A Trump-bashing book to warm a cold weekend

I had a plan for last weekend's deep chill: a warm cozy chair and Michael Wolff's new blockbuster book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

I nabbed a spot late last week on a waiting list for the book at the ever-helpful Bank Square Books in Mystic. They told me the waiting list was growing fast. In the end, I couldn't wait for the first shipment, due by Monday, and downloaded an e-book instead.

I lapped it up, like a melting ice cream cone in June. I didn't want to miss a drop. It was delicious — a gossipy, raucous, funny, unnerving glimpse behind the brocade White House curtains.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, especially for news junkies, on the right and left.

Like it or not, it apparently drove President Donald Trump to prove his genius with a live television policy discussion Tuesday.

And yet there doesn't seem to be a lot of news to the book. Didn't we already know Trump barely reads anything, spends hours watching cable television, endlessly repeats himself, couldn't care less about the fine print of policies like eliminating health care for millions of Americans and thinks mostly of himself?

The book paints the president as a petulant child, one who needs constant love and attention. But we knew that, right? 

Trump seems in the book enormously unqualified to be president, and yet, oddly, kind of likable, at least when he's not mean or bratty.

I suppose part of the revelation is seeing all this through the eyes of people like the former president of Goldman Sachs, who have improbably signed on for West Wing day care.

So far, the book has successfully weathered enormous scrutiny. Other than some reporting jealousies, and some sloppy and trivial fact checking, like Hope Hicks' age, it is holding up pretty well.

I found the recent book "Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win" by Luke Hardy, the former head of the Moscow Bureau of The Guardian, to be much more revelatory.

Hardy essentially lays out and explains much of the terrain special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be covering, the dirty money trail from Russia that seems to thread thoroughly through the Trump crowd. Actionable collusion with the enemy, or treason, is a lot more ominous than a petulant child, however frightening the descriptions of that child in Wolff's book.

Indeed, the parts of the Wolff book I found most interesting were the affirmation of suggestions in the Hardy book, the dirty Russian money that Mueller is going to likely find and use for his ongoing prosecutions.

Steve Bannon's attack on the others in the Trump White House seemed most pointed, to me, when he was addressing the Russia investigation, suggesting, for instance, that the Kushner family is especially vulnerable if prosecutors start to look at the web of shady overseas investment that props up their real estate empire.

My favorite characterization of this Bannon wisdom is his describing the Trumps as sunbathing on a beach as a Category 5 Mueller storm gathers on the horizon. They don't seem to have a clue as to how bad it is going to get. But Bannon suggests he does.

I saw Wolff in an interview disputing the notion that his book is about Bannon, and not Trump. But it is in fact very Bannon-centered, and, in the context of Russia, the now banished adviser is predicting others' demise, as the Russia vice tightens, while he himself remains untouched.

That will be interesting to consider, as the bitter winter of 2018 thaws, and the Mueller probe gets longer legs.

In time, when the Russia story puts the White House on fire, "Fire and Fury" might seem, in retrospect, to be Bannon's canny exit, claiming to be on the right side of the White House schism.

Meanwhile, for one of the cold weekends ahead, I can suggest the Hardy book, which you can find in stock at Bank Square Books. It's a paperback.

Or maybe you can fast forward a bit, to 2020, and try the snarky, gossipy, 2010 tell-all biography of Oprah Winfrey by Kitty Kelley.

Read it now, if you haven't. With a tell-all book already written, and millions of hours of recordings on the record, I'd suggest the candidacy might already be dead on arrival.

This is the opinion of David Collins.



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