President Trump responded yet again on Twitter to author Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House:
I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2018
For those who came in late you may have missed one Kitty Kelley. She had earned her reputation writing gossip books about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. In 1991, two years after the Reagans had departed the White House, she penned Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography. In which she claimed (among other things) that Mrs. Reagan had had an affair with Frank Sinatra and that the President had date-raped a 19-year old girl. Neither was true, to say the least. It was gossip garbage.
Which is exactly what the Wolff book is.
But Wolff’s book also has elements of two other books that attacked Reagan. Indeed, the apparent assistance to Wolff’s book of ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon reminds of nothing so much as two Reagan-era books written successively by David Stockman, Reagan’s budget director, and Donald T. Regan, Reagan’s fired White House Chief of Staff.
Stockman, who was a key member of the President’s economic team, became disillusioned with the classical or “supply side” economic program that was the core of “Reaganomics.” And which he, along with his friend and fellow Reagan ally Congressman Jack Kemp, had done so much to enact into law. To the incredulity of his Reagan colleagues the young budget director had been having private conversations with liberal journalist William Greider then of the liberal anti-Reagan Atlantic magazine. In which, among other things, he referred to Reaganomics as a “trojan horse” to get huge tax cuts for the rich. When the article appeared all hell broke loose. Lots of Reaganites wanted Stockman’s scalp. Instead, he was summoned to the woodshed – a private lunch with the President. Arriving at the White House Stockman received this lecture from chief of staff James Baker, which Stockman later described as follows. Said the stern Baker:
“My friend, I want you to listen up good. Your ass is in a sling. All the rest of them (the Reagan staff) want you shit-canned right now. Immediately. This afternoon. If it weren’t for me you would be a goner already. But I got you one last chance to save yourself. So you’re going to do it precisely and exactly like I tell you. Otherwise you’re finished around here.
You’re going to have lunch with the President. The menu is humble pie. You’re going to eat every last m-f spoonful of it. Your’re going to be the most contrite SOB this world has ever seen.”
When asked if he understood, Stockman said he did. To which Baker added:
“Let me repeat something, just in case you didn’t get the point. When you go through the Oval Office door, I want to see that sorry ass of yours dragging on the carpet.”
Stockman did as instructed. Reagan, a softie on personnel, had moist eyes as he said to Stockman: “You have hurt me. Why?”
In end, Reagan forgave and asked Stockman to stay on. He did. But he resigned in 1985, penning a book: The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed. Except, of course, as it played out the Reagan Revolution was a success. Kemp, in my presence, would dismiss Stockman’s book, saying: “I don’t read fiction.”
The Don Regan book was even worse. Regan, like Steve Bannon today, had been fired by the President. He promptly went out and wrote a book: For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington. In which the bitter ex-chief of staff described the Reagan White House as “The Kingdom of the Blind”, and lashed out at Nancy Reagan – with whom he had clashed repeatedly and who wanted him fired – for her time spent listening to an astrologist as she reviewed the President’s schedule. As with Stockman’s book, the Regan book made headlines and headaches for both President Reagan and his new chief of staff, former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker.
In other words? There is nothing new in a book like Wolff’s. As it were, Wolff is Kitty Kelley.
And, as with Kelley’s book, there is a considerable amount of fiction in Wolff’s account. Here’s one small but telling example of how Wolff – whose reputation for accuracy has been repeatedly challenged over the years – plays the game.
Following Trump’s inaugural, Wolff says, the President had “a series of inspirational photographs in the West Wing replaced with images of big crowd scenes at his inaugural ceremony.” Making the president seem like a barbarian inside the gates removing sacred objects of history and replacing them with those “images of big crowd scenes at his inaugural ceremony” – at a time when the media was challenging the Trump statements about the size of his inaugural crowd.
What’s wrong here? What’s so deceptive? Unmentioned by Wolff is the fact of how the White House – any White House – uses photographic art in the West Wing. In the White House residence – the mansion – oil paintings of former presidents and first ladies line the walls throughout. They can be shifted around by the president-of-the moment but they never leave. The West Wing of the White House – where the offices of both the president and his staff are located – is run differently. Presidents have an office of the “White House Photographer” – a small staff of people whose job it is to do nothing all day but take pictures of the President as he goes about his job. This is done, obviously, for the historical record. Eventually the photos will reside in the President’s library run by the National Archives.
Since this is a non-stop operation the Reagan photography staff selected photos, enlarged them, framed them without glass in cheap plastic frames that look like wood, and placed them along the halls of the West Wing. In the Reagan days, staffers who liked one in particular lifted the photo they liked off the wall, signed their name on the back, and replaced. Later, when new photos were rotated in, the White House photographer would select a staffer whose name was on the back and give it as a gift to him or her. I know because I have one straight from a Reagan-era West Wing wall. It’s a beautiful close-up of a smiling, waving Reagan as he heads out to the helicopter on the South Lawn. The point? When the presidency changes hands, all these photos of the outgoing president are stripped from the walls and replaced by photos of the new president, his family and various events.
What Wolff is not saying here is that it was perfectly normal for all things Obama to be stripped from the walls of the West Wing and replaced with all things Trump, inaugural photos and anything else. The Bush photos disappeared when the Obamas came in, and the Clinton photos went out when the Bushes came in. Yet what Wolff does in this one small bit of his book is try and make it seem otherwise – that Trump the barbarian had the colossal arrogance to remove “inspirational” photos and replace them with his own. Which is a gross, deliberate misrepresentation. That simply is not the way the place works.
It is precisely that kind of disingenuous nonsense that puts Wolff’s book in the category of Kitty Kelley’s Nancy Reagan book. Trump staffers are uniformly disparaged, not to mention Trump family members. It’s gossip, and as with Kelley’s it is malicious gossip from people with an axe to grind. Beginning with the liberal Wolff himself. The book will sell – that’s the point – and get reams of media attention. But in the long run of history it will sink like a stone. To be seen by responsible historians of the future as worthless in judging a presidency.
The President is not happy. Good. He shouldn’t be. Neither was President Reagan. But there will be other books – like Let Trump Be Trump by Trump’s ex- campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie. Not to mention a new entry The New American Revolution: The Making of a Populist Movement by my former CNN colleague and Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany, with a foreword by Sean Hannity.
Presidents, like us all, are mortal. But the debate over their presidencies is eternal. Eventually the pro-Reagan books overwhelmed the negative anti-Reagan books, with Reagan’s reputation as a great president now well assured. And most assuredly, in spite of much later negative Kennedy books JFK is still today seen as a great president because of the flood of pro-Kennedy books that gushed forth after his assassination.
The real lesson here is that the liberal media – as was true with Reagan – cannot stand Donald Trump. They will do anything and everything to try and undermine him and tear him down. This book is but one example. It will sell because the media will flog it. But in the long run? This book will sink like a stone in American history when it comes to evaluating the Trump presidency – a presidency that is already one of the most consequential in history.
The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sean Hannity or Hannity.com
Jeffrey Lord is a frequent contributor to Hannity.com. You can follow him on Twitter @realJeffreyLord