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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Feb-18 > Raging bull

Raging bull

Donald Trump’s reckless and gossip-addicted biographer is a perfect match for his subject, finds Sam Tanenhaus

Donald Trump’s administration keeps giving us firsts. One year on from his inauguration, we now have what is the most unflattering account of any sitting president in US history. The book is Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Its picture of a dysfunctional White House ruled by an unfit president instantly leapt to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and then hurtled far beyond. The numbers were record-breaking: 1.4m hardbacks on order; 700,000 already shipped to bookstores. More remarkably, Wolff’s revelations have prompted a national debate on Trump’s mental competence—a debate the president failed to settle by declaring himself “a very stable genius.” Thanks to Wolff, too, we’ve had the spectacle of a televised cabinet meeting meant to show Trump as alert and well informed—though the magic dimmed when, in a follow-up session, he reportedly blurted out the phrase “shithole countries.”

All this is owed to a book that includes less discussion of policies and programmes than you’ll find in a single day’s edition of the New York Times or Washington Post. The 300 pages include only passing mentions of Trump’s big tax cut—the most far-reaching policy of its kind in 30 years; the months-long effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare; business deregulation, including Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. There is little more on North Korea and Syria.

There’s plenty, however, on Russia, most of it via Wolff ‘s main source, Trump’s former political guru Steve Bannon, who describes the alleged collusion of “the three senior guys in the campaign”—Trump’s son Donald Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his campaign manager Paul Manafort—as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” This sensational accusation alone created many hours of fodder for cable news speculation and commentary.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s February 2018 issue: John Naughton, James Ball, Yuan Ren, Hannah Jane Parkinson and Houman Barekat outline the ways in which our lives are controlled by big tech giants. Naughton argues that Facebook and Google have created a new “surveillance capitalism” in which they battle to grow user engagement of their products and monetise our lives for their own gain as they do so. The cover package also explores how “bots,” fake social media accounts, influenced the US presidential vote and the Brexit referendum as well as the effects of removing net neutrality in the US. Elsewhere in the issue: Samira Shackle asks what happens to ordinary civilians affected by Islamic State as they attempt to move back to their homes and rebuild their lives; Shahidha Bari asks whether we can continue to appreciate the work of actors, filmmakers and writers who have been disgraced; and Christine Ockrent profiles Michel Barnier.
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