Back into the political quagmire, I was tempted to read this book, and tempted I gave in.
Its an interesting book, though also a strange book. For all its billing as a detailed exposee and bestseller, it doesn’t feel to me quite like it has that scintillating quality we all expected. The Trump effect perhaps, or the effect of the Trump White House, has been that in an endless cycle of news drama (an endless branding of strategic chaos) we are no longer shocked. I may be amused now when I hear some outlandish anecdote about Trump, or some petulant immature tweet, but I am no longer shocked. Its the modus operandi of this administration.
One thing the book is useful for is the sense of containment that was deliberately brought to the Trump White House with the three generals but importantly the third general – John Kelly. His appointment as chief of staff shows the thinking of those inside the White House that survived the early war of attrition with Trumps megalomania and chaos-compulsion – that they have a duty to use their skills to stay in place, tighten positions, and compensate for the abysmal lack in quality and intelligence that stands for the President. It is both highly alarming and reassuring. The footnote in history will be whether it works or not – watch and see!
Trump’s ex-Chief Strategist Steve Bannon comes across as a fascinating but disconcerting figure. Obviously wacky, but equally obvious is his intelligence. Rightly or wrongly he seems to correctly assess and predict the Trump movement’s pitfalls. He knows when Trump is going wrong, he knows when Trump is going “to blow”, he knows when he is receiving bad advice (ie. sack Comey from the FBI) and he knows what will and won’t jeopardise the Presidency. Trump lacks all political understanding, he barely even reads single page memos. This is not an informed head of state, able to strike sustained positive deals for America in highly complex and intractable circumstances. Does simple belligerence bend reality to your will? And if so, what do we pay for the attempt?
With all this in view, it is easy to see that if there was any formal coherence to the gut-growling of Trump’s white-machismo bearing nationalism, it must have come from the mind of Bannon. No one mentioned in this book has anything like a zeal or guiding set of principles or a political vision as does the rather dark figure Steve Bannon exemplifies.
Its a book I am glad I read, but at the same time slightly frustrating.
Am I supposed to be surprised?