Sunday, January 7, 2018

Fire and Fury #1 - The role of Steve Bannon

One of the most important themes in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury (2018) is the role of Steve Bannon in the White House. In the book, we learn:

  • Bannon and Sessions agreed on anti-immigration positions before the Trump campaign. Articles from Bannon's media outlet, Breitbart, were given to Trump and formed many of his positions in the campaign. In this way, "[t]he Trump campaign became a sudden opportunity to see if nativism really had legs."
  • Bannon gave only one-word responses to emails ("partly a paranoia about email, but even more a controlling crypticness") and often didn't respond to phone calls at all. "You couldn’t really make an appointment with Bannon, you just had to show up."
  • Bannon wrote the 16-minute inaugural speech for Trump. It featured Bannon's "take-back-the-country America-first, carnage-everywhere vision for the country. But it actually became darker and more forceful when filtered through Trump’s disappointment and delivered with his golf face." George W. Bush said of it: “That’s some weird shit.”
  • Trump knew nothing about Afghanistan “other than that it was a quagmire” and “felt no need to know more.” Bannon thought that Afghanistan “represented the establishment’s inability to confront failure” and he believed that only he (and the president if he could convince him) “stood between consigning fifty thousand more American soldiers to hopelessness in Afghanistan.”
  • At first, Bannon (as did many others) made daily efforts to have a 6:30 p.m. dinner with Trump; however, "within a few months, they had become a torturous duty to be avoided." The president, for his part, preferred to be "in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls..."
  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump didn't get along with Bannon. "After months of defending Bannon against liberal media innuendo, Kushner had concluded that Bannon was an anti-Semite. That was the bottom-line issue." The couple also believed that "that Bannon had played a part in many of the reports of Kushner's interactions with the Russians" which meant that their mutual dislike was really "a death match."
  • Bannon said he believed the Russia investigation would focus on money laundering. Mueller and Weissmann would likely go "through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner," he predicted, before taking aim at the president. Bannon said of what the investigators could make Flynn reveal: "He [Trump] doesn’t necessarily see what’s coming."
  • Scaramucci told a journalist that, unlike Bannon, he was "not trying to suck my own cock." Wolff adds that "Bannon learned about the piece when fact-checkers from the magazine called him for comment about Scaramucci’s accusation that he sucked his own cock."
  • Bannon was "working from the outside and trying to take over the Trump movement" at the same time that other Republicans sought to "embarrass," "stymie," or "slay" it. Bannon believed that Trump had no chance at reelection and only a one-third chance of finishing his first term without the disgrace of resignation or impeachment. He was spreading this opinion along with the idea that he would run in 2020 instead, and he was “methodically meeting with every conservative leader in the country — doing his best, as he put it, to ‘kiss the ass and pay homage to all the gray-beards.’”

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