What To Make Of Trump's 'Stable Genius' Tweet
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
President Trump spent part of a press conference yesterday boasting about his intelligence, his stability and even his performance at college. The hashtag #StableGenius has been trending after Trump tweeted he was one. It's his response to the new book "Fire And Fury," in which the author, Michael Wolff, claims that the president is unstable. Trump was flanked by members of his cabinet and top Republican lawmakers who joined him at Camp David. They've been trying to craft a legislative agenda in the midst of a Page Six-style storm.
Michael Warren has been watching it all play out. He's a senior writer at the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. And he joins us. Good morning.
MICHAEL WARREN: Good morning, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. A lot to discuss, I think. What do you make of the president's reaction to this book, from the press conference to Twitter to a cease-and-desist order to the book's publisher?
WARREN: Well, I'll say it's classic Trump in that it is probably self-destructive - certainly not in the president and the White House's best interest to do so - but also entirely predictable. This is a man who has sort of built his entire public career around being involved in media spats like this. I think it was a - it was certainly a mistake initially for the president to issue a statement, as he did on Wednesday when these excerpts first started coming out.
Now the White House is trying to say - basically, since that very moment - saying that the book is tabloid trash, that there are a lot of problems. And I agree. There are a lot of problems with the credibility of the book. But that initial reaction and the engagement with the book has, I think, made this story even bigger than it already would have been.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the book a best-seller. I mean, you know...
WARREN: That's right.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, there are people lining up the block to buy it. It is filled with details about the president's mental state. And that's been a source of cable news fodder for days now. How have those charges been received among Republican officials?
WARREN: Look. I think that this has been a constant for the Trump administration and, actually, since before the election, which is that Republicans just try to look at what they like about the president or what they like about being in power and ignore everything else that's inconvenient. I think it's certainly inappropriate for - I think - for it to be making psychological judgments about the president from afar, as some of us in the media are being tempted to do. But I think that what you're seeing from Republicans on Capitol Hill, you saw at this Camp David summit is just saying, well, what we can do is try to achieve part of our 2018 agenda.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So pretend it's not happening. Ignore it.
WARREN: And pretend it's not happening and focus on what they can control. And that may be the best thing that they can do. But it's also a problem because you can't separate from the president all of these questions about - and the things that he's tweeting himself about his own genius.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The White House appears to have been caught off guard by the book. There seemed to have been no unified strategy in some ways. I mean, they sort of just let the president take the ball and run with it.
WARREN: Yeah. Well, look. This book - this is a question that I have - and I've been unable to get an answer from the White House since Wednesday - which is, how many people in the White House cooperated with this book? How many comms staff were in interviews - these interviews that Mike Wolff supposedly had - walking into the White House, roaming around, in his words?
They say he never met with the president in the Oval Office. Michael Wolff says he does. There's a lot of confusion about how much access and how much participation the White House had with this book. So they shouldn't be caught off guard, I think, based on the level of access that Wolff appears to have. And they haven't been quite forthright about what level that is.
I talked to somebody who was interviewed who said there was a comms person, somebody in the West Wing in the White House - there was a comms person in that interview with him. How many other interviews were like that? And I think that that - we should keep that in mind when we hear sort of these calls that this is this is tabloid trash, that nobody in the White House knew what was happening or that this was all Steve Bannon.
Perhaps it really was all Steve Bannon inviting Michael Wolff into the White House, giving him unfettered access. But the White House is - and the West Wing is a small place. And it's hard to ignore. I certainly saw Michael Wolff when I was covering - when I've been covering the White House for the last year. It's kind of hard to ignore the guy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And just briefly, I'm just curious about this idea that somehow, you know, this may not really damage the president. I mean, how much of a blow do you think this will be? Or is this just another one of these scandals that seems to erupt and then be forgotten when the next one comes in?
WARREN: I think it has a small, marginal, cumulative effect, right? I mean everybody sort of has baked in that that the president is not normal, is not - certainly not a normal president, doesn't operate in the normal way. I think what will change - say, that 36, 38 percent approval to something a lot worse - is if something happens catastrophic, if there's a drop a severe drop in the stock market or, God forbid, some kind of national security disaster, something bad for the Mueller investigation. This is only hurting his ability to weather a big storm like that. It's giving nobody who's on the fence, trying to figure out if they can still support him any reason to do so.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Michael Warren, a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. Thanks for coming in.
WARREN: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.