Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Confidence Man

The title conveys very well the character of Donald Trump.  

 Maggie Haberman starts her book with a Donald Trump's response to a conversation with her that says a lot, "What do you want me to say?"  She had been assigned to cover Trump before his presidential campaign had been told this would be a great opportunity once his campaign was official. After his defeat and the insurrection she decided to explore his past that had led to this situation.  

He grew up wealthy with a ruthless father who was strict and who often set his kids against one another.  His father, Fred made his wealth in real estate, part of as a developer and also as a landlord.  He dealt with mobsters to hurry along construction and hired undocumented laborers to save expense.  An involvement with a discrimination brought young Donald in contact with Roy Cohn who taught how much they could get away with.  Amongst many other things Cohn taught that you didn't have to pay every invoice and stirring up things meant good publicity.

His father had passed on his habit of using fake names which were initially used dealing with businessmen Fred felt were likely to raise prices once they understand who he was.  Donald used fake names to boost publicity.

Another early influence was Roger Stone who as early as 1988 was encouraging presidential ambitions.  His conservative views were known and his feelings that whatever is done to advance them is acceptable.

There are so many books that tell stories on Donald Trump.  Many of them are repeated in this book, but Maggie really did have a very close relationship with Trump that she does offer a valid perspective on what makes him tick.  My purpose is not to repeat all the stories, but some made a strong impression on me or somehow were overlooked.

Another friend with influence was George Steinbrenner, best known for owning the New York Yankees.  Trump was often able to spend time in the Yankee stadium private box with Steinbrenner who liked to demonstrate his ruthlessness.  "You're fired!" apparently was picked up and used to demonstrate Trump's toughness on "The Apprentice".  Image was always important to Trump.  In fact Trump always tried to get someone else to fire someone he felt deserved it.

His efforts on behalf of Israel such as backing out of the Iran deal, relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, treatment of Palestinians were partly encouraged by his son in law, Jared Kushner, but more directly to Sheldon Adelson, a large significant donor.

An example of his vanity was offered when Hollywood types wanted to use the Plaza Hotel lobby for a scene in a sequel to "Home Alone".  Trump demanded that he be included in the film.  As it turned out his appearance was applauded by audiences.

 Trump ran into financial problems with his construction projects and came to realize he could make money branding all sorts of consumer products, wine, steaks, deodorants, bottled water, etc.  One ideas that seemed a natural was Trump University to tell people the secrets of getting rich with real estate which in the end resulted in a huge settlement in a class lawsuit.  He owned a football team, the New Jersey Generals and got to known Herschel Walker.

One cartoon I recall was to the effect that the person knew Trump lied, but he hated the same people that he did.  In some moments Trump seems remarkably tolerant of racial minorities or members of the LGBTQ community.  On one hand he does whatever gives him an advantage, but more often he gains more advantage from expressing hatred.  With his first electoral declaration he let his base know he hates Mexicans.  He soon let it be known that he hated Muslims.  During one rally he mocked a handicapped reporter.   Once elected he expressed support for racists and didn't want people from "shithole" countries.  

After investigating Russian connections Maggie skims over a few Russian connections much like Michael Cohen and others.   Trump felt suggestions the Russians helped him, diminished his own efforts.  But they are significant. and we can speculate what was behind their contributions:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/house-of-trump-house-of-putin.html

 Nancy Pelosi, putting Trump in perspective is quoted:  "Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there is something so compelling and so overwhelming, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.  And he's just not worth it".   Perhaps Trump was really just a tool:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/07/trump-as-tool.html

Wealthy people in general liked his policies of cutting taxes and de regulating.  Evangelicals felt good that he was going to do something about abortion and likely do something about gays and transgenders.  Israel and again the  evangelicals were pleased about pulling out of the Iran agreement and moving the American Embassy.  A lot overlooked his catering to Russian preferences.  When Covid started they followed his lead.  Fortunately some people saw through his lies and hatred.  Unfortunately he opened a lot of doors that will be difficult to close. 

 There are many stories and background for Trump's many deeds.  If you've seen Maggie on television, you know she is sharp and deep.  The book expresses that.

 Recently I deleted a request at the library for another Trump book. I have decided like many I am sick of the man and am tired with things changing but little.  Hopefully it will not be necessary, but voters have a habit of making short term decisions.  Much of what I hate about Trump is very obvious from his manner.  Braggarts and insulters are offensive and not usually rational.  His ego is plain to see demanding of attention while also very fragile.

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