Monday, January 22, 2018

Easy Mark

Josh Marshall has a look into how Michael Wolff was able to get the goods on his subjects in his books.

Wolff is, in a word, vicious. He played Murdoch and then knifed him, all out in the open. And then he did more or less exactly the same thing to Trump a decade later, with the added bonus that Trump was talking to Murdoch regularly while Wolff had the run of the White House and was laying the ground work to shiv him as he had his new friend Rupert. None of this is terribly surprising given the Trump we know. But it wasn’t only his narcissism and neediness. The lack of any experienced staff and the organizational disarray that was particularly marked before John Kelly took over as Chief of Staff allowed Wolff to always be saying that he had the run of the place because someone else said it was okay. Because he was Trump’s best friend. Because Trump thought it was great. Because … well, didn’t you know that other person …

As I said, Trump got just the kind of vicious, shameless and canny biographer he deserved. “Joyously nasty” seems to capture it – precisely the person you want to write the book about someone you already despise.

But we don’t have to stop there. It is impossible not to look at the Wolff story and see many of the patterns we are now reading about which occurred over the course of 2015 and 2016 as various Russian nationals, cut-outs and intelligence officers inveigled their way into the Trump orbit. A key lure was the same: flattery. Another more amorphous draw was greed – whether for money or for damaging campaign material or positive press for a White House drowning in the worst press imaginable and abysmal public support. In both cases, the Trumpers were dealing with people who knew how to read a mark. And the Trumpers were easy marks.

In short, he appealed to the most obvious vulnerability that Trump has: his vanity.  Tell him he’s smart, good-looking, nay even sexy, and he’s putty in your hands.

Vladimir Putin has known this all along.