Fire and Fury and Foolishness

We’re only a week into 2018, and already Trump has made the headlines, and not for a positive reason. Again. On 5th January Michael Wolff, former Guardian columnist and renowned American journalist, published Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – an in-depth account of what really goes on inside the White House under it’s 45th President.

What’s the story?

During the American election campaign, journalist Michael Wolff was granted access to the inner workings of the White House, spending a total of about three hours with President Trump (Source: The Guardian). Reportedly conducting over 200 interviews, Wolff combined all his research and wrote a scathing exposé of Trump and his government.

The book does not solely focus on Trump’s flaws, but also examines controversies such as the possible Russian involvement in the election, and the very few Republican party allies Trump still possesses. A large part of the information seems to come from Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist who lasted little over a year in the President’s employ, who Wolff quotes on a number of occasions, including his description of the President’s more unusual domestic habits.

Even before the book was released for publication it had reached Number 1 on the Amazon and Apple websites (Source: The Guardian), and the Waterstones in Piccadilly reported that their early sale of the book was over in minutes, with every copy gone. This is perhaps largely due to a ‘cease and desist’ order that came from Trump’s administration, sparking an interest in the book’s publication that has been equated to the publication of a Harry Potter book.

Why does this matter?

The main important point to take in from this is not the publishing and success of the book itself, but the consequences and reactions it has caused.

Firstly and perhaps most concerning is the aspersions that the book has cast on the mental health and suitability of the President for his role. This is not a new phenomena, as mental health professionals and fellow politicians alike have before expressed doubt about the 71-year-old’s capacity for the job (Source: The Guardian). Where it is worrying is in the accounts Wolff provides of the President repeating himself consistently, which create an uneasy image of a confused and unstable head on the shoulders of the most powerful man in the world. Top psychologists have previously met with Congress to warn them of the dangers of what many see as Trump’s mental instability – the White House deny all such suggestions, and insist that the President is perfectly capable. Trump’s ridiculous twitter outbursts and dangerously provocative comments to leaders such as Kim Jong-Un would seem to provide evidence to the contrary….but the allegations are nevertheless speculative.

Secondly is what this actually means in terms of politics. A large section of the book is focused on an investigation into the alleged obstruction of the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Wolff suggests that the President became obsessed with the issue, ignorant of the possible criminal consequences involved. Such revelations have reportedly left the President even more isolated than he already was, and certain episodes of the book reveal a worryingly ignorant and disinterested president, who apparently could not concentrate on an explanation of the constitution past the Fourth Amendment.

This obviously raises the question – can the Republicans now get rid of Trump? Although in the short term many people would probably rejoice at his disappearance, politically it would create turmoil. The 25th amendment of the US Constitution provides allowance for the removal of a President who is deemed ‘unable to discharge their powers and duties of their office’ (Source: US Constitution). Therefore, the removal of Trump on grounds of mental instability is possible – but unlikely. This is because for the 25th Amendment to be invoked agreement is required from the Vice-President, a majority of the cabinet and both houses of Congress – as unpopular as Trump is, experts state that he is not yet quite that unpopular (Source: FT). It looks like the hair is here to stay for a bit longer…. 

Final thoughts…

There are many reasons to be concerned here – but a particular one to think about here is perhaps culpability. It is very easy to place 100% of the blame for the revelations of Fire and Fury on the shoulders of the President, but this is wrong. Despite what his enemies might think, Trump is not a dictator. He is supported and advised by a whole host of Republicans who must surely share some of the blame. What does this mean for them as a party? Is it time for a complete shake up of Congress? Perhaps, as many people suggest with regard to Britain, America needs a new political party altogether? Whatever the outcome, it is important to remember that this is a condemnation not only of Trump, but his party and their behaviour as a whole.

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