Fire and Fury (Surprising Excerpts) Part I

I’ve been pouring through this book and highlighting surprising/interesting quotes. At first I was hesitant to get this book, but I’m glad I did. Whether or not all the information within the book is accurate remains to be seen. Wolff states that he has taken the information from interviews with people in the White House. So whether or not you believe them again remains to be seen.

Source: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff Free Kindle instant preview: http://a.co/2ODcV0h 21

“It was a place overrun by white trash. “What is this ‘white trash’?” asked the model. “They’re people just like me,” said Trump, “only they’re poor.”

Many of these types of scenes leave the reader’s jaw on the floor. I’m not sure if it’s accurate or dramatization of the author.

Reince Priebus, getting ready to shift over from the RNC to the White House, noted, with alarm, how often Trump offered people jobs on the spot, many of whom he had never met before, for positions whose importance Trump did not particularly understand. Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 White Houses, was growing worried by the president-elect’s lack of immediate focus on a White House structure that could serve and protect him. He tried to impress on Trump the ferocity of the opposition that would greet him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff. And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington,” Ailes told Trump not long after the election. “You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: “Speaker Boehner.” (John Boehner had been the Speaker of the House until he was forced out in a Tea Party putsch in 2011.) “Who’s that?” asked Trump.

This is just one funny instances in the book that illustrates Trump’s lack of knowledge.

Each of these interlocutors provided Kushner with something of a tutorial on the limitations of presidential power —that Washington was as much designed to frustrate and undermine presidential power as to accommodate it. “Don’t let him piss off the press, don’t let him piss off the Republican Party, don’t threaten congressmen because they will fuck you if you do, and most of all don’t let him piss off the intel community,” said one national Republican figure to Kushner. “If you fuck with the intel community they will figure out a way to get back at you and you’ll have two or three years of a Russian investigation, and every day something else will leak out.”

Instructions unclear. Pissed off everybody.

“Deep state,” the left-wing and right-wing notion of an intelligence-network permanent-government conspiracy, part of the Breitbart lexicon, became the Trump team term of art: he’s poked the deep state bear.

An interesting concept.

In fact, Trump’s aggrieved mood became a perfect match for the Bannon-written aggrieved inaugural address. Much of the sixteen-minute speech was part of Bannon’s daily joie de guerre patter—his 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. The administration purposely began on a tone of menace—a Bannon-driven message to the other side that the country was about to undergo profound change. Trump’s wounded feelings—his sense of being shunned and unloved on the very day he became president—helped send that message. When he came off the podium after delivering his address, he kept repeating, “Nobody will forget this speech.” George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: “That’s some weird shit.”

This will probably be one of the top quotes from the book.

She treated her father with some lightness, even irony, and in at least one television interview she made fun of his comb-over. She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate—a contained island after scalp reduction surgery by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men—the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orangeblond hair color.

This quote is already all over the news.

Even before there was reason to suspect Sally Yates, they suspected her. The transition report said Trump wouldn’t like the fifty-six-year-old Atlanta-born University of Georgia career Justice Department lawyer slated to step up to acting attorney general. There was something about a particular kind of Obama person. Something about the way they walked and held themselves. Superiority. And about a certain kind of woman who would immediately rub Trump the wrong way—Obama women being a good tip-off, Hillary women another. Later this would be extended to “DOJ women.” Here was an elemental divide: between Trump and career government employees. He could understand politicians, but he was finding it hard to get a handle on these bureaucrat types, their temperament and motives. He couldn’t grasp what they wanted. Why would they, or anyone, be a permanent government employee? “They max out at what? Two hundred grand? Tops,” he said, expressing something like wonder.

Sexism and classism becomes apparent in Trump’s mind.

In one White House view, Yates’s tattling was little more than “like she found out her girlfriend’s husband flirted with somebody else and, standing on principle, had to tell on him.”

Sexism in the Trump White House.

The FBI and DOJ would evaluate the evidence—and the opportunity—through their own lenses of righteousness and careerism. (“The DOJ is filled with women prosecutors like Yates who hate him,” said a Trump aide, with a curiously gender-biased view of the growing challenge.)

More sexism in the Trump White House.

If all politics is a test of your opponent’s strength, acumen, and forbearance, then this, regardless of the empirical facts, was quite a clever test, with many traps that many people might fall into. Indeed, in many ways the issue was not Russia but, in fact, strength, acumen, and forbearance, the qualities Trump seemed clearly to lack. The constant harping about a possible crime, even if there wasn’t an actual crime—and no one was yet pointing to a specific act of criminal collusion, or in fact any other clear violation of the law—could force a cover-up which might then turn into a crime. Or turn up a perfect storm of stupidity and cupidity.

Machiavelli says that the prince should be a fox or a lion: a fox can sniff out traps and avoid them, a lion is powerful enough to dissuade enemies from moving against him. Trump is essentially a Daffy Duck.

From the Steele dossier, to the steady leaks from the U.S. intelligence community, to testimony and statements from the leadership of U.S. intelligence agencies, a firm consensus had emerged. There was a nefarious connection, perhaps an ongoing one, between Trump and his campaign and the Russian government. Still, this could yet be seen as highly wishful thinking by Trump opponents. “The underlying premise of the case is that spies tell the truth,” said the veteran intelligence community journalist Edward Jay Epstein. “Who knew?” And, indeed, the worry in the White House was not about collusion—which seemed implausible if not farcical—but what, if the unraveling began, would likely lead to the messy Trump (and Kushner) business dealings. On this subject every member of the senior staff shrugged helplessly, covering eyes, ears, and mouth. This was the peculiar and haunting consensus—not that Trump was guilty of all that he was accused of, but that he was guilty of so much else. It was all too possible that the hardly plausible would lead to the totally credible.

Bannon is quoted in this book as saying that the White House was too incompetent to conspire with the Russians. The problem is an investigation could lead to other misdealings and bring out the skeletons from the closet.

Trump, a former military academy cadet—albeit not an enthusiastic one—had touted a return to military values and expertise. In fact, he most of all sought to preserve his personal right to defy or ignore his own organization. This, too, made sense, since not really having an organization was the most efficient way to sidestep the people in your organization and to dominate them.

Lack of organization is cited as a major problem in the WH.

But making suggestions was deeply complicated. Here was, arguably, the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: he didn’t process information in any conventional sense—or, in a way, he didn’t process it at all. Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. (There was some argument about this, because he could read headlines and articles about himself, or at least headlines on articles about himself, and the gossip squibs on the New York Post’s Page Six.) Some thought him dyslexic; certainly his comprehension was limited. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he just didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate—total television. But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen. He preferred to be the person talking. And he trusted his own expertise—no matter how paltry or irrelevant—more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.

This is probably the scariest quote of the book. The president is a talker and does not spend a lot of time reading or listening.

Here was a key Trump White House rationale: expertise, that liberal virtue, was overrated. After all, so often people who had worked hard to know what they knew made the wrong decisions. So maybe the gut was as good, or maybe better, at getting to the heart of the matter than the wonkish and data-driven inability to see the forest for the trees that often seemed to plague U.S. policy making. Maybe. Hopefully. Of course, nobody really believed that, except the president himself. Still, here was the basic faith, overriding his impetuousness and eccentricities and limited knowledge base: nobody became the president of the United States—that camelthrough-the-eye-of-the-needle accomplishment—without unique astuteness and cunning. Right? In the early days of the White House, this was the fundamental hypothesis of the senior staff, shared by Walsh and everyone else: Trump must know what he was doing, his intuition must be profound. But then there was the other aspect of his supposedly superb insight and apprehension, and it was hard to miss: he was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant in these instances than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however silent and confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do.

Gut intuition versus expertise. Also this idea of ad populum: he somehow got elected, so he must know what he’s doing.

In the early weeks of the administration, Priebus arranged for House Speaker Paul Ryan, however much a Trumpist bête noire for much of the campaign, to come into the White House with a group of ranking committee chairmen. In the meeting, the president blithely announced that he had never had much patience for committees and so was glad someone else did. Ryan, henceforth, became another figure with unfettered access to the president—and to whom the president, entirely uninterested in legislative strategy or procedures, granted virtual carte blanche.

Handing over important responsibilities because they are boring.

During that first month, Walsh’s disbelief and even fear about what was happening in the White House moved her to think about quitting. Every day after that became its own countdown toward the moment she knew she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore—which would finally come at the end of March. To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus and lack of concern were simply incomprehensible. In early March, Walsh confronted Kushner and demanded: “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on. What are the three priorities of this White House?” “Yes,” said Kushner, wholly absent an answer, “we should probably have that conversation.”

Another quippy anecdote.

“Trump has said things that conservatives never would have thought.… His criticism of the Iraq War, bashing the Bush family, I couldn’t believe he did that … but he did.… Fuck them … if at the end of the day an Anglo Wasp family produces Jeb and W then clearly that’s a clear sign of denegation.… And now they marry Mexicans … Jeb’s wife … he married his housekeeper or something. “In Trump’s 2011 CPAC address he specifically calls for a relaxation of immigration restrictions for Europeans … that we should re-create an America that was far more stable and more beautiful.… No other conservative politician would say those things … but on the other hand pretty much everyone thought it … so it’s powerful to say it.… Clearly [there’s] a normalization process going on.” “We are the Trump vanguard. The left will say Trump is a nationalist and an implicit or quasi-racialist. Conservatives, because they are just so douchey, say Oh, no, of course not, he’s a constitutionalist, or whatever. We on the alt-right will say, He is a nationalist and he is a racialist. His movement is a white movement. Duh.” Looking very satisfied with himself, Spencer paused and then said: “We give him a kind of permission.”

Trump as an object of affection for Neo-Nazis.

All things considered, he probably preferred the notion of more people having health insurance than fewer people having it. He was even, when push came to shove, rather more for Obamacare than for repealing Obamacare. As well, he had made a set of rash Obama-like promises, going so far as to say that under a forthcoming Trumpcare plan (he had to be strongly discouraged from using this kind of rebranding—political wise men told him that this was one instance where he might not want to claim ownership with his name), no one would lose their health insurance, and that preexisting conditions would continue to be covered. In fact, he probably favored government-funded health care more than any other Republican. “Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?” he had impatiently wondered aloud during one discussion with aides, all of whom were careful not to react to this heresy.

Trump as a secret Democrat on Healthcare.

In their personal interactions, Trump had found Comey to be a stiff—he had no banter, no game. But Trump, who invariably thought people found him irresistible, believed that Comey admired his banter and game. When pressed, by Bannon and others, to fire Comey as one of his early acts—an idea opposed by Kushner, and thus another bullet on Bannon’s list of bad recommendations by Kushner—the president said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got him.” That is, he had no doubt that he could woo and flatter the FBI director into positive feeling for him, if not outright submission. Some seducers are preternaturally sensitive to the signals of those they try to seduce; others indiscriminately attempt to seduce, and, by the law of averages, often succeed (this latter group of men might now be regarded as harassers). That was Trump’s approach to women—pleased when he scored, unconcerned when he didn’t (and, often, despite the evidence, believing that he had). And so it was with Director Comey.

The seduction of the FBI Director (or lack thereof)
 

Flashback 2017 Women’s March LA

Hopped on the train from Fullerton to Union Station. This felt much different than other marches I’ve attended. Every age group, race, ethnicity, color and creed came out in this historic moment. And as this year has passed it has become more obvious that this was just the beginning. Hillary Clinton could not break the last highest glass ceiling for women because there’s still a lot of work to be done for equal rights for women.

Flashback 2017 – Anza-Borrego Superbloom

After the heavy rains kept us off the trails for months, we finally headed down to Anza Borrego to see the desert super bloom. It was awesome to see the pop of color across the normally monochrome desert.