Is this the first hostile interview he’s had since his media tour began? Other reporters have nudged him about his sloppy errors but McCain seems sincerely skeptical of him. I don’t know if there’s history between Wolff and her dad or if she’s annoyed on principle by the book’s slipperiness but she came to play. When she accuses him of having a credibility problem, he’s quick with a reply: Well, sure, if you believe Trump. And what reasonable person would believe him? But it’s not just Trump, as McCain correctly points out. She’s also correct to question the ethics of his reporting on his dinner with Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon. That was a social call, she says. Wasn’t it off the record? Well, er, yes, Wolff admits, but Ailes has since died and Steve Bannon thought I should print it, so hey.
To which McCain replies, matter of factly: You’re why people hate journalists. Which isn’t the whole truth.
But it’s part of the truth, isn’t it?
The irony of that revelation, that Bannon supposedly wanted Wolff to use the off-the-record dinner in his book, is that it may have planted the seeds of Bannon’s own downfall. A lingering mystery from Bannon’s political destruction this week is why, oh why, he thought he could get away with badmouthing Donald Trump Jr to Wolff and not have the president turn on him over it. It’s possible that Bannon really was so self-deluded about his standing in America’s populist right-wing hierarchy that he believed himself untouchable, but given Wolff’s grasp of ethics and the fact that he’s admitting here to having used another person’s off-the-record comments in print, Occam’s Razor suggests a simpler explanation. Bannon may have said a bunch of juicy things to Wolff off the record himself, including the Don Jr comment, and Wolff may have decided to screw him by putting all of it in the book anyway. It may have been unethical, it may have made an enemy of Steve Bannon, but it was worth untold millions in book sales and media exposure. Bannon will eventually emerge from his underground lair to discuss how the Wolff fiasco unfolded and I’ll be surprised if that’s not a key part of it. He thought some of their chats were off the record. And probably they were. Until they weren’t.
Chris Buskirk, who edits the pro-Trump American Greatness site, has an op-ed in WaPo today with an unconventional take on the Wolff book. Wolff did Trump a favor, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by giving him an excuse to make an example of Bannon:
The reasoning underlying this counterintuitive conclusion is simple: Trump’s disavowal of Bannon, his former campaign chief executive and White House strategist, and Bannon’s ensuing contrition, reminds fractious Republicans that this is Trump’s party now. Political leaders must be either feared or loved. Trump showed that he should be feared by his rivals. This demonstration will help hold together the nascent congressional consensus that formed around the Trump agenda late last year after months of grumbling and inaction. The burgeoning sense of the possible and the politically necessary facilitated a long-sought tax bill that included a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate…
What has been missed is that the split with Bannon strengthens the president’s position within the Republican Party. Peevish congressional Republicans should take note: This president is keeping score. What’s more, with Bannon clearly out of Trump’s inner circle, there can be no whispers of a power structure outside the White House. Like Ronald Reagan, Trump keeps his own counsel. There is no Valerie Jarrett or Karl Rove. It’s just the president and his agenda.
That’s a perfect complement to the Coulter post from earlier. Nationalists are mourning that Trump seems ready to do a deal, and not a terrific deal either, on amnesty. Trumpists are celebrating that the president just shot a populist traitor, pour encourager les autres. Like the man says, it’s Trump’s party now — whether or not it stands for anything except whatever Trump feels like doing that day.