with Russian President Vladimir Putin seem to be fizzling out. Instead, evidence suggests — but does not yet prove — that the Obama FBI used the Clinton campaign-financed, Fusion GPS-managed, Christopher Steele-compiled dossier to undermine Trump.
As Hillary Clinton said before her defeat, acquiescence in the peaceful transfer of power is one of the strengths of a representative democracy. Yet the impulse of many Democrats and Never Trumpers is to style themselves the "Resistance" and to attempt to overturn an election result they consider deplorable.
The Wolff book is the latest example — and perhaps one that discredits the enterprise. “The anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks in response. It suffers from “insularity,” he goes on, and from “lowbrowism.” As Brooks points out, Trump and the Republican-majority Congress, are making attempts to govern. He sees, behind Trump’s tweets and tantrums, “a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals: the shift in our Pakistan policy, the shift in our offshore drilling policy, the fruition of our ISIS policy, the nomination for judgeships and the formation of policies on infrastructure, DACA, North Korea and trade.”
Trump’s opening up to cameras his White House meeting with congressional leaders of both parties on immigration may have been an attempt to counter the picture Wolff presents. The president seemed knowledgeable about the issues and respectful in eliciting and listening to the views of others.
He also seemed to be accepting contrary views and to be relinquishing his leverage as a chief executive with the power to veto legislation. That’s disturbing to those who want him to insist on legislative enactment of restrictions on chain migration, an end to the visa lottery, a requirement that employers use E-Verify, and funding of the border wall.
It’s also not clear that his administration is coming up with an infrastructure proposal in line with his campaign rhetoric or that it’s producing nominees for many important administrative positions. There’s plenty of room for criticism — which is likely to be more productive than attempting somehow to overturn an election.