What Does Trump's Biographer Think of Him?
Biographer Tony Schwartz
Tony Schwartz wrote the book The Art of the Deal for Donald Trump. In doing so, he has spent probably more quality time with Trump than anybody else, save Trump's several wives. Schwartz spent the good part of a year following Trump around, attending his meetings, listening into his calls, and interviewing him. Consequently, he developed a well-informed impression of what Donald Trump is really like—and he didn't like what he saw. He shared his impressions with Dr. Bandy Lee in her book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
While unlike the other health care professional who also contributed to her book, Schwartz is not such a professional. Instead, he is just a very keen observer with an unprecedented access to the man who became President of the United States. Compare what he sees in Trump with what physiologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals pick up from reading what Trump tweets, seeing him on television, and observing how he interacts with the world.
Here is what Tony Schwartz says about Donald J. Trump.
Or to put it another way, Trump's sense of self-worth is always at risk. Schwartz relates that when he first met Trump in 1985, it was evident to him that Trump "lived nearly all his life in survival mode." Always trying to prove himself to, according to Trump, himself and his father, Fred1. In talking about his father, Trump notes that he was "strong and tough as hell", but noted about his brother Fred Jr., who died of alcoholism, "There were inevitable confrontations between the two of them [Fred and Fred Jr.]. In most cases, Freddy came out on the short end." 2 Donald was not going to come out on the short end.
At War With the World
To survive, Schwartz ultimately sensed, Trump had to "go to war with the world"; for him, life was a "binary, zero-sum choice." He believed that "you either dominated or you submitted" and that you either "create and exploit fear, or you succumb to it", as Trump felt his brother had. Schwartz believes Trump assumed this "narrow, defensive outlook" early in life. Other contributors to Lee's book think it was around the age of 13, when Fred sent Donald off to military school, upending his life of luxury.
This is the age where Trump goes when stressed, as he told Schwartz: "When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I'm basically the same." Tony thinks Trump's "development ended in early childhood." Trump never became nuanced, as adults do, choosing their battles to best advance their own interests. Instead, Schwartz observed that Trump "fought for his life" every moment of his life; he "took no prisoners." Trump made clear to Schwartz that he "treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent to obliteration."
A Need to Dominate
Trump must never look bad in his own mind, even when he is demonstrably so. Schwartz points out that Trump made him describe all of his deals as great successes, including his major flops. For example, major failures were all of the casinos he owned and ran—everyone went bankrupt hurting thousands of people. Another is his failed attempt to create a rival to the NFL.3
Lack of Compassion
Trump explained that from an early age he was "assertive, aggressive," and that he "once punched a music teacher in the eye" in elementary school (who knows if that is true). This goes to show that Trump has a need to dominate, no matter who gets hurt in the process. Schwartz saw in Trump no sense of guilt for his actions, no compassion for others—it was just the law of the jungle for Trump and he loves it. Schwartz notes that "Trump was equally clear with me that he didn't value - nor even necessarily recognize - the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure, such as empathy, generosity [unless it is to get something in return], reflectiveness [self-awareness], the capacity to delay gratification, or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong. Trump simply didn't traffic in emotions or interests of others."
Domination Over Truth
We all know now that Trump has a pathological problem with telling the truth and not distorting facts. Schwartz saw this years ago by noting "that facts are whatever Trump deems them to be on any given day. When he is challenged, he instinctively doubles down - even when what he has just said is demonstrably false." The Washington Post has documented well of 10,000 of these instances, just while Trump has been president and not counting the several thousand more he uttered during his campaign.3
Schwartz says he saw this many, many times. For example, exaggerating the number of floors in Trump Tower (inconsequential) or that his casinos were doing just fine even though he knew they were going bankrupted (consequential). We see it today with crowd size (inconsequential) to claiming the Chinese are paying for his tariffs when it is importers and American consumers (very consequential). It goes as far as Schwartz asserting something we all saw in real time that "Trump sees no contradiction at all in changing his story about when he fired Comey and thereby undermining the statements of his aides ... His aim is never accuracy; it's domination."
We all know that Trump, even though he calls himself a conservative and a Republican today, he has no true ideological beliefs. His only sense of self-worth is from his "conquests and accomplishments". Trump would often start off with "Can you believe it Tony?" and then go on to describe is latest triumph. But Trump, as Schwartz says, is was never happy. Like any addict, as Tony puts it, Trump needs the next accomplishment to be bigger and better than his last fix. He notes that even becoming President will not, in the end, be enough for Trump—he must do something to get an even larger high. And so it goes until he ODs. The problem, of course, is that if he ODs while President, what happens to America and the world?
1 Fred Trump was born in New York, but according to Trump in his book, Fred was born in New Jersey and later, as President, in Germany.
2 Phrases in quotes are from Tony.Schwartz's contribution
3 What is even more amazing is die-hard Trump supporters don't recognize this and those who voted for him for economic reasons simply don't care so long as the economy keeps chugging along.
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© 2019 Scott Belford