Matt Taibbi tries hard to convince us that there is an upside to the awful revelations in Michael Wolff’s gossipy new book about the first year of the Trump presidency.
The book certainly doesn’t seem like good news. Wolff tells us our president is probably a neurotic illiterate, incapable of focus beyond a few seconds, and thought of as a deranged simpleton by even his most trusted advisors.
Wolff basically describes Trump as a deficient buffoon who, when it comes to politics anyway, is totally out of his element, mistaking fake ardor for the real thing, constantly demanding fealty from Congress, the business world and staff:
Now he is president, though, and, this being a new year, it’s worth looking at the possible bright side of Wolff’s account. Trump appears to be so far gone as to have no attention span at all, and to be totally consumed with press coverage of himself, almost to the exclusion of all else. This perhaps caps the irreversibly destructive consequences of his presidency.
That is not to say that horrible things haven’t and won’t continue to emanate from the Trump White House. (Just look at the recent heightened use of drone strikes, for example.)
But it’s hard to imagine Trump focusing long enough to enact a plan as destructive as, say, the invasion of Iraq. Moreover, his confederates – especially now that Steve Bannon is out – seem mostly concerned with keeping the boss away from the real power of his office, almost like parents trying to steer a two-year-old away from the gas range.
Trump by most accounts is worst of all, and the horror effect is enhanced by the seemingly total absence of redeeming qualities in his personality. But a guy who fell backwards into the presidency and has been too brain-hampered upon arrival to do much with the office – there are worse narratives.
Just remember, Trump could be cunning, focused and bursting with willpower, in addition to being a gross, ignorant pig. We can only hope that Wolff is right that he isn’t that.
I dunno. The fact that the president of the US is too stupid and ignorant and suffering from such deep mental incapacities that he may be unable to do serious damage seems like cold comfort. The key concern for me is the paragraph where Taibbi says “But it’s hard to imagine Trump focusing long enough to enact a plan as destructive as, say, the invasion of Iraq.” True, he may not do anything terrible as a result of careful planning, like the way that the illegal and immoral war against Iraq was carried out. But Trump’s reckless impulsiveness that is oblivious to the possible blowback to his actions is perhaps a greater danger since he seems to think that there can be no negative consequences.
It may well be true that, as Taibbi says, all the people around Trump see him as a child who needs to be kept away from sharp objects and serve as e a protective shield. But is that enough? And who are the people around him anyway? His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are intellectual lightweights, hopelessly out of their depth and venal to boot. The other key people like his chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary James Mattis, and head of the NSC H. R. McMaster are all military people representing a very narrow worldview. His press secretary Sarah Sanders and key advisor Kellyanne Conway are sycophants who will defend Trump and cheer him on in whatever he does even of it makes them look deranged. It is not a crew that inspires much confidence.
So no, I do not buy Taibbi’s attempt to sell this hopeful picture.