Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, Maggie Haberman
To be honest, I didn’t open this book with an open mind. As far as I’m concerned, Trump is a lying scoundrel suffocating in his own narcissism. Nothing in the book suggests otherwise.
Confidence Man is not a biography. It’s a detailed chronicle of Trump’s professional life, starting with some real estate deals he did with his father, going through his emergence as a widely-known public figure in New York, something between a superstar builder and a con artist, and ending with the conclusion of his single term presidency. Taken as a whole there is little in the way of consistent ideology or commitment to any particular issues (unless it personally affects him). But there is a consistency throughout his career of personality and behavioral traits. Here’s a few examples:
– He doesn’t pay his bills.
“Trump left only scattered impressions on classmates (during his time at Fordham University). One recalled Trump somehow managing to avoid paying the Triborough Bridge twenty-five-cent toll and leaving it to a friend with considerably less economic means to pay each time.”
– He’s a serial attention hound
“When the director Chris Columbus was filming a sequel to Home Alone and went to the Plaza’s lobby, Trump forced his way into the film. ‘The only way you can use the Plaza is if I’m in the movie.’”
– He’s self-absorbed
Shortly after 9/11 and the attacks on the World Trade Center, he was interviewed on a local TV station. Was he thinking about those who were killed? Their families? First responders? Nope. He said, “Forty Wall Street (which he owned) was the second tallest building in downtown Manhattan and it was before the World Trade Center was the tallest, and then when they built the World Trade Center it became known as the second tallest, and now it’s the tallest.” (That, of course, wasn’t true.)
– He’s crude
While discussing the issue of transgender bathroom use during a practice session for upcoming debates during his initial presidential campaign, he commented, “‘well I think it matters a lot.’ What if a girl was in the bathroom and someone came in, lifted up her skirt, and ‘a schlong’ was hanging out.”
– He’s a sore loser
After losing the Iowa caucuses at the start of the 2015 primary season: “‘It was stolen from me,’ he told his advisors. For days thereafter, he called Iowa’s Republican chairman daily with an order to redo the vote, threatening to sue over what he called ‘fraud.’’
– He’s a bully
While describing a meeting with military leaders and cabinet members, Haberman observed: “Those who did not know Trump well and who sat through that meeting in the Tank with him failed to consider something that people who have dealt with him over years had experienced: Trump knew that he was being told something he did not fully comprehend, and instead of acknowledging that, he shouted down the teachers.”
– He’s irrational
After news reports about how Trump hid in an underground White House bunker during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, “Trump felt humiliated by a disclosure that he thought made him appear incapacitated by street protests. In another meeting with aides Trump demanded to know ‘Who leaked that story?’ He proposed that the person responsible be ‘executed.’
– He’s a liar
Okay, there’s an example of that on virtually ever one of the 500+ pages.
And speaking of consistent bad behavior there’s this gem about Rudy Giuliani:
In 1992 after Giuliani lost the mayoral election to David Dinkins, he declared “They stole that election from me. They stole votes in the Black parts of Brooklyn and in Washington Heights.” City investigators found nothing to substantiate claims of fraud.
Haberman is a veteran journalist who has won a Pulitzer. Having worked for the New York Post and New York Daily News before her current position at the New York Times, she’s probably spent more time around Trump than most of his wives. Her writing reflects her professionalism. This is a book full of factual information with all sources clearly identified. The title and subtitle pretty much tells you the conclusion that it leads to, but Haberman doesn’t beat you over the head with it and lets the reader come to the obvious conclusion on his or her own.
I acquired this book when Haberman made an appearance at the Montclair Public Library. During the Q&A that followed the interview, someone asked, “Is Trump evil?” She refrained from answering.
Five hundred pages is a lot of Trump. Perhaps too much. As I mentioned in the beginning, it didn’t change my perception of the man, but even I was surprised at how grossly unfit for office he was (and is).
I couldn’t help musing about how this is a guy who doesn’t read, but who desperately needs to know what people say and think of him. So what does he do? I imagined this scenario. He commissions an aide at Mar-a-Lago to read the book and tell him what it says. The aid reads the book then comes in walking on eggshells knowing the boss’ famous temper. Maybe he starts by discrediting Haberman but eventually gets around to noting “Mr. President, she seems to think you’re a little dishonest and maybe a bit unethical.” Trump then goes off, fires the guy and refuses to pay him.
(Images used here were downloaded from Unsplash and Pixabay and are not from the book.)