The fallout from "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff, the book released to coincide with the upcoming first anniversary of U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration, has indeed created fire and fury for the Washington establishment.
Even before one copy was sold, it became a bestseller, thanks in great part to the president’s own response to published pre-release excerpts.
His lawyers tried in vain to stall it through "cease and desist" letters threatening legal action. But the publishers responded by claiming it contributes to national discourse on the presidency and released it earlier than previously advertised.
Can of Worms
The book clearly opened the can of worms currently consuming the president, its contents -- believed or not -- amounting to embarrassments he would have preferred never to have had to address.
It drove a thick wedge between the president and his former chief election campaign and White House strategist, Steve Bannon and also unleashed a veritable catalogue of mutual but contradictory love-and-hate statements.
Bannon was Trump’s poster boy before it hit the streets -- and when the Trump family and White House attacked him, he publicly said the President was “a good man” who he will continue to support.
But the President and his White House defenders continued to brand the book as "phony," "a fantasy," "fictitious" and "full of lies."
Wolff insists it’s backed by some 200 interviews he did over several months talking to some of the president’s main friends and most of his Oval Office and West Wing staff, but the president insists he’s just “a fraud” who invents “lies”.
Hall of Shame
The president’s supporters stand by their man, while his detractors cling to every written word.
Bannon, blamed for all that Wolff wrote, quickly fell from the Republican political Hall of Fame to a basement Hall of Shame.
First he lost the support of the main financiers of his Breitbart News, despite issuing a belated statement sounding like he wanted to accuse Wolff of misinterpreting and misrepresenting his comments about the President’s son, Donald Jr.
His back-pedaling notwithstanding, Bannon knew he was on the way out long before the axe fell at Breitbart. It was just a matter of time – which came on January 10, when he announced his resignation as its Executive Chairman.
Fitness for Office
The book rekindled talk about Trump’s psychological fitness for office – and naturally, all the president’s men (and women) insist he is in fact a brain, the President himself tweeting he’s not just a brain, but a super genius.
People in the business of assessing human behavior all point out that the last thing a smart person will do is boast about being smart. Smart political observers also point out that no president should respond to every criticism from whatever source in the way Trump does.
But his apologists all claim the present U.S. president is not being presidential, only being himself – “just being Trump!”
Yet, in all that’s emerged from the book, there’s nothing new that hasn’t been said about this president, the whispers only became loud and the author attributes actual quotes to “100 percent” of the people around Trump, including family members.
Bannon had himself last year been quoted in the U.S. press as saying one of his main fears was that the President’s first term could be quickly curtailed by the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the President from office if they deem him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.
Trump is already having a super-hard time trying to reduce the damage the book can cause to his Republican Party’s performance in the upcoming November mid-term elections.
It will continue to raise his fury and keep him fire-fighting, but it is still uncertain to what extent it will quickly affect his base support.
Trump will start feeling the real fire and fury if and when his supporters start to feel he’s disappointed or betrayed them – like if and when his 2017 "Christmas present" tax bill works against his working class supporters.
Or if and when his continuing onslaught against the Affordable Health Care ("Obamacare") Act starts resulting in negative consequences for poor and middle-income Republican supporters.
Much will also depend on the outcome of the Mueller and congressional investigations, especially if -- as is already being suggested -- Bannon decides to cooperate with the investigators.
Prophets of Presidential Doom
Meanwhile, strong and loud predictions by the prophets of the president’s doom continue to pour out, alongside equally stout denials by many of those quoted in the brimstone book.
The political fallout will also last long, as those Trump has spent a year accusing of propagating "False News" will continue to grab every opportunity to falsify his every claim that the book is a cacophony of contrived falsities.
There’s also the fact that Wolff – who is also the super-rightwing global media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s biographer – played all the tricks in the pre-publishing publicity book to promote his own.
But he also became supremely over-confident, even predicting in one such interview that his book will eventually bring down the president.
"Fire and Fury" will earn him millions, but those who better understand how Washington works and the extent to which Right Wing America needs Trump at the White House insist that the writer grossly underestimates this president’s capacity and will to go after his opponents.
Trump has again demonstrated (with Bannon) that he can easily turn friends into foes.
His early responses to suggestions that Oprah Winfrey can be a good challenger in 2020 also shows he can just as easily do the opposite, him having said (years ago) that he would have liked her to be his running mate when he made his first bid for the presidency – on a democratic ticket -- and lost to Ross Perrot.
Blood Thicker Than Water!
Today’s Republican president was most fired-up by Bannon’s claim that the pre-election Trump Tower meeting seeking “dirt” on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic."
Likewise, his fury was equally fueled by Bannon’s claim that the Mueller investigation involves “money laundering charges” involving his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Ditto the allegation of a Trump family interest in building a future presidential dynasty that envisions First Daughter Ivanka becoming "the first woman president."
Bannon’s quoted quotes about the First Family definitely crossed the presidential red line.
The fallout from the book demonstrates just how fast and furious a political family can be engulfed by a fire lit by both friends and foes.
The U.S. First Family would have preferred that much put by the book in the public domain to have remained veiled behind White House iron curtains.
But apart from drawing fire and brimstone on the author and his main facilitator, the president’s words and actions in defense of his family have proven, yet again, that blood is always thicker than water!