This week, the publication of excerpts from Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury painted a picture of a White House that was full of chaos and contempt for Donald Trump. A few points here on the book and the fallout:
1. "Tell-all" books--purporting to give the "real, behind-the-scenes" look at palace intrigue--generally focus on gossip and rumor and are notorious for unattributed and/or denied quotes. Those who are quoted are very often trying to maneuver and manipulate within internal power struggles, almost always shading the truth and sometimes just plain inventing. These books are generally not reliable and objective and should not be taken at face value--though they may provide clues to power struggles within an administration.
2. This book does not break anything new. It is not news that Trump is an extremely ignorant and arrogant man who surrounds himself with toadies and backstabbers. On the other hand, it could lend itself to underestimating the danger posed by Trump in particular. Trump has in fact demonstrated tactical skill in the dogfights that go on within the ruling class. He intuited that the straight-up reactionary vision and persona he projects was needed to cohere the base for fascism in this country, and ascended to power on that basis. Notions that Trump is a dummy pure and simple or that the presidency is imploding are dangerous. Fascist regimes generally have their origin in ruling class factions that have not been part of the core establishment and come to power with a necessity and a will to tear apart previous norms and arrangements of ruling. They thus tend to proceed through a certain chaos, incoherence, splits, and improvisation. This one is no different.
3. Some people are now saying that it is time to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president, with a majority of the cabinet, to declare the president incapacitated. Some Democratic politicians and cable news hosts are pushing this particularly hard. But first, who exactly is going to invoke it? Pence? Or the Christian fascists (where Pence has his origins and strength) who have made clear their intense support for Trump? These religious fanatics went all-in for the profane and obscene Trump during the campaign because they believed he would boldly and brazenly tear up the norms and systems of bourgeois democratic rule and enable them to achieve their fascist agenda. And they were proven right--Trump is packing the federal courts with Christian (and other) fascists, moving to gut abortion rights, persecuting LGBTQ people, attacking Islam and Muslim people, breaking down the separation between church and state, and more. To the Christian fascists, Trump is "a miracle"! (In this regard, it may be of significance that the Christian fascists did not seem to have come in for any kind of criticism or embarrassment off the book.) Even if Pence (and the forces he represents) do at some point move on Trump, would it really be better to have an end-times, rapture-believing theocrat with his finger on the nuclear button and his hands on the state apparatus than a demented, openly racist, openly misogynist, unapologetic pig? Second, even if somehow this amendment were to get invoked through congressional action, if Trump then contested it, he would need the support of only one-third of either the Senate or the House to remain in power. But more than that: it is clear, once again, including as the dust has settled off the frenzy initially surrounding the book, that the ruling class--even those who have serious differences with the fascists--right now plan to do nothing more than maneuver within a world in which that regime holds the reins and is moving for a full-out fascist regime.
4. The take-home is this: Everybody has known for a while that Trump, the head of a whole fascist cabal including Pence, is utterly ignorant, demented, and certainly viciously arrogant, and that--as he so brutally reminded the world just this week--he has "the nuclear button" in his hands. The question confronting the people who know this and find it a nightmare is: Will we act in accordance with this knowledge, or will we continue to try to deny the implications? Will we play the useless and frankly damaging waiting game of elections, or will we act in a way that is commensurate with the danger posed to the very existence of humanity every day this regime is in power?