Unless we had a preexisting relationship, I didn’t trust any journalist. And if you came from an outlet that belonged to what President Trump calls #FakeNews, I really wasn’t interested in becoming your friend. To those few persistent journalists from news organs like the Washington Post who wouldn’t give up, I was upfront: Sorry, I don’t do “deep background” and I’m using my phone to record this conversation.
As a result, you’d never see Jim Acosta coming out of my office or Maggie Haberman buying me an espresso at Peet’s around the corner from the West Wing. So, when I met Michael Wolff in Reince Priebus’ office, where he was waiting to talk to Steve Bannon, and after I had been told to also speak to him for his book, my attitude was polite but firm: “Thanks but no thanks.” Our brief encounter reinforced my gut feeling that this oleaginous scribe had no interest in being fair and unbiased.Now, the chattering classes are gripped in an hysterical fever over Wolff’s tell-all book, “Fire and Fury,” with Wolff actually saying that its publicationwill bring down the duly-elected president of the United States.
I refuse to buy the book of a man who so avowedly holds what, in a previous age, we would have called treasonous goals, but I have read the publicly released excerpts and therefore feel that we can all draw some practical conclusions.
First, Wolff is a partisan self-promoter with credibility issues the likes of which we haven’t seen in a very long time. We are used to Washington being divided, but the contents of this politically-motivated publication are so obviously false that the “swamp” has descended to a new unimaginable low with its release.
Not only is it replete with simple “mistakes,” such as President Trump having no idea who John Boehner is when they were previously golfing partners, it is built upon assertions that go counter to all that we know about the president.
The most obvious of these is that a man whose reputation for 50 years has been defined around the concept of winning, at everything he set out to do, had no intention of winning the election to the highest office in the land.
(An accusation that, ironically and critically, undermines an additional outrageous assertion that the book is being used to support, that there was in fact “collusion” between team Trump and the Russian government. What is the logic of conspiring with Moscow in an election, if you never intended to win?)
Second, at a time when the credibility of the inappropriately termed “mainstream” media is in tatters, its leading lights and editorial masters are doubling down on their hysterical counterfactual coverage instead of pausing to examine just how professionally and morally bankrupt they have become and what can be done about rebuilding their reputations.
Wolff actually admits on page 10 of his prologue that he cannot verify anything that he details in his book, and that what he has provided is a “notional truth,” the merits of which the reader will have to decide upon by themselves. With this one statement, Wolff has done more to illuminate the political left writ large than any right-wing op-ed writer ever could.
For Wolff and all the Trump haters who buy his book and endorse what is, in practice, a smear campaign, the philosophy is crystal clear: Facts don’t matter. It’s the narrative that is king. Trump must be incompetent or mentally unwell because, well, we want him to be. “Notional truth” is another phrase for my ideological “reality,” a phrase that George Orwell would have recognized instantly.
Lastly, and most important, by tying together a tissue of lies and half-truths which will progressively be debunked in the coming days and weeks, the author of “Fire and Fury” will in fact strengthen the position of President Trump and reinforce the public’s already remarkably high distrust of the media.
When CNN devotes almost all of its domestic coverage to the absurd accusations in the book, and Jake Tapper shuts down White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller on live television, while the Dow breaks 25,000 and young protesters are being killed on the streets of Iran, then the name #FakeNews is no longer just a rhetorical device.
We are just one week into 2018, yet it is clear that those who expected Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election still do not fully comprehend what happened in America on Nov. 8, 2016. This especially includes the majority of the American press. Their willful blindness and intransigence will empower President Trump, as he proceeds to implement the “Make America Great Again” agenda.
As he does so, I would like to remind my colleagues still inside the White House: You don’t have to be friends with each and every journalist who seeks you out. But if you do engage, remember that smartphones make excellent recording devices.
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