There has been a raging debate about whether or not all of the material in Michael Wolff’s book measures up to journalistic standards. I’m going to put that question aside for a moment because I’m more interested in what his access says about the Trump administration.
One of the White House’s initial charges against the book was that Wolff didn’t have the access he claims to have had. Yesterday Sebastian Gorka pretty much drove a stake through that argument by writing that he had been told to speak to Wolff for the book.
The author himself told Chuck Todd that he didn’t have an agenda when he first visited the White House, but he also admitted to Samantha Guthrie that he would do anything to get the story. We don’t know what he told the president or anyone in the administration about his intentions, but we do know that within days of the inauguration, he wrote about how the media was losing the war with Trump and told Brian Stelter that they were having a nervous breakdown over Trump and should instead be covering him like they would any other new president. I’m sure that was music to the president’s ears. Around the same time, Wolff wrote a rather glowing profile of Kellyanne Conway, just as she was making a name for herself on television as the one who defended Trump’s “alternative facts.”
Regardless of what Wolff claims about his own motives for doing all of that, it sent a clear message to the White House that he had the one thing Trump looks for in allies: loyalty to Trump. So it is no surprise that he was given access. He had done what was necessary to ingratiate himself with the president. Obviously, things didn’t work out the way the White House had planned.
I am once again reminded of what psychiatrists told Richard Greene about interacting with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
There are only two ways to deal with someone with NPD, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.
Obviously, Wolff chose the second option and it gave him the kind of access he needed to write his book. That is a fact. The question for journalists is whether that is an acceptable strategy to use with this president. Drew Magary answers in the affirmative.