Book fury hits Trump where it hurts most -- his image

Nothing means more to Donald Trump than his image.He got rich by selling his name, plastering it on buildings,...

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 3:10 PM
Updated: Jan 5, 2018 3:10 PM

Nothing means more to Donald Trump than his image.

He got rich by selling his name, plastering it on buildings, hotels, casinos and golf resorts, and he transferred his tough guy "You're fired" persona to politics, building a personality cult as an ultimate winner and tough-talking President.

When a presidency is anchored so fundamentally on an image, any deterioration of that image can be especially perilous

For Trump, the mockery is likely to be especially painful

The President senses good angles when on camera, and he's obsessed with polls, the size of his crowds and the flattery dished out by foreign leaders.

But as Washington consumes a sensational West Wing expos- by journalist Michael Wolff, Trump is being forced to watch as his prized image is ripped to shreds.

When a presidency is anchored so fundamentally on an image, as it is with Trump, rather than a long history of political achievement or ideological consistency, any deterioration of that image can be especially perilous. For Trump, who may be more conscious of how he is perceived than any politician in history, the mockery is likely to be especially painful.

Wolff, in some cases using on-the-record quotes, sketches an image far removed from the one constructed by Trump.

It's a picture of a President who knows little of policy details and cares less and appears not to perceive the vast responsibilities of his role.

Sometimes, this version of Trump appears fragile and out of control, prone to emotional and impulsive reactions, and seems lonely in the White House. Wolff also claims Trump never really wanted the job of President at all.

Some of Wolff's reporting has been corroborated. But several errors have been identified. Former campaign CEO and White House adviser Steve Bannon, who is widely quoted and is now estranged from Trump as a result, has not denied comments attributed to him, however.

The storm unleashed by the book, "Fire and Fury," is a political nightmare for the White House.

But even as it raged, Trump was, as always, conscious of how his image is playing.

After details of the book leaked Wednesday, he released a statement saying Bannon "had very little to do with our historic victory" in 2016, characteristically claiming that his success is always his work alone.

Then on Thursday, in a brief appearance before the cameras, Trump showed he had already noticed Bannon's flattery on Breitbart radio, in his only comment so far on the book: "He called me a great man last night," the President said.

Sources told CNN on Wednesday that Trump was especially aggravated by Bannon's assault on his family. There is a particularly cutting assessment of the President's daughter Ivanka Trump in the book.

"She was a nonevent on the campaign. She became a White House staffer and that's when people suddenly realized she's dumb as a brick. A little marketing savvy and has a look but as far as understanding actually how the world works and what politics is and what it means -- nothing," Bannon was quoted as saying by Wolff.

No father would stand for such talk about his daughter. But for Trump, his family is especially important, because it's an extension of himself, and his brand.

"He doesn't like attacks on the image of the Trump family, on the integrity of his children," Trump biographer and CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio said. "At the end of the day, he's really concerned about his image, himself and how he is being portrayed."

A delayed response

Trump's image is under siege, and "Fire and Fury" seems certain to widen the perception between the version of himself that the President wants America to see and the one that emerges from behind-the-scenes reports.

After a slow start Wednesday, when the White House seemed almost as staggered as the rest of Washington about Bannon's betrayal, Trump aides and friends sprang to his defense in a belated damage control effort.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders blasted the book as "tabloid gossip," and pointedly pushed back at suggestions by Wolff that Trump did not want to win the election in 2016.

"If you guys know anything, you know that Donald Trump is a winner and he's not going to do something for the purpose of not coming out on top and not coming out as a winner," she said. "That's one of the most ridiculous things."

Trump's lawyers fired off cease and desist letters to Bannon and to Wolff's publisher. Trump friends Anthony Scaramucci and Christopher Ruddy toured cable news television studios to defend the President.

The publisher, for its part, responded by moving up the release date to Friday.

But any day when the White House has to rebut questions about the President's mental stability is hardly a good one.

And the Trump team's attempt to discredit Wolff faces another complication: the fact that his book broadly tends to corroborate many themes that have arisen in existing news reports about Trump's personality.

In October, for instance, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee raised questions about Trump's temperament by describing his White House as an "adult day care center."

Last April, Axios quoted senior administration officials as saying there was a need to keep "smart, sane people around Trump to fight his worst impulses."

And questions about Trump's focus and struggle to master policy details have been around as long as his presidency.

After the initial failure of an Obamacare repeal effort last March, a senior congressional source told CNN that "staff was for details, Trump was for closing," adding that when it came to the intricacies of the bill, the President "didn't know, didn't care or both."

Sam Nunberg, a former campaign aide to Trump, is quoted in "Fire and Fury" as saying he was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate -- and got only as far as the Fourth Amendment "before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head."

Nunberg, appearing on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" on Thursday, did not deny the anecdote but suggested nuance was missing from Wolff's account, saying as that as a candidate who was also running a business, Trump had "a ton of things to do."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
Lowndes6261144
Lamar610284
Lafayette6026117
Washington5279132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4440103
Pearl River4418139
Warren4277118
Marshall4267100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Grenada254882
Covington254380
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237647
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
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