Michael Wolff’s tantalizing takedown of President Donald Trump’s White House is so tightly packed with tales of political convulsion and personal betrayal that official Washington will be buzzing off its sugar high for weeks. But after the shock of Wolff’s account of Trump’s willful ignorance and intellectual incoherence fades, Americans will be left with the inescapable conclusion that the president is not capable of fulfilling his duties as commander in chief.
The GOP’s defense of this indefensible president appears even more preposterous following Wolff’s revelation, in his new book “Fire and Fury,” of former adviser Stephen Bannon’s observation that members of Trump’s team, including his son, committed nothing less than treason. (Disclosure: I am thanked in the book’s acknowledgments and make an appearance in a handful of passages.) Republicans who have spent the past year eagerly wading through the slimy political backwash churned up by Trumpism will look even more foolish aping the former reality star’s attacks on Robert Mueller. Despite their desperate declarations that the Vietnam war hero is dragging his feet, the special counsel has proved himself ruthlessly efficient.
A cancer again is growing on the presidency, and few know whether the 45th president will survive a single term. Bannon has his doubts. “He’s not going to make it,” Bannon told Breitbart staffers, according to Wolff. “He’s lost his stuff.” The terrifying tome adds weight to a growing body of evidence that the Manhattan billionaire is temperamentally unfit to serve. An email Wolff describes as “purporting to represent the views” of chief economic adviser Gary Cohn neatly summarizes what campaign workers and White House staff have been telling me about Trump for two years. He is an “idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better.”
Mika Brzezinski and I had a tense meeting with Trump following what I considered to be a bumbling debate performance in September 2015. I asked the candidate a blunt question.
“Can you read?”
“I’m serious, Donald. Do you read?” I continued. “If someone wrote you a one-page paper on a policy, could you read it?”
Taken aback, Trump quietly responded that he could while holding up a Bible given to him by his mother. He then joked that he read it all the time.
I am apparently not the only one who has questioned the president’s ability to focus on the written word. “Trump didn’t read,” Wolff writes. “He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he didn’t have to … He was postliterate — total television.”
But “Fire and Fury” reveals that White House staff and Cabinet members believed Trump’s intellectual challenges went well beyond having a limited reading list: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called him an “idiot,” Cohn dismissed him as “dumb,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster considered him a “dope” and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson notoriously concluded that the commander in chief was a “moron.”
We are a nation that spent the past 100 years inventing the modern age, winning two world wars and liberating half of Europe by beating the Soviets. But today we find ourselves dangerously adrift at home and disconnected from the allies abroad that made so many of those triumphs possible. The world wonders how the United States will survive Donald Trump. And I ask, what will finally move Republicans to deliver a non-negotiable ultimatum to this unstable president? Will they dare place their country’s interests above their own political fears? Or will they only move to end this American tragedy when there is nothing left to lose?
Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, hosts MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”