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‘Fire and Fury’ Heats Local Debate

| News | January 11, 2018

The new book about the first year of the Trump administration has led area Republicans to denounce everything that’s in it and Democrats to mostly shrug.

Since Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” came out last week, nobody contacted said they had read it or planned to. But that didn’t stop anybody from weighing in.

“I think it’s right in line with the liberal media constantly hammering Trump,” said Bill Reynolds, a local veterans’ rights advocate who met the president in Vietnam on Veterans Day. “They’re still sore about the election. They were flat-out stunned.”

Reynolds said he found Trump to be genuine, “a down-to-earth guy.” This flies in the face of the opinions of Trump in Wolff’s book (idiot, moron, petulant child, unfit for office, etc.).

“I’m going with what I see on the news: Fox News, CNN, Drudge Report,” Reynolds said. “There are possibly some things (in the book) that are true, but it’s trivial.”

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He said he prefers Trump’s description of himself: genius.

Wolff has said he interviewed more than 200 people, including Trump and senior staff, and was allowed nearly unfettered access to the West Wing. He paints an unflattering picture of the dysfunction: various advisors in various camps with various agendas leaking various bits of information to serve their various causes.

Conservative radio talk show host Joe Messina dealt with the book last week and said he’s getting it from both sides.

“If you’re a Democrat or a Socialist, you are a hypocrite,” Messina said, “and if you’re on the hard right, it’s the same thing.”

As far as Messina is concerned, the Democrats “are now the party that cried Wolff.”

Local Democrats, especially those running for elected office, seem either bored by it or are focusing elsewhere.

“Oh God. I’ll pass,” congressional candidate Katie Hill said. “I’ve got a campaign to focus on. From what I’ve heard, it’s saying Donald Trump is everything I thought he was.”

And from Christy Smith, who is trying to win the 38th Assembly district seat for the second time: “My campaign is focused on what we can agree on and good policy.”

Others, such as Michael Masterman-Smith and Jess Phoenix, who are also running for Congress, seemed to question the author’s credibility (Wolff has been referred to as a “media gadfly,” something Bob Woodward was never called; and in his introduction, Wolff said he eventually “settled on a version of events I believe to be true”).

“If Michael Wolff wanted his work to become an essential element that brought the downfall of a president, it falls short,” Masterman-Smith said in an email. “That said, with this president, no investigative reporter with a history of pioneering investigations would get this level of access to this president. So we get Michael Wolff’s narrative.”

Phoenix said she heard there is some sloppy journalistic reporting that undermines the book’s credibility. She said she would tend to believe the information Wolff got from people whose interviews he recorded.

“A lot of the other stuff, I don’t read to see speculation,” she said. “If I wanted that, I can go to the tabloids.”

Bryan Caforio, who unsuccessfully ran for the 25th congressional seat in 2016, said that even if one were to decide 90 percent of Wolff’s book is untrue, “It would still paint a picture of a man unfit to be president, and he is dangerous in that role.”

Therefore, Caforio said, it is important for the elected officials – the 435 congressional representatives and the 100 senators – to perform their constitutionally mandated powers and act as a check on the president.

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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