It’s not Trump’s motives that are scary; Wolff reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were “increasingly panicked” and “frenzied” about what Comey would find if he looked into the family finances, which is incriminating but unsurprising. The terrifying part is how, in Wolff’s telling, Trump sneaked around his aides, some of whom thought they’d contained him.
.. “In presidential annals, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.” Now imagine Trump taking the same approach toward ordering the bombing of North Korea.
.. We learn that the administration holds special animus for what it calls “D.O.J. women,”
.. most of all, the book confirms what is already widely understood — not just that Trump is entirely unfit for the presidency, but that everyone around him knows it.
.. One thread running through “Fire and Fury” is the way relatives, opportunists and officials try to manipulate and manage the president, and how they often fail.
.. the people around Trump, “all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”
.. According to Wolff, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, called Trump an “idiot.” (So did the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, though he used an obscenity first.)
.. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, compares his boss’s intelligence to excrement. The national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, thinks he’s a “dope.” It has already been reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” which he has pointedly refused to deny.
.. Wolff takes a few stabs at the motives of Trump insiders. Ivanka Trump apparently nurtured the ghastly dream of following her father into the presidency. Others, Wolff writes, told themselves that they could help protect America from the president they serve
.. Some of the military men trying to steady American foreign policy amid Trump’s whims and tantrums might be doing something quietly decent, sacrificing their reputations for the greater good.
.. But most members of Trump’s campaign and administration are simply traitors. They are willing, out of some complex mix of ambition, resentment, cynicism and rationalization, to endanger all of our lives — all of our children’s lives — by refusing to tell the country what they know about the senescent fool who boasts of the size of his “nuclear button” on Twitter.
.. Maybe, at the moment, people in the Trump orbit feel complacent because a year has passed without any epic disaster, unless you count an estimated 1,000 or so deaths in Puerto Rico
.. A guy falls from a 50-story building. As he flies by the 25th floor, someone asks how it’s going. “So far, so good!” he says.
Eventually, we’ll hit the ground, and assuming America survives, there should be a reckoning to dwarf the defenestration of Harvey Weinstein and his fellow ogres.
.. His enablers have no such excuse.
.. I think this has always been a country that gets things done by plunging in first and figuring out later how to pay for it.
.. we move across state lines at much lower rates. We take fewer risks in many forms. We hold a higher percentage of government-insured safe assets. We are far, far more risk-averse with how we bring up our children—often we don’t even let them play outside anymore. There is a lot of data about how we innovate less.
.. Mobility used to be much higher in our history and in many regards measured segregation is going up... if you look at lower earners–how many years people stay at home, that a lot of them are less likely to get married, or aspire to own their own home or cars, how many extra hours they spend playing video games or watching pornography or smoking marijuana. To me those are signs of a kind of complacency... There’s a new paper by Erik Hurst and he measures a lot of the less-skilled, out-of-work males and he thinks they are actually very happy or they at least think their situation is OK... everyone thought the internet would help make a more dynamic world. Instead, you suggest it allows people to stay within their comfort zone—they order up the music or food or news they know they like rather than exploring, trying something new... I don’t think of Trump himself as a change agent. I view him as someone who talked a good game on change but in fact has been doing nothing, doesn’t know how to get things done, was mostly about rhetoric. In a way, his biggest promise was to bring back the past and along the way not to cut entitlements. So he’s actually the ultimate complacent president.
.. Q: What will it take to make the U.S. a more dynamic nation again?
A: There’s what we could do and won’t do: Take more chances, start new businesses, deregulate a lot, expose ourselves to a lot more risks, segregate less... I think the actual reality is we will have some kind of crack-up in terms of governance and institutional quality and we’ll be forced to become dynamic again just because we won’t be able to escape risk by burrowing in more deeply... I discuss three scenarios.
- One would be a debt crisis, which I don’t think is the most likely.
- Another would be a foreign-policy crisis where we just don’t have the wherewithal to respond to it.
- And the the third would be this ongoing collapse in the quality of governance, and I think that’s what we have been seeing so far–when nothing the president says seems to matter, no deal can be cut.The Republican Party has no coherence, the Democratic Party doesn’t either. I don’t think you call it gridlock anymore. Gridlock is very 2011. This is some new phenomenon of chaos and lack of coherence.
too many parts of society are oriented towards bottom line activities of mistake avoidance instead of top line activities of taking risk and creating value.
.. “You can think of this book as detailing the social roots of the resulting slow growth outcome and explaining why that economic and technological stagnation has lasted so long.”
.. Cowen identifies a country that very much has a cheerful, can-do spirit: China. “I have visited China many times over the past five years, for a different book project, and what I’ve observed there has made America’s social stagnation increasingly clear to me. That was one reason I came to write this book.”
.. Thinking about that point makes me wonder if economists are poorly-equipped to measure how an optimistic vision can propel growth.
.. “We are using the acceleration of information transmission to decelerate changes in our physical world.” Must our imaginations be limited by the screen? That would be a shame.
.. Maybe it can push forward nuclear fusion; it’s already been reported that American thorium scientists who could no longer develop the technology in the United States have taken their designs to China, which is happy to encourage their work.
.. One doesn’t have to admire Steve Bannon’s policy views to see that he’s lived a unique life. The recitation of his career path (born in Norfolk; Virginia Tech; HBS; officer in the Navy; Goldman; etc.) doesn’t sufficiently convey the diversity of his experiences. He has been involved with Seinfeld; Biosphere 2; the rescue effort of the Iran hostage crisis; a World of Warcraft virtual gold mining company; Titus (the Shakespeare adaptation featuring Anthony Hopkins); Breitbart; the White House; and surely other interesting ventures I’ve never read about.
.. He contracted Hepatitis C from a trip to Xinjiang in his 20’s; ongoing treatment has required his heart to be stopped over 100 times.
.. Let me take this opportunity to register a complaint with the term “open-minded,” which is increasingly praised as an important virtue.
I’ve started to dislike the term. First of all, it’s unobjectionable—who would profess he is not open-minded? More importantly, it’s not always clear what the term refers to, and this is worth thinking through. It might indicate the state of being “soft-minded,” in which one would readily be swayed by better arguments. But often it tends to connote “empty-minded,” in which one accepts anything and retains little. Many people are indeed open to different cultures and ideas, but they’re not necessarily conceptualizing their experience, nor active in seeking new experiences out.
.. I would like for everyone to be “hungry-minded,” in which one realizes that there is so much to know. A hungry-minded person senses that he is expert in so few areas of knowledge; that terrible gaps plague even his supposed areas of expertise; that there are important areas of knowledge of whose existence he is barely even aware; and that he should be fixing these deficiencies, now and ravenously. My favorite people to talk to are those who look for new experiences, think about them in an analytic way, and are eager to share their thoughts.
.. I’m slightly skeptical of thinking that we can save the world with indeterminate policies like looser monetary policy or housing reform. Are so many companies waiting to make things happen if only we’d cut interest rates by 0.25 percent? Will so many excellent service jobs be created if rents in Manhattan and the Mission were only cheaper by $250? To me these are policies worth advocating for, but I must say that they feel so marginal.
.. The most striking thing I learned from Harford is that the most success-oriented teams are usually the most miserable teams. For example, the amateur investment clubs that generate the highest returns are usually composed of people who don’t know each other well—it’s the only way to generate pushback on ideas that aren’t well thought through. Clubs composed of friends will find it more important to keep friendships intact rather than focus on returns.
.. Living a life that’s not so well-ordered can improve skill-acquisition.
.. It’s odd to me that a country that hasn’t experienced warfare for centuries would maintain such a militarized culture. The book makes it feel that being Swiss is the civic religion of Switzerland, and the service in the army is the annual demonstration of faith.
.. The biggest objections to this book will come from those who haven’t been steeped in Thielian arguments for techno-pessimism.
.. Maybe we can lay the blame for complacency at the feet of Carter, who again and again entreated Americans to lower their expectations. He’s the president who encouraged people to carpool, who put on a sweater and asked people to lower their thermostats, and oversaw repeated crises.
.. The chapter never explicitly mentions pot, except in the title. By introducing little oddities in the text, Cowen makes room for claims that are too difficult to baldly state; in other cases, watch for occasions in which he’s offering commentary on something other than what he’s directly writing about.