The Santa Clara
January 11, 2018
“Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate.”
This excerpt is one of several incendiary claims made by author Michael Wolff in his controversial account of the Trump presidency. “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is a shocking expose compiled from over 200 interviews with White House staffers that ultimately calls into question the President’s fitness for office.
Since “Fire and Fury” came out, the Trump administration has worked tirelessly to undermine both the book’s content and Wolff’s credibility. The President has taken to Twitter, denouncing the book as “phony” and calling Michael Wolff a “total loser.” In keeping with Trump’s response, Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed “Fire and Fury” as “a book that is complete fantasy and full of tabloid gossip.” Sanders’ statement perfectly frames my biggest issue with the Trump Administration’s response to the book. I cannot stand to hear the President and his people bemoan “complete fantasy” and “tabloid gossip” when those are the basis of his entire political identity.
Donald Trump, the politician, would not exist if not for calculated fallacies: the first and maybe foremost example being his perpetuation of the birther conspiracy. Starting in 2011, Trump was vocal about his disbelief in Barack Obama’s American citizenship. His insistence that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was illegitimate was integral to his emergence in American politics. Even Trump is aware of that. In speaking with ABC News’ John Karl about the birther movement in 2013 Trump said, “I think it made me very popular … I do think I know what I am doing.” He was relentless in furthering an outlandish, racist rumor that was proven to be factually inaccurate long before he stopped pursuing it. In short, he made effective use of actual “complete fantasy” and “tabloid gossip” to a political end.
Perhaps the most fitting example of the President’s hypocrisy in response to “Fire and Fury” is his own experience with promoting disparaging literature for political gain. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump retweeted the Amazon link for “The Clintons’ War on Women” a book by a former political advisor and known conspiracy theorist Roger Stone. In the book, Stone casts Bill Clinton as a serial rapist and alleges that Hillary Clinton enabled his sexual misconduct. Stone also claims that Bill Clinton was a drug addict, that he is not actually Chelsea Clinton’s father and that he has an illegitimate African-American son whom he refuses to acknowledge or support.
The book is nothing more than an extended hit piece: a low, manipulative, fabricated ploy meant to cultivate political capital in the ugliest way possible. Donald Trump did not just approve of Stone’s book; he endorsed it. In doing so, he effectively forfeited his right to be pitied in the wake of “Fire and Fury’s” publication.
The claims in “Fire and Fury” can be hilarious, unsettling and provocative. They range from Donald Trump not ever actually wanting to be elected President to Trump eating cheeseburgers in bed multiple nights per week. As compelling as the stories may be, I know better than to take all of them at face value. Even John Sargent, the Chief Executive of Henry Holt and Co.’s parent company said in an interview with “The New York Times,” “in the course of a day in the White House, there are a lot of people saying a lot of things, some of which are factual, some of which are not factual. So Michael reporting on something that is not factual can easily happen, because he’s reporting on people talking about these things.”
Some of the claims in the book may very well be “fantasy” or “gossip.” That being said, there is no excuse for the President’s behaviour in the wake of “Fire and Fury’s” publication. There are absolutely no claims made in the book that are any more outrageous than “Barack Obama is secretly Kenyan” or “Bill Clinton serially rapes women and Hillary personally intimidates them to keep them quiet.” Trump has been perfectly fine with perpetuating fallacies when they suit him, so he has no right to be on the brink of tears when they do not. Obama remained composed when his birth certificate was fake. Hillary did not wince when she was accused of being the First Lady who systematically silenced her husband’s rape victims. So Donald Trump should be equipped to handle being the semi-literate President who eats cheeseburgers in bed.
Jay Fuchs is a senior communication major