There is an old adage in politics that says: “You never punch down.” Apparently the Trump White House didn’t get the memo.
Trump surrogates flooded the Sunday talk shows to push back against the revelations outlined in Michael Wolff’s explosive tell-all: “Fire and Fury.” They were particularly piqued by statements attributed to the president’s inner circle that he is mentally unfit to carry out the duties of the office. In an effort to discredit Wolff’s account, they nit-picked the inaccuracies in the author’s reporting while alternately offering praise for their boss’ otherworldly intelligence and political genius. This obsequious dissertation by Trump sycophants served only to further inflame the narrative questioning the president’s stability while debasing their own credibility.
Yes, there are inaccuracies in Wolff’s accounting as there are in all similar tell-all publications. However focusing on these minor details misses the far bigger point. Wolff’s best seller commits to writing that which has been whispered to reporters off the record by congressman, cabinet members and White House staff; that those who interact with this president have a very real concern that he is unfit to serve. Wolff is simply placing on the record a detailed accounting of what has been for months the worst kept secret in Washington.
It would have been better for the most powerful man in the world to have dismissed Wolff’s accounting offhand as nonsense and moved on. “Never punch down.” But this president cannot suffer any slight without punching back. So he trotted out his surrogates to defend the realm. As we have seen many times before, the president’s kneejerk responses to criticism tend to make matters worse. This was no exception.
Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” pulls the question of the president’s mental stability out of the shadows to the forefront of our political discourse. As to the validity of that question, one needs only to consider the president’s response:
“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary also played these cards very hard, as everyone knows, and went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman to top TV star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius…and very stable genius at that.”