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Inside Washington: Acts and scenes
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 17 - 01 - 2018


‘Fire and Fury'... the tell-all book
Nothing new was unveiled, yet what was mentioned was shocking and extremely interesting. And, yes, it is a gossipy and an entertaining ‘tell-all' book for Washington people — those who hate Washington and those who love it. It is a book about the ‘elite' or for them — if you want to be critical or sarcastic — those people who always like to know more about those who are in power, have influence, and are involved in policy making. Whatever was mentioned (or misstated or missed) in the pages of Michael Wolff's bombshell book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is, and will stay for some time, the talk of the town. And I expect that it is the talk of all capitals all over the world. As is generally the case with books like this, many details will be lost or may be created in the translated versions or excerpts of this book. Trump's supporters probably see the book as another example of the bias of ‘liberals' and standard ‘mainstream media' practices, while Trump's critics on the other hand view the book as a confirmation of what has been known and said about the Trump presidency over the past 12 months. Wolff was eager to mention in his interviews that this book is not about Steve Bannon (the former White House chief strategist) but about Donald Trump. He also pointed out that the book is not how he as a writer viewed or views the president, but how those who worked and work with or for Trump see him, and witness the chaos in the White House. It was reported that this book is an outcome of more than 200 conversations with people in- and outside of the White House. “When you write a book like this, people regret what they said to me,” Wolff said in an interview with National Public Radio. “What they say to any reporter who they relax with and they forget who they're talking to, I have sympathy for that, and I think the natural response is to say, ‘Oh my God, I didn't say it.' But I will tell you, they said it.”
The main issue, which resonated loudly in most of the weekend TV shows and still is echoing, is whether Trump is ‘unfit' to be president. This topic was mentioned repeatedly by Wolff, echoing what he heard from many of the Trump administration people during the first months of this presidency. “Hundred per cent of the people around” Trump — “senior advisers, family members, every single one of them, questions his intelligence and fitness for office,” Wolff said in an interview on NBC's ‘Today' show. He also said: “I will tell you the one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common: They all say he is like a child... And what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It is all about him.”
President Trump's reaction in one of his tweets was “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.” The president described the book in a tweet as a “fake book.” Stephen Miller, Trump's senior adviser, in an interview with CNN described Wolff as “a garbage author of a garbage book”.

‘Lies and deceit'... so ‘no more money'
It was a New Year tweet by President Trump in which he wrote “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years,” and added “and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” It is worth mentioning that this bombastic message was tweeted at 7:12am, 1 January 2018. On Thursday, 4 January, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a news briefing: “Today we can confirm that we are suspending... security assistance only to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. We consider them to be destabilising the region and also targeting US personnel.” No dollar value of the suspended money was officially announced. According to some estimates, it is about $225 million.
Welcoming this new year decision, Newt Gingrich — the former speaker of the House — said in a radio interview: “It has so thoroughly shocked the elites that we actually are going to protect America, and defend America, and that we're actually going to render judgement.” He added, “If you kick us in the shin, we're not going to pay you,” and also said: “That is such a shocking moment for a lot of our elites that they don't know how to deal with it.”
Republican Senator Rand Paul last Thursday, 4 January, praised the freezing of aid and announced that he would soon introduce legislation that would eliminate US aid to Pakistan and use that money for domestic infrastructure projects. “The United States should not give one penny to countries who burn our flag and chant ‘Death to America,'” Paul said. “Countries like Pakistan that stonewall access to key information in fighting terrorism don't deserve our money.


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