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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

A peek inside ‘Fire and Fury’ before you buy

There’s plenty of gossip here that didn’t rise to the level of Top-10 lists and might still be new.

A stack of reserved

A stack of reserved "Fire and Fury" books by writer Michael Wolff sit on a shelf in a bookstore in Richmond, Va., Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. The new book on President Donald Trump is drawn from what he said was regular access to the West Wing and more than 200 interviews, including some three hours with Trump himself. Photo Credit: AP / Steve Helber

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The juicy gems have (mostly) been tweeted out. The insults of President Donald Trump by his White House advisers have largely been revealed. The late-night comedians have chimed in. So now that Michael Wolff’s bombshell account of the Trump White House “Fire and Fury” is available to purchase, despite Trump’s threats to stop it, what will you get from reading it? (Hardcover list price: $30.00.)

There’s plenty of gossip here that didn’t rise to the level of Top-10 lists and might still be new. The book is a smoothly written tour of the early days of Trump’s White House, highlighted by behind-the-scenes details of what was happening while things happened. Remember that first travel ban? We watch Trump gloat over the fallout to Morning Joe and Mika (who doesn’t eat fish) during a visit to the White House. That infamous “wire tapping” tweet? Wolff shows us Trump calling chief of staff Reince Priebus afterward and holding his phone up to the television so Priebus could hear.

The book also includes more minor episodes that already seem insignificant, in addition to a sometimes exhausting block-quoting of Trump’s public comments. The rhetoric is as rambling and nonsensical as you might remember it.

The more lasting worth of the book may be Wolff’s emperor-has-no-clothes depiction of an anarchic White House. It’s a place that was set up to fail with the dueling and leaking power centers of Priebus, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. It’s a battlefield with shifting but always enduring fronts (as Wolff has Henry Kissinger putting it at one point, “a war between the Jews and the non-Jews”).

Behind it all, of course, is a “semiliterate” president, who just wants “to be liked,” devouring vanilla ice cream and calling up gossipy New York friends in the evenings, not giving much expert consideration to anything from nuclear war to firing then-FBI Director James Comey. In Wolff’s telling, there is no high-level chess match that Trump is playing. The president has no idea what he’s doing. And he’s not going to change, no matter who is chief of staff.

Wolff ends the book with Bannon resurgent despite being fired last year, looking ahead to a populist Republican Party beyond Trump, who Bannon, by the way, thinks won’t get to term two.

Readers may beg to differ about Trump’s prospects, and time will tell which character in Wolff’s book is less enduring. But regarding the day-to-day functioning of Trump, you’ve been warned. As if you hadn’t been already.

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