What “Fire and Fury” Teaches Us #FireAndFury #FireAndFuryOrMadeUp

Just sitting here, my copy of the book in hand. It’ll take me time to parse it all, but Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, isn’t exactly what I expected it to be. Wolff weaves a narrative of political intimacy as well as psychological exploration of the book’s main players, from Steve Bannon to Kellyanne Conway to President Donald Trump, it’s all there.

These two concepts are constantly intertwined though. Fire and Fury shows us the difficulty of expressing the machinations of the various characters without also showcasing what motivations them. The dedicated right-wingers in the book are written in a way that makes you see each individual as having a very personal reaction to Trump’s victory. In other words, not all of the reactions were euphoric. Melanie Trump certainly had her reservations about the election results. Surprise was not an uncommon sentiment either.

The right-wing is populated with diverse characters, not quite human, but not quite cardboard either. Some of the character analyses add depth while also serving as idle speculation. For instance, Wolff ponders whether or not Bannon was on the spectrum, due to having a narrow focus on the issues at hand, but also due to a very mystifying, restrained communication style that constantly seemed to be putting a bridge between himself and others. It’s been a rough past couple of days for Bannon, and there aren’t very many signs he’ll be lifted from the hole of extreme presidential displeasure. It’s hard to tell if Bannon is on the spectrum, and it seems like the label was an attempt at character building.

Before the release of Wolff’s book, it was obvious that there would be accusations that the contents of the book were untrue. I think one should take the balanced viewpoint. It might offer embellishments here and there, especially with the psychological assessment of the characters, or have small errors due to the rushed release of the book, but it provides a broad overview of the various people connected to Donald Trump as they progressed from the campaign trail to the White House. It paints a picture of bitter competition, taking angst and anxiety and placing it in the nexus of the political landscape.

It seems clear early on in the book that Trump was considered the pinata of ambition. He was not necessarily respected for his intellect, but for his ability to capture attention, whether that attention was negative or positive, didn’t matter. They saw Trump as a political shooting star, rallying around a ridiculous man that would either clear the road to victory, or obscure it for the forseeable future.

So, to recap, and keep in mind my impressions might change, Fire and Fury teaches us several things.

  • The audience of the book is comfortable reading embellishments and absorbing the palace intrigue-like style. The liberties taken with character assessment assume a fascination with the current White House administration, because it’s very clear many people are highly interested in the behind-the-scenes view, and how it either clashes with or reinforces their own perceptions.

 

  • Each character is presented with their own motivations, hopes, fears, dreams, whatever. How do you say that the book has pleasant, fiction-like elements without denigrating the importance it has in the reality we live in? My focus is definitely not to disprove the contents of the book, but more to assess the reason why the book chooses the tone it does. It represents the author’s theory of mind, that again it assumes we are very interested in the characters shown in the book.

 

  • Trump is a character seen through the lens of subjectivity. How others viewed him was seen as just as important as him having his own set of motivations and insecurities, a character almost defined by other characters’ perceptions. At one point in the book, you are made to believe Bannon imbued Trump with a unicorn-like quality. Sort of a buffoon, but possessing a strange ability that no one else could conjure. The title for Wolff’s next book: The Bannon Delusion?

 

  •  Bannon, Ailes, and Murdoch weren’t necessarily portrayed as a tightly-knit group. Murdoch was portrayed as Bannon’s enemy. Fractious but forced to unite, competition and bitter infighting contained in the luxury of the White House.

 

  • Lastly, Fire and Fury teaches us that we’ve forgotten a lot already. It provides more context, but when you read or re-read excerpts from the book, you realize 2017 was bloated with one controversy after another, all nearly impossible to keep in your mind at any given time.

Will post more about the book as I read it!

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“Fire and Fury” Causes Bannon to Seek Shelter #FireAndFury #BannonvsTrump

“Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s new book, made sure that the New Year started with a roar and not a whimper. While President Trump is chafing under the media’s coverage of a very negative portrayal of the White House, Stephen Bannon ran for the nearest fallout shelter, letting regret pave the way back into the commander-in-chief’s good graces.

Bannon said he felt regret over not responding to the book’s claims in a timely fashion, and that the time it took him to respond caused eyes to become diverted from Trump’s great achievements. At least he knows which side his bread is buttered on. Will it be enough to placate the beast in the Oval Office? Bannon’s statement reads as a weak obeisance in the wake of calls for a new chief executive at Breitbart and the Mercer family backing away from their financial support.

Fire and Fury sure has unleashed a political firestorm, but to me it seems that many of consequences have fallen on Steve Bannon. Proof of the buffoonery of the Trump administration is nothing new. Many of the courtiers in the White House have whispered about the 25th amendment. Big whoop.

Bannon falling to his knees though? Looks like he’ll need some financial backing to get back up, and if not financial, definitely political. But in Bannon’s neck of the woods, only POTUS can provide that.

By the way, I’ve been meaning to read more of the book (and post my thoughts about it on here).

North Korea: Nuclear State With Higher Ambitions?

Even though the lines of communication have thawed a little between North and South Korea, President Donald J. Trump isn’t deviating much from his usual tone against the rogue authoritarian state (I guess when you’ve been blogging long enough, you start to phrase things in a quasi-journalistic way, and ignore the hypocrisy of the nation where you’re posting from).

Trump has offered a roughed-up looking olive branch to Kim Jong Un. “Sure, I always believe in talking,” was the official response he gave to journalists. But, this comes shortly after he said he had a larger nuclear button than Kim.

Trump followed that up with:

“If something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world. Very important.”

Such a statement follows a trail of bellicose rhetoric (maybe I should add “amid saber-rattling” to complete the illusion of journalistic language) launched, and sustained by, both leaders.

Trump continued to take credit for the slight altering in the diplomatic landscape between both countries.

“A lot of people have said, a lot of people have written, that without my rhetoric, without my tough stance — and it’s not just a stance, I mean, this is what has to be done, if it has to be done — that they wouldn’t be talking about Olympics, they wouldn’t be talking right now. “I’d love to see them take it beyond the Olympics. … At the appropriate time, we’ll get involved.”

Seems irrelevant to me. Kim Jong Un has already offered a vague timeline for opening up talks with other nations, being very open about using the threat of nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip.

This reminds me of how past presidents would take credit for an improving economy, even when evidence of their involvement having a positive impact was slim or nonexistent. While it’s important to keep pointing out blatant misinformation via the Trump administration, or directly from the llama’s mouth, considering the long-term, non-nuclear impact this has on the the region or world politics is also important. Even though the North Korean dictatorship has proven it is internally strong, and by internally strong, I mean heaping upon its citizens horrible abuse of all kinds, it hasn’t been able to demonstrate that it can elicit responses from other nations that benefit it, until very recently.

If we look back, it’s been a lengthy road of verbal attacks and nuclear tests. These tests have never been for their own sake, though. To see Kim Jong Un realistically, we must view him as a semi-rational actor. Neither genius nor madman, he occupies a space uniquely his own. The United States has been dealing with the North Korea problem since the Clinton administration. Deferred military action and murky diplomacy have always been the habitual strategies.

Going from vague “in a few years” threat to blistering moment-to-moment terror, North Korea has a story to tell too. It’s easy to perceive the country as a hermit kingdom with little designs beyond retaining what little power it possesses, and, if we aren’t viewing it as a hermit kingdom, we are seeing Kim Jong Un playing the world’s stage and using fear as the main source of entertainment.

It’s an interesting, if wrong, perception. As the New York Times reports, Kim Jong Un has domestic ambitions that rival what I believe his broader ambitions to be. If I understand this article correctly, Kim Jong Un wishes to seem relevant to the newest generation, focusing on modern-seeming nuclear weapons vs. antiquated-seeming technology. Even dictators have to seem relevant to some degree. It’s a form of patriotism too, and despite many defectors, a patriotic message is playing in North Korea that isn’t entirely dissimilar to the bravado seem from POTUS.

On the world’s stage, Kim Jong Un might wish to sabotage the diplomatic ties with South Korea and the United States. Not only this, but openly trying to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula by appealing to the South Koreans takes Trump out of the ballpark, whether or not he approves.

We could see Kim Jong Un’s attempts to get closer with South Korea as feeding an international agenda, or as a means to prop up his domestic one. Certainly this is larger than Donald Trump, and the North Korean leader has definitely demonstrated that.

Latest Trump Tweetstorm isn’t a Revelation. Pretty Normal Category 1 Behavior.

Not one to let a sleeping dog lie, POTUS tends to kick a canine when it’s down. See below.

Doesn’t seem like a hoax to me, but if you kick that dog enough, something good will happen (“Doubling down” via tweet was his favorite strategy during the campaign, but also obviously throughout his presidency). If you don’t possess wit, repetition is the next best thing, right? So, he’s still rambling on about the Russian collusion, playing the part of his worst accuser, if you think about it.

Then he chases after Democrats and the Media, usual  Make America Great Again fare. He chafes at the Reagan comparison, but has been happy to invoke the similarity with the former POTUS on prior occasions.

Putting all that aside, if you wish to not be perceived as crazy, the solution to that is as simple and repetitious as the tweets themselves.

Once again, he aspires to hurricane-tier tweets, but can barely reach Category 1 status, and that’s a generous assessment, imo. Here he attacks Crooked Hillary, which is basic campaign trail stuff. Then, in typical fashion, he uses victim mentality to boost some mirage about having a fantastic ability. He perceives himself as being mentally stable and “really smart.”

Not just smart, but genius level? I think he truly believes it. Narcissistic traits can solidify in isolation. Living a life of incredible wealth is a good example. It allows those character flaws to magnify, and there isn’t much to keep them in check. Now he’s President, and in a mind like that, such a position only reinforces that sense of superiority. When Trump witnesses the erosion of various institutions, this also seems to reinforce that behavior.

Voices whispering “Lil’ Bob Corker” are echoing throughout the vast hall of what we’ll soon call history. “Total loser.” Same deal here. What’s new? Sure, he refers to former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon as “Sloppy Steve” but no new angle is taken, no revelation from a supposedly brilliant mind. Even the insults aren’t creative “Rocket Man” was copyright infringement. “Lil’ Bob Corker” wasn’t especially wounding. Just another generic barb from a bumbling man.

There’s also a fundamental inconsistency when you have the self-perception of genius mingling with conservative victimhood. Would the mind of a chess champion become ensnared by the most basic of situations? I’m convinced some social and intellectual impairment exists, and that no amount of twitter followers nor the withering of already weak institutions will diminish that fact.

If I had to critique the liberal media for one thing, it would be that there is an intense focus on Trump’s general mental ability, but what should be incorporated should be a broader reflection on Trump’s ability to cope with the social world. Sure, they comment on how he is “shattering norms” though that isn’t the same thing as commenting on a pathological deficit of social insight (narcissism is almost glorified, and thus is presented as a reflection of social status). They focus on “impulse control” but that feeds into the narrative of the bully continuing with behavior that has been validated in the past.

 

 

Bannon Being Fired…Again? Trump Opposes “Separation of Corporation and State.”

Seems strange, but the exchange between Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon reminds us how “Hyper-Corporate” the POTUS has molded the US to be. Where once capitalism seethed in the darkness, “it’s just the way things are, not too bad,” it’s come out to play, asserting forcefully that it can kick your ass out the door.

Sarah Sanders suggested today that Breitbart should consider firing Steve Bannon.

As corporations and government protocol mingle, it’s becoming increasingly hard to separate the two. Is Separation of Church and State the issue here? More like separation of Corporation and State (the former has adopted a vaguely religious ideology to protect their business practices). Even though Bannon most likely won’t be fired, the threat of a diminishing fanbase is probably considered just as terrible a fate.

Sander’s position that Breitbart should stroke its chin thoughtfully while thinking about tossing Bannon out on the street is essentially corporate language. Trump turned the same language on ESPN employee Jemele Hill.

Is Trump extending his reach? While Breitbart has always worked for Trump, this public display of insult from a former insider, using the bully pulpit for vengeful humiliation, then a very quick capitulation from the other side sets up an interesting dynamic. It also heavily supports punishing, corporate language that won’t necessarily be forgotten once Trump leaves the Oval Office.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Trump Will Sue! Sue Who? Why, Steve Bannon, Of Course!

 

Mr. Bannon is on a collision course with Judge Judy.  Following former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon’s “inflammatory” comments concerning Trump Jr and his participation in the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which recently surfaced in a soon-to-be-published book, Trump’s personal lawyer sent a cease-and-desist order to the President’s newest pariah.

From what I’m gathering, a cease-and-desist order is more of a firm warning, a harbinger for more serious legal action if one doesn’t, well, desist. It also serves the Trump narrative of threatening legal action if the enemy doesn’t choose to slink back into obscurity. Trump’s legal team is also trying to get the book from even being published. Legal pursuits and capitalism obscure the schemes of a would-be dictatorship?

Sarah Sanders, official bugle for the Trump presidency, decided to make public her disgust with “Bannon’s attacks on his family.” I’m extremely in favor of Republican infighting, but this strange hypocrisy, even though it focuses on the architect of Trump’s personality, seems to attack reality and ignore appeals to consistency. Trump’s repetitious, libelous tweets have injured not just specific individuals, but have also inflamed political fault lines. In his gold-encrusted mind, does hypocrisy fall by the wayside because ever-shifting distinctions are created then tossed away?

Another aspect to consider is that the President’s pattern is using the courtroom to stir controversy. In the Mueller probe, he is the victim. The Muslim ban was halted by a “so-called” judge. If memory serves, his business career could be characterized in part by legal intimidation.

Is Trump emboldened now since Gorsuch is firmly rooted in the Supreme Court? Maybe he’s downright arrogant now, with all the far-right puppets inhabiting the lower courts. He was always over-confident, of course, but having a legal system propped up in your favor does incredible things for an already hugely inflated sense of self-worth.

This book would add more weight to an administration cracking under public scrutiny. I think we have to balance out the narrative. Rather than just see “Trump the Mighty” let’s focus on “Trump the Flailing.” The latter shouldn’t conjure up pity or complacency. The reason we should focus on perception should be pretty evident after last year’s events. Paint the image of a predatory, larger-than-life figure, then fear and anxiety might paralyze the political process. If you instead choose the portrait of an incompetent, pity-inspiring figure, then attention toward politics goes back to American default. Apathy, etc.

Trump was right about “Fire and Fury,” except now it’s coming from a former comrade.

Just a Short Post Before Bed

Yep. There he is, former President Barack Obama. A recent post in The Guardian got me to thinking. Obama represents the torch of nostalgia, some golden age of American government that’s now long gone (at least to a sizeable swath of the US). While I’m not sure that Trump’s New Year outburst is anything spectacular, to some it highlights a border between the Obama era and this one. Now we should be certain there’s no “going back.”

That’s probably true to an extent, considering the hard right has had a taste of supreme leadership. They won’t give up the fight easily. But nostalgia is a powerful motivator, and while it’s not substitute for ideology, it can be a powerful motivator to tie together loose segments of thinking into a vague but convincing enough framework that it passes for ideology. The Obama era might’ve come to a close, but many people still remember it fondly. Any candidate in 2020 that seems like a throwback to that era could have an advantage.

My pre-bedtime thoughts anyway.