How Warren, Olbermann, Floethe, and Cox can help us understand Wolff’s crazy new book on the Trump White House

Jan 7th, 2018 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

Michael Wolff with girlfriend Victoria Floethe at a book release party a few years ago — for a different book. PHOTO: COURTESY OF PATRICK MCMULLAN COMPANY.

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA. JANUARY 7, 2018. 1:30 AM. Sometimes it is hard to resist the pure soap opera that American politics has become in the age of Donald Trump, even if you live far away in the northern woods.

Two contributions to the latest bout of near-serious madness induced by the publication of Michael Wolff’s alleged tell-all tale of the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, have seemed to me especially helpful.

The first is Keith Olbermann’s retweet of the President’s January 6/7:19–7:30 AM response to what some have taken as the main thrust of Wolff’s book — that there are serious reasons to doubt Donald Trump’s “mental stability.”

Olbermann reproduces the three presidential tweets that climax with Donald Trump’s endorsement of himself as a “genius … and a very stable genius at that!” —  prefaced by Olbermann’s own reflection : “I find it helps if you hear these as if they were being spoken by a 15-year old Valley Girl in 1983.”

Of course Keith Olbermann is exactly right. But note as well that Donald Trump is the kind of irrationally half-clever and cunning 15-year old Valley Girl who does attract passionate admirers.

I’m starting to think that it may finally take something almost as irrational as Donald Trump to bring Donald Trump down. (Just demonstrating again and again how irrational he is, as in so much of the mainstream media these days, doesn’t seem to be working … so far at any rate.)

Meanwhile, what about Michael Wolff’s new book itself? Does it just confirm what has long been known about the Trump White House and the man at the top?

Some see the 1995 movie “Clueless” as an archetypal study of the genre. Others more aptly urge “A real Valley girl would never be a virgin who can’t drive.” Just like Donald Trump!

Here my second source of helpful commentary is a string (thread?) of tweets from Ana Marie Cox, as she has read through Fire and Fury off and on. (“Ok I now must make dinner …. And I’m back. It’s – 8 outside but I’ve got hot coffee.”)

I found almost everything Ms Cox points to in Michael Wolff’s book interesting. From a critical angle she notes on one page : “The sentence BEFORE the highlighted sentence is garbled nonsense trailing after around one keen insight … which is kind of a pattern in the book.”

She also acknowledges that “Wolff is compulsively readable, I will give him that. The only hitches are the clear editing errors and typos. They got this one out the door without anyone looking at it twice.”

(In a rush to publish before too many presidential lawsuits or other forms of “injunction preventing publication” were in motion. Even if, in fact of course : “There’s No Way Trump Can Stop Wolff From Publishing His Book.” Quite that kind of thing at any rate still hasn’t happened yet!)

* * * *

“Getting ready for a date with Michael? Victoria Floethe ... is seen primping in this Instagram photograph.” (UK Daily Mail).

Looking for slightly more background on the author, I consulted “Can readers trust the author of Trump’s tell-all book?” on the CTV News site. In this video Merella Fernandez interviews James Warren, Chief Media Writer at The Poynter Institute.

Among other things, Warren reports that Michael Wolf wrote a “very solicitous” profile of Steve Banon in the Hollywood Reporter last year — which is probably what gave him some access to the White House so long as Banon was there.

James Warren has written his own introduction to Michael Wolff in “Meet the bright, snarky writer behind the book that infuriated Trump.”

One of Warren’s striking evaluations in this piece is “Donald Trump and Michael Wolff deserve one another. They’re like conjoined twins tied at the ego.”

Digging slightly deeper, I noticed a 2015 report on Michael Wolff from Gawker : “Awful Michael Wolff’s Awful Girlfriend Is Pregnant … Twitter personality Michael Wolff’s girlfriend Victoria Floethe … is pregnant … Wolfe is 61; Floethe is 34 … Wolff … still married to his wife, lawyer Alison Anthoine, with whom he has three children …  filed for divorce last year …”

Then I bumped into some 2009 writing from Victoria Floethe herself : “But something’s changed in New York. I’ve noticed this among my many friends who have moved to Park Slope in family-oriented Brooklyn — they’ve come to regard Manhattan as the borough of dubious characters. If you can afford to live in Manhattan you must be up to no good.”

Ana Marie Cox (l) and Kendall Jenner (r) at MTV voter registration event in New York City — with a great get-out-and-vote message for Democrats in 2018.

Trump Tower is in Manhattan. And unless you share Mitch McConnell’s fierce partisan commitment to an America that excludes everything but “right of center” politics,  President Donald Trump is of course up to no good.

For readers like me, Michael Wolff’s book, whatever its more technical flaws and virtues, no doubt just confirms this all over again.

Will it somehow help the Democrats win the House and the Senate in the mid-term elections this coming November 6 — and put an end to at least the worst impulses of the new Trump Republican establishment in Washington, which increasingly seems quite irrationally determined to destroy Democracy in America?

I have no idea. All I really know is that I certainly hope so, and I won’t be reading Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury  myself. The lovely Ana Marie Cox (as David Letterman might say) has already done that, much better than I could.

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