‘Fire and Fury’ paints an unflattering portrait of an unwitting first family

Chuck Twardy

Three stars

Fire and Fury By Michael Wolff, $30.

Hi there! Greetings from last week. We’re in the middle of the “sh*thole” news cycle—remember that one? How are you guys, already deep in next week’s outrages? Can’t wait.

So, “sh*thole” and whatever came after it—hey, no spoilers!—kind of displaced the rather prolonged Fire and Fury cycle, which had lasted more than a week. That’s odd, in that the book itself covers a period that seems primeval, the election and early months of the new administration, and is peopled, beyond the First Family, with mostly long-departed factotums like Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon. Remember the Breitbart guy? Got fired, got a Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama, then got dumped by his benefactors Bob and Rebekah Mercer?

I know it was last week, but concentrate: The Major Revelation of Michael Wolff’s book is that nobody in the First Family-to-be wanted to be in the First Family—that all concerned, from candidate to third trophy wife to ambitious offspring and in-laws, wanted to lose the 2016 election.

That this would amplify the family brands seems a long shot, though, given that the candidate’s first insulting sallies into campaigning lost him not only endorsements but his ties with his network, NBC. But then, as the Wolff book makes clear, the family and its minions are not the most, uh, savvy of operators. Wolff himself was surprised that nobody seemed to understand what he was up to. Or much else, for that matter. Of course, that’s his story; you’ll recall some concern about Wolff’s probity as a journalist. Could be some sources were not inept but burned.

Could be, too, those staffers, aware of their leader’s lack of “strength, acumen and forbearance,” as Wolff puts it, dismiss talk of collusion with Russia but fear that investigations will uncover dirtier deeds: “It was all too possible that the hardly plausible would lead to the totally credible.” Thus, against Bannon’s unusually prudent advice that it would backfire, “Jarvanka” got FBI Director James Comey fired.

So, Wolff makes a convincing case that the campaign that expected to lose gamely morphed into the administration that can’t run the empire. Blithely out-of-depth and led by a witless, vain and mean man, it is unlikely to improve with Wolff’s sources mostly gone. But the Trump regime has done the nation damage and can wreak worse yet. Here’s hoping you haven’t learned this the hard way.

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