What Does Trump's Biographer Think of Him?

Updated on August 14, 2019
My Esoteric profile image

MY ESOTERIC likes to think of himself as a bit of a polymath with degrees in Statistics, Accounting, Computer Science, & Operations Research


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.

Low Self-Esteem

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Scott Belford


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      • peoplepower73 profile image

        Mike Russo 

        4 days ago from Placentia California

        I read excerpts from Art of the Deal on Amazon. Trump's parents sent him to Military school because he was such a troublemaker. He was miserable his first year and then he learned how to divide and conquer. After that he would pit people against each other and he became captain of his company.

        I'm no shrink, but I have watched a lot of You Tube TED talks about narcissism and he exhibits the classic symptoms of a person suffering from the highest level of NPD.

        They say at that level, they are beyond changing. They constantly want to win. Even when they are losing, in their mind, they think they are winning and will double down on issues, even to the point of lying.

        They recommend that if you get into a conflict, the best thing to do is not engage them. That robs them of oxygen they need for their constant need for attention.

        Instead of engaging them, they recommend that you just tell them you are sorry for the way they feel. They don't know what to do after that because you are not engaging them, but you are robbing them of their oxygen. Of course, it is hard to do when it is the president of our country. God, I even hate saying that.

      • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

        Scott Belford 

        5 days ago from Keystone Heights, FL

        He certainly has. One of the most disappointing things a saw recently was a supporter talking to two former and current Trump supporters, one white, one black. (there were two other white women who opposed Trump).

        The interviewer talked a little bit about Trump's racist attacks on the "squad" (this was before the broadside against Cummings) and then asked the two Trump guys if they were still going to vote for Trump, The both said yes and when asked why they both replied because the economy is still good.

        When asked specifically if Trump's racism bothered them, the white said no, that is just Trump and what is important is the economy. The black said yes, it did bother him - but look, the economy is good and I don't want to upset the apple cart!!!

        The kicker is the black guy said he had a bunch of conservative black friends who don't see it his way and are very upset with Trump's racism. So upset, they are dumping Trump and going with Harris or Biden.

      • MizBejabbers profile image

        Doris James MizBejabbers 

        5 days ago from Beautiful South

        Scott, what is there left to say? You've said most of it, if not all. Today my husband handed me a story to read about the stock market dropping, all in connection with the tariff on exports from China. Where is all that new industry he promised us? I believe he has this country in a "mellofahess", as me pappy used to say!

      • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

        Scott Belford 

        5 days ago from Keystone Heights, FL

        Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for providing a comment, Vladimir.

      • ValKaras profile image

        Vladimir Karas 

        6 days ago from Canada

        Scott -- As a Canadian living in Canada I have no reason to hate Trump, and, as I stated elsewhere, to me it makes no difference if he gets impeached tomorrow or reelected as president of the US.

        Moreover, after heaving read over thousand books on human nature out of a life long studious hobby -- and although not becoming a bona fide shrink -- I have developed some of that professional ethics, so I can't badmouth the dude only because I think that he has some considerable emotional, if not character issues.

        With this behind us, I must say I always saw him as a survivalist, soft inside and making a somewhat pathological effort to overcompensate for that softness with a macho-image.

        It's not my call to describe him as a good or a bad president, because I have no qualifications in matters of running a country, and reports about the true state of economy are confusing enough. While some speak in his favor, the other sharply disagree, even hinting at possibility that he is leading the economy towards a sure disaster.

        So I am merely talking about him as a man, not as a president. Without knowing anything about this report by his biographer, I even wrote in some of my HP pieces about my modestly presented view on Trump as a softie hiding behind his strong front of money and social status, always with a bunch of good lawyers to clean or prevent his mess.

        Nothing more to add. I'll leave it to his political adversaries -- since I am not one -- to make the case bigger than this. But, would I, on my instinctual level, trust him as my president? Simply -- no.


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