Crazy as a Wolff | www.splicetoday.com
I haven’t read any of the three books Michael Wolff wrote about Donald Trump. This is not an affront to Wolff, whom I really like – and I admired several of his previous books, including his 2008 biography of Rupert Murdoch, The man who owns the news, by far the best biography of the now 90-year-old publisher, who can live to be 120, but my own refusal to waste time on a long article, let alone a book, on Trump. I have no doubt that Wolff has revealed a lot of bits and pieces – and that’s one more testament to the ex-president’s ego (even surpassing Barack Obama, whose “post-presidency” is devoted to winning a lot. money, chatting with celebrities and doing zilch to help the Democratic Party) that he would give access to a writer he would hate, like my son Nicky, who read the first of Wolff’s Trump trilogy Fire and fury, confirmed. I was quite agnostic on the 45e managing director (the main exceptions are his initial mess of the pandemic crisis, which surely led to the election of Joe Biden, constant lies, grotesque appearance and stoking the current hatred of immigrants), the media has never let up Trump from 2015 to 2021, but I had my fill. In fact, the last book on contemporary presidential politics that I read was What’s needed, by the late Richard Ben Cramer, who published in 1992, a 1000-page dissection of the election of 88; that the book had turned pages four years after that election was an indisputable verdict that Cramer’s efforts will never be defeated.
I watched Wolff’s ‘guest essay’ in The New York Times last month, “Why I am sure Trump will run for president in 2024” even if it was product placement for his last, Landslide: The Last Days of the Trump Presidency. (That the Times published this infomercial, especially by a writer one would expect the newspaper hierarchy to despise, had two explanations: the company, as always, wanted the guaranteed digital traffic it would generate, and all that gives off a whiff of anti-Trumpism gets an automatic boost.) Wolff’s prediction is self-interested – another Trump run will fill the author’s pockets even more (and good for him, I say, since he’s one of the few media survivors to have something to say), and, if by any chance Trump wins in 2024, well, Wolff could be given an office in the White House to continue his streak, but I Enjoyed his description of the parade with Trump at a dinner last spring in Mar-a-Lago. Too bad there wasn’t a line or two on the menu. (Wouldn’t it be a riot if Trump’s chef served up caviar, sautéed sweetbreads, caught fish 90 minutes before dinner, a range of cheeses, and a tangy sherbet? And maybe a bottle of vintage wine. : not Trump drinks.)
Wolff’s conclusion: “For Democrats, who see him exiled to Mar-a-Lago, stripped of his main social media platforms [Twitter’s a lot more boring since Trump was tossed off the site, the company taking the “high road,” instead of allowing its premier performance artist annoy and delight its users every day] and facing determined prosecutors [fat chance of a conviction; if indicted Trump will run out the clock with counter-litigation, and if he ultimately loses, no judge will send a man in his 80s to jail, absent a homicide], his future seems laughable if not pathetic. But it’s Donald Trump [Wolff’s Elsie the Cow], always ready to retaliate harder than he has been hit, to blame anyone but himself, to silence any doubt with the sound of his own voice, to take back what he believes to be his and , above all, to grab all the attention available. Sound the alarm. “
I hope and believe Wolff is wrong for several reasons. First, a Trump campaign that resumes his implausible fantasy that came true five years ago would be terrible for the Republican Party and likely secure a victory for Kamala Harris. Two, witness to Biden’s daily inconsistency, who needs another nearly 80-year-old president? Trump may not have Biden’s apparent cognitive impairment, but he’s a unique type of madman playing himself. Three, and this is relatively minor, would bring to life the small, DC-based #NeverTrumpers neoconservative group whose moralizing denunciation of Trump and his “threat to democracy” is more annoying than Trump himself. Finally, as the months go by, Trump’s influence recedes (despite what the still addicted media say) in most countries, with the exception of the pockets of true believers who still think last November’s results may be canceled. As the cults disappear, this one becomes less and less convincing each time Trump opens his mouth with scabrous attacks on Ron DeSantis, Mitch McConnell and Brett Kavanaugh. Not a patch on Jim Jones and David Koresh.
As previously reported in this space, there are few journalists today that I take seriously: people like Dana Milbank, Ezra Klein, Margaret Sullivan, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, Karen Tumulty, Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, Ross Douthat, Rich Lowry and more and so on, are out of breath for relevance, even though some of them are well paying. None of them have Wolff’s momentum, his desire to upend the media establishment, his fuck-a-thon attitude, and though he’s been disappearing from the public for a while. for long periods now, at nearly 70, he has lost none of his joy in causing trouble. Wolff was castigated years ago for breaking the cardinal rule of elite media by attacking “luminaries” like the late David Carr, Frank Rich, Tina Brown, Graydon Carter and all the shitty magazines that for six months have paid for the “buzz”. Critics claimed Wolff made up quotes, used his new York column for revenge and was sort of bonkers. The media needs more of these “nutters” today, but the management of large websites has no imagination.
Wolff wrote 300 columns for new York over six years, starting in 1998 (and I was fortunate that his offer to buy the magazine failed) and once I was the subject of his 800 or so words. (He must have been hard on the copy.) He casually walked into my New York press office and we talked for about an hour, and it was striking that he didn’t record the conversation or even take any notes. Yet despite a mistake or two, what he wrote was largely correct, likely because he had done his research ahead of time and was just looking for an atmosphere to fill it out. A small media figure from New York in the 1990s, I was the subject of about twenty articles; none was as convincing as Wolff’s. He was also very pleasant company on the few occasions we socialized, whether it was for dinner a few times or for a show.
Glad Michael Wolff has thrived in today’s media wasteland: man survived professional ups and downs – bankrupt internet company, Newser site, hapless Advertising week passage – and has now cornered the Trump market.
—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @ MUGGER1955