But the other thing is that this unpopularity is still within a framework of “respect for the office” and a near-veneration of the President, whoever he happens to be. This means that it’s pretty much impossible for anyone — at least in the mass media — to talk clearly about the evident fact, that the man in the Oval Office has no understanding of the job to which he has been appointed, has no interest in learning about the job, and has neither the intellectual or emotional capacity to do it even were he somehow to be educated. Even the ostensibly left-leaning media doesn’t point out that the emperor has no clothes, and contents itself with saying that he is perhaps not as well dressed as he could be. Acts which, to anyone with a clear view of Trump, look like the petulant impulsiveness of a spoiled, not-very-bright, overprivileged white man who doesn’t actually understand or care about the consequences of his actions are, even by his enemies, interpreted as strategic maneuverings, as part of a wider game-plan. The whole set-up of the news media in the US — far more than over here — is predicated on this idea, that the person in that office is always worthy of it, no matter what.
And it is this, more than anything else, that distinguishes Fire and Fury. It is, quite simply, the first product of the USian mass media to simply take as read what is obvious to the rest of us — that Donald Trump is barely literate, has no understanding of the basics of the US Constitution, and has no concerns other than the shortest-possible-term gratification of his physical needs and his emotional desire for respect from rich and important people.
Andrew Hickey reviews Fire and Fury.
Alex asked me the other day if I intended to read this book, given my interest in politics in general and a US politics in particular. I told him no; I generally like my politics books to be dry, semi-academic talking-head-esque affairs, while Fire and Fury is basically a gossip magazine in three-hundred pages. Which doesn’t mean the book isn’t… “important” isn’t quite the right word. Let’s go with “impactful”. It doesn’t mean the book isn’t impactful, only that it’s not a polsci book per se, despite the subject matter.
Incidentally, Hickey’s comparisons with The West Wing seem apt. I’ve always had a kind of moral distaste for that show, partly because I loathe the talk-fast-while-walking filming style, partly because Aaron Sorkin is a sexist garbage person, but mostly because I hate the glossy, spin-doctored way it presents the US government and politics. The West Wing always seemed to me like a show about how Americans wanted to think their government/office of the President worked, and while that was being fed to them they could safely ignore how it did work.1 It’s basically the Law & Order Problem, but for politics, not policing.
That being said, I suppose Fire and Fury is sort of the anti-West Wing, which has its own purpose. But… it still doesn’t mean I feel compelled to read it. I’ll just skim the articles, instead.
- Remember that the popularity of The West Wing basically coincided with the presidency of George W. Bush, a.k.a. the previous holder of the title of “Worst. US President. Ever.” [↩]