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Trump's Real Power is His Ability to Make Himself the Center of Attention


At the n+1 website, Patrick Blanchfield reviews the book that has dominated headlines for the past week, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. In one sense, writes Blanchfield, the book’s highly touted revelations about Trump and his White House are nothing new, since anybody who has paid the slightest attention to the news over the past year already realizes that the president is a reckless narcissist and his staff grossly incompetent. But Blanchfield suggests that digesting these facts in book form, rather than through the relentless daily news cycle, provides a fuller and more alarming picture of the stakes of Trump’s presidency, not only for the US but for the world. Blanchfield also observes that while Trump is a vapid fool, he has a miraculous ability to make himself the center of attention, and this is where his real power lies. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Yet as Fire and Fury confirms, when it comes to executive function, in all the senses of the phrase, Trump is both a personal and a political black hole. And it is precisely because of—and not despite—this that he has proven so enthralling. Black holes in space, physicists theorize, emit pulses of their own, exotic radiation, even as they suck all matter in and crush it to nothing. So too with Trump: the tweets, the speeches, the gossip, it all draws us in, dragging us toward him, even as he presides over an apparatus of governance that is steadily dismantling and despoiling what remains of the liberal state. The pull of his gravitational force is strong, and the need to somehow assert control over it by weaving a comprehensible narrative is hard to resist. But Trump is what he has always been, and the endless interpretation only gives him more power. Paradoxically, the palace-intrigue play-by-play Wolff offers, which caters to this very impulse, winds up not just fulfilling, but pointing beyond it. Perhaps, in this next year, we can all resolve to stop being captivated by the need to decipher the obvious, and instead focus on breaking the pull.

Image: Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Via CNN.