Have you read it yet?”
That’s a phrase we’ve heard wherever we went this week, and there was no doubt that “it” was Michael Wolff’s extended takedown of President Donald Trump, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Like almost everything else about our controversial president, the book has already become big news and a source of deep division among the populace. Critics of Trump relished detail after detail that reinforced their visceral dislike and distrust of the man, portrayed as semi-literate, narcissistic, mean-spirited, and completely unprepared and unfit for the job.
Supporters of the president argued that there was nothing new in Wolff’s book and that we’ve long known of Trump’s behavior. They defended and praised the president’s political skills and accomplishments, and focused their attack on Wolff. “A garbage author” who wrote “a garbage book,” in the words of senior White House adviser Stephen Miller during his nasty verbal wrestling match with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
The president weighed in as well, trashing his former senior adviser and political guru Stephen K. Bannon, a source of several of the book’s most damaging statements. Trump called the book “a work of fiction” and went on to describe himself as “a stable genius,” which calls to mind the response of then-Sen. William Scott, a Republican in Virginia, after he was named in 1974 by New Times magazine as the dumbest member of Congress. Scott held a press conference the next day to insist that he was not the dumbest member of Congress, thus solidifying the New Times
Those interested in Jewish angles in the Wolff book (besides the fact that the author is Jewish) could ponder the meaning of Henry Kissinger’s observation that the Trump White House pitted Jews against Jews. In truth, there are a good number of Jews to choose from. Bannon comes across as a vigorous supporter of Israel eager to prevent a Palestinian state. And Wolff, in an interview on MSNBC Live, said Trump has a “creepy” ability to know who around him is Jewish.
Perhaps the most substantive result of the book is the discussion, advanced by James Hamblin in The Atlantic, on whether there should be a role for professional psychological evaluations of presidents and other elected officials as there are regular medical check-ups. Such procedures have been called for in the past, including by President Jimmy Carter, in 1994, but never advanced. The idea is to neutralize political speculation and reassure Americans of the mental health of their leaders. It’s a solid idea. Whether the person in question is in the White House now or will be in the future, Americans have the right to know the mental health of the ultimate controller of The Button.