In his new account of Donald Trump’s presidency, Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff describes how Trump’s ‘adviser’ Steve Bannon counselled fellow White House newbies to read The Best and The Brightest as preparation for their administration’s tasks. Rarely for the mordant Bannon, his enthusiasm for David Halberstam’s 1972 classic of the West Wing mandarinate who mangled the Vietnam War seems have been unfeigned and unironic. ‘A very moving experience reading this book,’ Wolff quotes Bannon as saying, ‘It makes the world clear, amazing characters and all true.’
Is anyone likely to say the same of Wolff’s rapid-fire reportage of the Trump White House? Not in forty-five years, that’s for sure; maybe, at a pinch, for forty-five minutes. The book has apparently already sold nearly two million copies, benefiting enormously from Trump’s reflex threats of legal action and suppression. Yet so extensively have its contents been parsed that the very little new in it already seems old, while the old lies dead on the page. Trump is a deluded solipsist surrounded by cretinous enablers and epigones. Colour me amazed.