Hi, pals. Your correspondent picked up her copy of Fire and Fury yesterday and spent her lunch hour at the Reading Terminal fending off everyone in the Philadelphia region who hasn't gotten their hands on it yet.
For me (and other, smarter writers) the funny thing about media gadfly Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is that so much of it seems like old news. We know the White House is chaotic. We know it's full of competing personalities leaking unflattering stories to the press. We know the president's own personality and media diet and worldview are … unique.
So if, like me, this year has completely inured you to these kinds of explosive, insider-y, occasionally dubiously sourced pieces, you might not find a lot of revelatory insight in Fire and Fury. What you will find is a lot of hot goss! Which is probably why this has landed so heavily with the Trump administration.
In truth, the reaction to Wolff's book is maybe more valuable than the book itself. This is a piece of writing that prompted the president of the United States to send a cease-and-desist letter to the author of an unflattering book about him – and then to spend the weekend trying to head the bad press off at the pass by tweeting about how mentally stable he is. Heady times, pals.
The cast of characters in Fire and Fury does include some denizens of greater Philadelphia (we're operating on an extremely loose definition of "greater Philadelphia" here). The book opens with Hammonton's Kellyanne Conway on election day, considering her options after what looked at the time like a certain loss. We learn that President Trump had once fancied himself a potential running mate for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, forcing the reader to consider an alternate universe even weirder than our own.
Valley Forge Military Academy graduate H.R. McMaster is portrayed as so frustrated by the president that he stumps around the West Wing with a "constant grimace" and "perpetual steam rising from his bald head." Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, son of Lower Moreland, pulls off the most astute political maneuvering: "used and abused" by the president over FBI Director James Comey's firing, he takes "deft, swift, overwhelming" revenge and appoints a special prosecutor.
The fallout from Fire and Fury has dominated the news cycle over the last week in a way few narratives about this presidency have – it's managed to stick in a political climate where nothing much sticks at all. That said, Congress is only just back from its break and there's a government-shutdown deadline next week and a huge slate of legislative priorities on the table. So we'll see how long this stays in the headlines.
(At least one thing on Congress' agenda is Fire and Fury-related: Philly House Democrat Brendan Boyle is introducing the "Stable Genius Act" today. It would require presidential candidates to undergo a standardized medical examination before running – though the likelihood of the measure going anywhere in the GOP-led Congress is less than slim.)
What they're saying:
"Bannon's unique ability … was to egg the president on by convincing him that Bannon's own views were entirely derived from the president's views. … He was the equivalent of Trump's personal talk radio." – Michael Wolff on fired chief strategist Steve Bannon, a major source for Fire and Fury.
"Before voting for the highest office in the land, Americans have a right to know whether an individual has the physical and mental fitness to serve as President." – Rep. Brendan Boyle on his "Stable Genius" bill.
"I've had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!" – President Trump on Twitter this weekend.