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Soundtracking the Resistance - Stable Genius

The Fallout From Michael Wolff's Book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Jan 12, 2018 Soundtracking the Resistance Bookmark and Share

This week we look at the talk of Washington town, chaotic battles with legislation, half-time shows, and some more magic from the ever reliable and magically baffling Dan Bejar.

The Big Event

Oh Barbra Streisand: your effort to keep that Malibu house private may have taught us how not to deal with bad press, but no one seems to learn from the tale. Trump is the latest in a long line, doing everything he can to fan the flames of publicity for the book that details all the ways in which he isn’t fit to be let near the office he currently inhabits.

It’s understandable of course. Who really likes criticism? Even the public figures who court it for financial gain still want people to praise them in some way. Trump seems to sit awkwardly between camps, willing to throw around attacks at the hated liberal media, while behaving like a distraught child when they say anything mean about him. He wants to have his cake and eat it, if that cake happens to be a Big Mac, and doesn’t seem to understand it can’t all go his way.

Anyway, 2018 is off and running and the government has various plans to juggle, all of which have temporarily been subsumed by the bubble surrounding the release of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Michael Wolff’s exposé, complete with the kind of cheap front cover you normally only see on tattered paperbacks in used book sales at your local church, certainly comes with plenty of salacious details.

The gist of it seems to be that Trump is an unstable, petulant child generally viewed as something of an idiot by all those around him. His response to the book hasn’t exactly disproved this hypothesis. The President has combined an odd collection of tweetsincluding one in which he refers to himself as “a very stable genius”with the kind of legal strategy that would make Bluth family attorney Barry Zuckerkorn proud.

Instead of laughing it off, or quietly finding ways to discredit Wolff, Trump went back to his favorite recourse of threatening legal action. Thus, a letter from his legal team went to the publishers, serving only to boost sales. The letter seems to call for the withdrawal of the book, claiming it to be full of libelous material based on the excerpts available at that time. Unfortunately for those legal geniuses, they were not able to name anything that was actually libelous. The closest they could manage appeared to be cutting and pasting a section on New York libel law into the letter.

This suggests a couple of things. First, when the letter was sent Trump and his team had no idea if the book contained lies, or if they could prove it even if it did. It also suggests his legal team is either full of morons, or full of so many yes men they were unable to push back against Trump’s ill-advised bid to threaten the publication of Wolff’s book.

Guess what? That’s right, this combination of splenetic energy devoted by the President, and his half-baked attempts to get it off shelves has succeeded only in massively promoting Fire and Fury. Sales have gone through the roof with Wolff himself thanking Trump for offering the kind of promotional campaign money can rarely buy.

What’s even more ridiculous is there may be doubts around Fire and Fury. Michael Wolff has a reputation for a not always entirely ethical approach to source gathering, and there are suggestions some of the information is based on conflicting reports or perhaps even flat out lies. The work might also be completely legit as well, but it almost doesn’t matter now. The response has ensured the portrait painted by Wolff, based on the interviews he conducted with all those around the president, will stick.

Just in case this hasn’t been enjoyable enough, it also seems to have sunk that lovable rogue Steve Bannon. After the now ex-Breitbart boss laid into the first family while speaking to Wolff, he’s found himself disowned by Trump and his circle, and removed from his position working for an organization that has to suck up to the White House because it will lose all its hard-won influence if the radical leadership it championed casts it out. “Sloppy Steve” as Trump has taken to branding him, currently looks like a spent force.

Of course, in another very worrying way, the contents of Fire and Fury shouldn’t be so enjoyable, because they paint a terrifying picture of an unstable and incompetent president surrounded by a collection of nodding bobble heads. The reason it doesn’t send the shockwaves of horror it should is because we already know all this. The real satisfaction comes from realizing it’s distracting Trump. The more time he spends fighting obsessive PR battles, the less time he has to destroy the country. Michael Wolff has done a great service.

What’s Going On

It looks like the “dreamers” are left with no more than a little dream to dream at the moment, as the Trump administration goes to war on young undocumented immigrants, and congress lurches around trying to figure out what to do next. A federal injunction temporarily blocked his plans to rescind work permits for “dreamers” but the administration has vowed to fight on, and we still await something meaningful from lawmakers to remove the terrifying uncertainty engulfing too many.

It comes as no surprise to find contradictory messages emanating from Trump as congress seeks to reauthorize the government’s right to conduct foreign surveillance in America. Intelligence agencies currently have the power to collect data from communications on U.S. soil if they pertain to foreign targets. Privacy groups have found this power to be troubling for some time, but so, it seems, does Trump. That is until he walked back his own condemnation of the reauthorization which has cruised through the House and may well do the same in the Senate.

While America trundles along under the leadership of the stable genius, things get more and more confusing across the Atlantic. After a largely pointless reshuffling of the top posts in the British government by the Prime Minister, one of the leading voices on the leave side during the Brexit referendum has announced he’d be down with re-running the vote, just to put the issue to bed. This came from Nigel Farage, previous best pal of Trump, who at one time seemed to suggest Farage should be made the British ambassador to the U.S. It seems the old and new worlds remain in equal degrees of disarray right now.

Speak Up!

An interesting showdown was narrowly avoided at the Georgia-Alabama game on Monday when Kendrick Lamar performed the half-time show, reeling off songs from his politically motivated album DAMN. Although he has rarely spoken about Trump directly, he’s certainly not blunted any edges in his music as the last album proved. As for Trump, after struggling a little with the national anthem, he left before Lamar performed.

Song of the Week: Destroyer - “Stay Lost”

Dan Bejar’s lyrics are famously abstruse, meaning everything and nothing depending on the mood the listener is in at the time. “Stay Lost” isn’t exactly a break from that tradition, but there’s something of a rallying call in there, albeit in a very Destroyer way.

In this era of divisive, individualistic politics, perhaps we should all heed Bejar when he sings “Being alone’s an illusion.” Plus, plenty of people are surely ready to embrace a song made for all those that feel they don’t fit in this world, because that’s an awful lot of us right now.

P.S.: This week’s column was written before Trump’s closed door meeting remarks referring to African countries as “shitholes” were leaked. Perhaps we’ll get into that next week.

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