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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Truth About Trump

Michael D'Antonio

A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK


INTRODUCTION


 


For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.


—DONALD TRUMP


In profile, which was how TV viewers saw him that night, Donald Trump resembled nothing as much as a rooster in a tuxedo. His posture, developed in military school, was firmly erect. His eyes were focused, with narrowed intensity, on a distant challenger. And arcing from his forehead back to his neck, his famous helmet of golden hair evoked the cockscomb of a Rhode Island Red. For the rooster, this beacon is meant to attract female attention and warn off enemies. For Trump, who sat among admirers and detractors at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, it drew the television camera that caught his reaction to the public ridicule heaped on him in the name of entertainment, by both comedian Seth Meyers and the president of the United States.


The only hint that Trump was suffering came as Meyers mocked him for a full two and a half minutes. As the people laughed and strained to catch a glimpse of Trump, he leveled a look that could kill at the comedian. His face remained unmoving, and glowering, as even the diners at his own table found themselves unable to resist the tide of laughter. Meyers revealed the reason for all the derision when he spoke of a poll that found that only 38 percent of Americans were certain the president had been born in the United States. Since the Constitution requires that presidents be native born, the issue, which had been manufactured by conspiracy theorists, was a blatant attempt to paint Obama as an “other” whose claim to office was illegitimate.


Through his long, strenuous effort to promote this “birtherism,” Trump had made himself a target of those who believed this talk was divisive, destructive, and perhaps a veiled form of racism. He objected to this criticism, insisting that he was not prejudiced and that he was posing important questions. “When it comes to racism and racists,” Trump said, “I am the least racist person there is.”


When it was his turn to address the White House correspondents and their guests, the president confronted the birthers head-on, but with remarkable humor, even presenting a video clip borrowed from the animated movie The Lion King as “my official birth video.” Obama then mentioned Trump by name, praising the leadership he had demonstrated while performing as host of a reality TV show and making the “kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night.” Obama added that with the birther issue resolved, Trump could “get back to focusing on the issues that matter—like, did we fake the moon landing?”


Confronted by a critic who stood rungs above him in the status hierarchy, Trump did not offer the killer stare. Instead he allowed the corners of his mouth to turn up, ever so slightly, which deepened the crow’s-feet that framed his eyes. He then offered a wave to the president. Trump could take a joke. Afterward he took pains to seem unperturbed and spoke as if he had achieved something by gaining the president’s notice. “I was actually very honored by the way I was treated,” said Trump. “They treated me with great respect. They joked and they clowned, but I was the topic of conversation and that’s perhaps not so bad.”1


In one way or another, Donald Trump has been a topic of conversation in America for almost forty years. No one in the world of business—not Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Warren Buffett—has been as famous as Trump for as long. First associated with high-profile real estate development in 1970s Manhattan, his name soon became synonymous with success defined by wealth and luxury. Placed on skyscrapers, casinos, and commercial airliners, the name TRUMP (usually spelled in gold-colored, capital letters) became a true personal brand that connected one man to a seemingly endless number of offerings. In time it would be stamped on hotel rooms, furniture, neckties, meat; almost anything that might be sold as high quality, high cost, and high-class.


The kind of class Trump sought to deliver was defined not by social standing but by cash. Eagerly catering to the nouveau riches and the aspiring, he dismissed those who belonged to what he called “the lucky sperm club” while glossing over that he had been born into one of the wealthiest families in the country. Trump cast himself as the everyman’s rich friend, who shunned high society, except when it was helpful to sell expensive apartments. In such cases he dropped the role of the anti-snob and readily referenced the Astors, Whitneys, Vanderbilts, and other blue bloods of a bygone age. It was understood, however, that he brandished these names out of commercial interest and that his heart was really aligned with Middle America. These were the people who followed him on TV, bought his products, and might even give him their votes should he ever get off the fence and actually run for office.


Today, according to the best available data, 96 percent of Americans recognize the name Donald Trump, but most don’t like him. Henry Schafer of the firm that defines celebrities with its Q Score ratings called Trump the “quasi-celebrity people love to hate.” In 2014, 61 percent of those polled in Trump’s hometown of New York City viewed him unfavorably. Comedians find him an irresistible target. Jon Stewart, the former host of the long-running satirical news program The Daily Show, routinely jabbed Trump, calling him, among other things, Fuckface von Clownstick. The television host and comedian Bill Maher famously offered Trump $5 million if he could prove he wasn’t “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.”2


The level of commentary offered by Stewart and Maher says much about the rancor of our age. It’s hard to imagine Mark Twain requiring the censor’s bleeps that accompanied Stewart’s rants. Of course Twain may never have met anyone quite like Trump. Gleefully aggressive, Trump looks for opportunities to take offense and then wrestle a supposed enemy into the gutter. When Stewart offered a generic juvenile taunt, Trump replied in a deeply personal way, asking, “If he is so above it all & legit, why did he change his name from Jonathan Liebowitz? He should be proud of his heritage! Jon Stewart @TheDailyShow is a total phony. He should cherish his past, not run from it.” After Maher’s comment, Trump filed a $5 million lawsuit. Although he eventually dropped it, the filing required a court’s attention, at taxpayer expense, and a defense by Maher.3


But even as he appeared appeased his critics, Trump’s views and bully persona made him exceedingly popular with people who believed he represented important ideals, especially the American promise of success represented by great wealth. His image was amplified as he hosted a TV game show—The Apprentice—and maintained a constant presence on the social media site Twitter, where millions followed his commentary and many implored him to seek the presidency.4


Ever provocative, Trump gained attention by expressing raw and unrefined thoughts rather than nuanced reflections. In his calculation, honesty comes from the corner of his heart that is willing to fling insults and divide the world into enemies and friends. As veteran gossip columnist Liz Smith sees it, Trump is often ruled by the needy child who resides in his psyche and would rather get negative attention than be ignored. Of course Trump does profit financially as he gives this part of himself free rein, and he has little patience for reflection or analysis. He just presses on, defying science with his criticism of immunizations for children and battling against the facts on climate change.


Trump has denied facts others accept and pushed the limits of propriety throughout his long and hyperactive life. In his parents’ home, at school, and in the worlds of business and politics, he has continually asserted his superiority with only the barest hint of doubt. Perhaps nothing in nature is more voracious than this man’s hunger for wealth, fame, and power. And it is this force that has allowed him to endure considerable mockery and substantial setbacks in business and still come back for more. Indeed, in the time after his humiliation at the correspondent’s dinner, Trump nurtured an ambition to mount his own campaign for the American presidency—a real campaign and not another of his flirtations—and thereby claim the greatest accomplishment available to a mere mortal in the twenty-first century.


The Trump candidacy would be planned and plotted for 2016 when he would make it official in an address to well-wishers and journalists gathered in the lobby of his Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan. The most unconventional kick-off speech in many election cycles, the announcement—particularly his claim that Mexico is “sending” criminals across the U.S. border—would launch Trump on a rapid ascent to the top of the Republican field. For many weeks to come, Trump would outrage his critics and baffle his opponents as he held the nation’s attention with one outrageous statement after another. As some Republicans speculated that he was a Democratic Party plant, many liberals said Trump’s popularity reflected the irrational fears of the GOP base. All could agree that his ability to disrupt the status quo was breathtaking in its power and efficiency. Trump was unrivaled, it seemed, in his ability to capture and hold the attention of the American public.


*   *   *


Although he seems like a unique and completely modern figure, Donald Trump actually emerges from this country’s long tradition of rich-but-rough high-achievers, which Alexis de Tocqueville recognized in 1831, writing, “Love of money is either the chief or a secondary motive at the bottom of everything Americans do.” By the end of the nineteenth century, the rich in America had become so wealthy that their power and influence equaled that of the aristocracy in Europe. Thanks to the rise of mass-circulation newspapers, the very rich became a source of widespread fascination as the press was filled with the comings and goings of Carnegies, Rockefellers, Goulds, and others whose fortunes permitted great displays of luxury. (Hence Mark Twain’s term for the era, the Gilded Age.) J. P. Morgan favored ever-bigger yachts, each of which was named Corsair and painted a menacing black, as a means of showing off his ever-increasing wealth. The Vanderbilts also owned yachts, but they were better known for their houses. In 1883 they astonished the country with the largest house ever built in New York City. The family also owned a seventy-room “cottage” in Newport called The Breakers, and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, which has more than two hundred and twenty rooms.


The wealthy men of the Gilded Age knew that while their countrymen loved money, they regarded the excesses of high society as both foreign and suspect. Wilbur Fisk Crafts, a popular writer of the time, expressed it this way: “Is there anything more un-American than what we call ‘society,’ whose aristocratic code was imported from Paris and London into New York and thence spread to other large cities of our land?” To distance themselves from this vision, great men made certain that the public saw that the balls and galas were feminine affairs, in which they participated only to please their wives and daughters. In their biographies and public remarks they associated themselves with virtues such as hard work and determination. Andrew Carnegie counseled that success depended more on motivation than talent. John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, advised “singleness of purpose.”


Similarly, captains of industry and finance downplayed their intellectual pursuits and education. It was enough for a man to have attended college, if he had, but it was not necessary. After he finished school, it was best to talk about practical things and leave the world of art and books to those who couldn’t handle the hurly-burly of business. By the start of the twentieth century, when Elbert Hubbard coined the term “school of hard knocks,” everyday experience and common sense were widely accepted as equal if not superior to book learning. This belief affirmed both an American sense of equality and the increasingly popular idea that the accumulation of wealth made one a success in life.5


Eventually America’s first great era of wealth led to countless books on the ways of making money. In 1914 preacher/author William Woodbridge posed the question of the day: “What is it that the upper ten possesses that the under ten thousand does not possess?” His book, That Something, revolved around an encounter between a fictional beggar and a financier who gives the beggar his business card and says the beggar doesn’t need food but rather “that something” that all successful men have. Inspired, the young beggar discovers the value of “Faith, Confidence, Power, Ambition…” and, finally, the power of his own will, which is “the talisman of success.” It is the will of the soul, writes Woodbridge, that explains why a few men are destined to be carried “on our muscle” like men upon horses. Another book of this sort, Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by Chicago pork-packer John Graham, stressed personality and appearance, explaining, “Two thirds of success is making people think you are all right.”


While the masses sought to divine the secrets of success—willpower? personality? faith? confidence?—some at the top came to believe their success was either divinely distributed or a matter of superior morals. John D. Rockefeller claimed, “God gave me my money.” When J. P. Morgan was questioned about his empire, which was built in large measure through stock manipulation, he said its source was “character.”


*   *   *


The first Gilded Age faltered with various recessions and panics and finally died, at about age sixty-five, after the stock market crash of 1929. Out of the ruins of the subsequent Great Depression emerged a safer financial system, more progressive taxes, and Social Security. In the decades that followed, the middle class expanded at an unprecedented rate. A new era of prosperity dawned in 1946, the year Donald Trump was born. (This makes him a founding member of the baby boom generation.) With World War II ended, America’s industrial competitors lay in ruins and more than 10 million servicemen came home to resume civilian life. As export markets clamored for goods and domestic demand for consumer comforts exploded, a golden age began. Housing was required for the millions of new families begun as fighting men returned, and developers such as Trump’s father, Fred, grew rich providing it. Through shrewd business practices and sheer determination, Fred came to be worth an estimated $100 million by 1975, when he turned seventy.6


The postwar golden years, which allowed men such as Fred Trump to live out a financial miracle, were marked by an unprecedented level of equality as the various income groups—upper, middle, and lower—each claimed a proportionate share of the expanding economy and the gaps separating them remained essentially constant. This happy state of affairs continued until the recession of 1973–75. Years of economic stagnation and crisis then fed a conservative political movement that was determined to use tax cuts and deregulation to promote the development of new great fortunes. Theoretically a flood tide of wealth flowing to the few would “lift all boats” and thereby save the middle class.


With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, firebrand conservatives got what they wanted. Washington began slashing the tax rates imposed on the rich and easing the regulations on industries and financial institutions. All this was done in the name of growth and fairness for the rich. To emphasize this latter point, President Reagan’s budget director David Stockman gave cabinet members copies his new favorite book, Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder, which proclaimed the moral basis for the accumulation of great wealth. Gilder lionized entrepreneurs and excoriated the poor, declaring that “the current poor, white even more than black, are refusing to work hard.” As they turned Gilder’s passion into policies, the Reagan administration targeted social programs for cuts, reduced taxes, and sought to unleash businesses from regulations. Thus began America’s Second Gilded Age.7


*   *   *


At first hardly anyone noticed that something significant was happening. In the early 1980s everyday Americans were primarily concerned with double-digit inflation and unemployment rates that flirted with 10 percent. As these menaces receded, many credited pro-wealth policies, and despite various financial crises, most of which were linked to speculation and lax regulation, the “second Gilded Age” wasn’t described as such until 1990, when Kevin Phillips published The Politics of Rich and Poor. Phillips declared that America had been swept by “a plutographic revolution comparable to that of the late 19th century,” and though he predicted an eventual end to the trend, he could not say when it might occur. As of 2015 it hadn’t happened. In the first decade of this century those in the middle actually lost income and the top 1 percent came to control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. In 2014 the five hundred richest people in the world controlled $4.4 trillion in assets. The sum exceeded the annual economic activity of India (population 1.2 billion) and Brazil (population 200 million) combined.


As in the past, fortunes were expressed in mansions—actually “mega” or “monster” mansions—and opulent parties, including the $3 million birthday celebration that investor Stephen Schwarzman threw for himself in 2007. Once again, giant yachts signified success. A prime example was the steel-hulled Rising Sun, launched in 2004. Owned by Larry Ellison and David Geffen, it was built with eighty-three rooms, an indoor pool, and a slip space for a private submarine. In comparison, Donald Trump’s yacht was a modest, three-hundred-foot-long, traditional steamer. Preferring luxury travel by private jet, Trump spent little time aboard the Trump Princess. In modern times, private aircraft, which wealthy Americans buy with generous tax incentives, grab more public attention. Private-jet traffic jams became common at airports near resort towns such as East Hampton, New York, and Aspen, Colorado, and billionaires sought to one-up each other by purchasing ever-faster and ever-more-luxurious planes. Donald Trump made his statement with a $100 million Boeing 757. Built to carry two hundred or more passengers when configured for airline service, Trump’s plane was fitted out for just forty-three people, whose seat belts clicked together with gold-plated buckles.


Often parked at LaGuardia Airport in a spot that made it as visible as a billboard, Trump’s 757 announced his status as a rich and successful man. Hardly anyone argued with the proposition that wealth equaled success. In the new Gilded Age, 81 percent of college freshmen surveyed by the Pew organization in 2006 said their primary goal in life was to become rich. This was roughly double the number who expressed this notion in the 1960s. In the same survey more than half said that one of their main goals was to become famous. Fewer than one-third indicated that they wanted to “help others who needed help.”8


Talent and intelligence were recognized as essential in the quest for success, but as in the past, higher education and intellectualism were deemed to be of limited value. Much was made of the entrepreneurs and inventors who dropped out of college and became wildly successful. (Microsoft founder Bill Gates was one.) Even more attention was lavished upon those who gained great fame as well as riches. No one achieved these two goals quite like Donald Trump, who became, quite literally, the face of modern success.


Dozens of men and women with several times Trump’s holdings are unknown to those outside the world’s billionaires. Donald Bren, Dan Duncan, and Leonard Blavatnik each ranked more than fifty spots higher on the 2014 Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest, but they can walk the streets of any American city unnoticed and unmolested. Trump cannot go anywhere without attracting attention. More remarkable is that his fame has persisted for more than four decades, through success, failure, shame, and glory. By thrusting himself into one issue after another, and speaking with unequaled audacity, he has made himself one of the most quoted men of his time. Early in his fame, Trump enjoyed such broad public approval that the US Gallup Poll determined that he was the seventh most admired man of the 1980s, outranked only by the pope, the Polish nationalist Lech Walesa, and the four living presidents.


Although he often sought to use his fame to influence public affairs, Trump has always claimed that notoriety has real monetary value. According to him, the name Trump, just like that of Disney or Ford, added value to products, services, and assets he offered in the marketplace. Brand names are worth money. Apple is the most valuable brand name in the world, estimated in 2013 by the ranking service Interbrand to be worth $28 billion. Interbrand pegged the value of the Gap clothing brand at $3.9 billion. Trump didn’t show up in the firm’s public rankings of valuable names, but in a 2010 deposition he testified that an independent evaluation set it at $3 billion. This figure would have made his name the single most valuable item in his portfolio.9


Trump stressed that if the brand stood for any one thing, it was “luxury.” However, he took pains to avoid being perceived as too elitist to appeal to the masses. This sensitivity, which served him well when he catered to slot-machine addicts in Atlantic City, could be traced to Trump’s father, Frederick—he always went by “Fred”—a hard-knocks alumnus who built a personal fortune in excess of $100 million by selling and renting homes to working-class New Yorkers. Trump Sr. wanted his children to earn college diplomas. However, he was generally suspicious of intellectuals and valued hard work above all else. Ever his father’s son, Donald Trump acquired an exquisite blend of attitudes that allowed him to flaunt his Ivy League diploma but also use his father’s sharp-elbow tactics to prevail against competitors and opponents.


Seemingly committed to the notion that all publicity was good publicity, Donald Trump came to display a personality that was practically all id, all the time, and truly an expression of the American urge to forge empire from ambition. Flying from place to place in his TRUMP helicopter and TRUMP jet, he offered opinions on everything from politics to sex, and continually declared himself to be superior in every way. He frequently referred to the many people who thought he should run for president and sometimes acted as if he were a real candidate. During one especially tense Cold War moment, he even offered himself to the world as a nuclear-arms-treaty negotiator. His reasoning? A man who can make high-end real estate deals should be able to bring the United States and the Soviet Union into agreement.


If he had acted with a bit more humor, Donald Trump could have been a P. T. Barnum for his time, universally beloved despite his bombast because everyone would be in on the joke. But those who compared him to the nineteenth-century showman, who was more famous than any president of his era, missed the mark by a few degrees. Trump occasionally smiled in a way that made you think he understood he was being preposterous, but he lacked Barnum’s sunny playfulness. Instead he was often combative and sometimes mean. He sued or threatened to sue those who offended him, and he declared certain female critics unworthy because they were “grotesque” or “fat” or “ugly.” He once sent writer Gail Collins of The New York Times a copy of her column with her photo circled and the message “The Face of a Dog!” scrawled beside it.10


When questioned about this kind of behavior, Trump justifies it like a boy in a fight, complaining that the other guy struck first. He is often right about this. Comedians, politicians, and others have picked on him for everything from his ego to his extravagant swoosh of bright blond hair. But his policy of always answering a pesky jab with a roundhouse punch reveals remarkable sensitivity for someone so accustomed to verbal brawls. As a man who says he considers money to be a way to “keep score” in life, he has been especially bothered by those who suggested he wasn’t all that rich. Gail Collins received the dog-face clipping after she called him a “financially embattled thousandaire.” When the writer Timothy L. O’Brien published a book that quoted unnamed sources who estimated Trump’s net worth at under $250 million, Trump sued the author and publisher seeking $5 billion in damages. Trump’s level of fame made it difficult for him to win his case because, as a “public figure,” the law treats him as fair game for any writer. The court dismissed Trump’s lawsuit after it concluded that Trump had failed to come forward with sufficient evidence showing that O’Brien knew that his sources’ information was false or that O’Brien had serious doubts about its accuracy However, the mere filing of a legal complaint does inflict financial and, perhaps, emotional pain on the opposition, and these outcomes probably please Trump. He prefers to win, but victory isn’t necessary. “I always loved to fight,” he told me during a discussion about his youth,“all types of fights, including physical.”


*   *   *


What does one make of a grown man who, when he argues with women, stoops to insulting their appearance and speaks so proudly of his pugnacious past? What if the same man is one of the most prominent people in the world, and a privately generous person who once handed a dying child a $50,000 check so that he could enjoy the last months of his life? Add to the picture a resilience that has allowed him to stage countless comebacks from defeat and a boundless optimism, and you get a figure so compelling that he cannot be dismissed simply because of his braggadocio’s personality.


Indeed, for all of his excesses Donald Trump is a man perfectly adapted to his time.


Coming of age in New York City in Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade” of the 1970s, he fashioned himself into one of the most effective self-promoters in a city that was filled with them. In the 1980s, as the fictional Gordon Gekko announced that “greed is good,” Trump invited the press, and therefore the public, to view and envy the lavish lifestyle he enjoyed thanks to his own relentless pursuit of profit. Then, after some scandal and very public troubles in business, he spent the 1990s engineering that most American of accomplishments, a comeback. In this he had much in common with other noteworthy men, including disgraced evangelists, the convicted bond trader Michael Milken, and the impeached president Bill Clinton. In the 1990s these men proved that fame can help a man overcome almost any disgrace.


In every period of his adult life, Trump maintained his real estate business, but he also dabbled in everything from sports to beauty pageants. The one consistent element in all of these interests was the value he placed on publicity, which he sought with the skill of someone who understood that celebrity is power, reporters are often lazy about facts, and image can trump reality. He moved from supplying the press with quotes and interviews to telling his own story in a 1987 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, which he coauthored with a professional writer.


More than a dozen Trump-authored books followed the first. Each one advanced the notion that he was brilliant and successful. His face appeared on every cover, which meant that he beamed out from shelves in thousands of stores and airport newsstands across America. But the recognition they generated paled in comparison with the attention he received for his off-stated political ambitions. Although many political observers dismissed Trump’s aspirations, his flirtations generated valuable publicity. Politics also prepared Trump for the greatest role of his life—playing himself on a TV show called The Apprentice.


Premiering in 2004, the series arrived as a genre called reality TV was drawing huge numbers of viewers. The show was conceived as a contest between two teams, which would ultimately produce a single winner who would get a job with Trump. The focal point of each episode was the moment when Trump announced, “You’re fired,” and one or more players departed the game. A genuine hit, The Apprentice was a top-ten program in its first season, attracting almost 30 million viewers on the final night of its run. Trump’s “You’re fired” catchphrase became such a sensation that a toy company developed and sold a doll in a blue suit and red tie that uttered it at the push of a button.


The Apprentice added “television star” to Trump’s long résumé and confirmed, at last, that he was as much entertainer as businessman. The program showed his remarkable grasp of popular culture and the value of celebrity. It also made him known to a new generation of Americans. Trump came to represent wealth mixed with vulgarity and a hedonism that was refreshingly honest. Like the top-hatted Uncle Pennybags figure in the board game Monopoly, Trump’s image was often used in the news media to signal that a report was about money, wealth, or luxury. The word Trump became synonymous with both unabashed success and unseemly self-promotion. To say that someone was “the Donald Trump” of this or that, which happened often, was either a high compliment or a put-down. By 2014, Trump was a walking inkblot test. In him one could see extreme examples of ambition, obsession, aggression, and insecurity. He also exhibited creativity, strength, and candor. Trump’s peers in business reported that he was honorable and consistent, although he has sometimes been criticized for being slow to pay his bills (who hasn’t?). With a few exceptions, employees described him as demanding but generous with pay and benefits. In our time together I found him to be quick-witted, funny, and charming. Words flowed from him like water from a spigot, even if some of the anecdotes he told have been repeated for decades.


Trump also gave the lie to the notion that he doesn’t care what people think of him. His many feuds and conflicts suggest he worries a great deal about how he is perceived and whether he is judged to be a winner or a loser, handsome or hideous, strong or weak. While he says that he is driven by the thrill of competition, his bully-boy quality is a sign that something else has pushed him to overwhelm his opponents, run up the score, and dismiss those who speak against him.


In his office aerie on the twenty-sixth floor, Trump grumbled a bit about how this would undoubtedly be a “bad book,” which meant that it would fail to promote his story as an example of entrepreneurial genius. “People want inspirational,” he said, “they want uplifting. If you give them that, you’ll have a bestseller.” But a “good book” resides in the eye of the reader, and Donald Trump may be the least qualified to judge one about him. Yet his sense of what the public wants may be unrivaled in our time. For decades, no one has made a more insistent claim on the nation’s attention than this man. Trump begins each day with a sheaf of papers detailing where and how often his name has been mentioned in the global press. The reports are typically too numerous for him to actually read, but the weight of the pages gives his sensitive ego a measure of his importance on any given day. This need to be noticed, and his drive to satisfy it, has made him a singular figure worthy of close inspection.


Who were the people who shaped him in his early years and aided him in his adult life? What values guided him through his professional and personal development? Is Donald Trump a product of his time, abetted by currents in our culture and our economy? And how much has he, through the force of his various identities—businessman, political gadfly, entertainer—influenced our society? Because he has become a stand-in for a set of ideals and attitudes, in examining Trump’s life I am attempting to understand him as an idea. What does it mean that this remarkable man, who is at once so admired and reviled, is the most recognized businessperson of our time? How has he been able to offend so many and continue to garner so much attention? And why do his enemies find it so hard to ignore him?


 


Copyright © 2015, 2016 by Michael D’Antonio