Into the mind of Donald Trump

As I’ve said before, I have so many bookmarks on Donald Trump, they’re impossible to cover.

Right now, Trump still lags in the polls, yet packs his rallies full of people wherever he goes. However, as we saw with McCain and Romney, rallies don’t decide an election. Unless something dramatic in his favour happens between Labor Day — first Monday in September — and November 8, the result will be close, meaning that it could well be rigged. He needs what his supporters call the Monster Vote in order to win decisively.

I looked back to when I first started following Trump’s candidacy. It was the third week in January, when Sarah Palin appeared in Iowa with him. He stood on the stage cringing as she spoke. What she said didn’t even make sense. Terrible. He never invited her to appear with him again.

Big Pink’s admin, an ex-Hillary supporter — the oracle of the 2008, 2012 and the 2016 Republican campaigns — wrote a year ago (emphases in the original):

Like it or not it is Trump or Bush.

On January 20, 2016, admin said:

Ted Cruz has no chance of being the GOP nominee. It’s either Trump or Jeb!

At that time, Nate Silver dismissed Trump completely. In an article describing the influence of the GOPe behind the scenes, he wrote:

If Marco Rubio winds up the Republican nominee after all, the theory will come out looking pretty good. And if it’s Jeb Bush, somehow, the party’s powers will seem miraculous.

However, one of Silver’s readers, Matt Silver (probably no relation), pegged the outcome perfectly:

This election has become more than the typical left/right narrative. I understand that’s the way the media heads are taught to write, so its difficult to see outside that tunnel.

In some aspects, this is about Globalism vs. Sovereignty …

With the internet, people don’t trust the MSM nearly as much as they used to. Hell, Nate, they don’t trust you as you have written about 40 articles on Trump ranging from biased to blatantly anti-Trump …

Say what you want about Trump, but he has the most qualified resume on the ballot.

Rush Limbaugh said something similar on January 20:

Nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal.

Already, Trump had clearly detailed his policies on immigration, gun control, taxes and more.

On January 26, I ran across an article by Michael Krieger on Liberty Blitzkrieg urging people to read a 1990 Playboy interview with Donald Trump. Judging from his photo, Krieger was probably an infant at the time Trump expanded on his life and career. Krieger says:

Unexpectedly, I came away with a more informed and nuanced perspective on the man. While it didn’t change my opinion of him as President, I do have a much greater appreciation for Donald Trump as a person, specifically how his mind works and what drives him.

This is the full interview, excerpted below. I have taken it out of order to provide not only a Trump timeline but also the influences on his life as he grew up.

Given that he is so pugnacious, it is surprising to discover that he is a middle child, the fourth of five born to Mary and Fred Trump in Jamaica Estates, Queens.

He dominated, even as a child:

Never backing down from a rivalry was a part of his DNA. Unafraid of authority, he never saw teachers as a threat and was not afraid to make his points physically.

… his big personality asserted itself amongst his brothers and sisters.

He ruined his younger brother’s toy blocks:

His brother recounted the story that they were both playing with blocks and the young Trump was inspired to create a tall building, a building so tall that he couldn’t make it with just his own blocks. So he took his brother’s blocks to complete his masterpiece. He loved this block building so much he glued it together, putting a permanent end to his brother’s block building. When reflecting back on this incident, Trump claims he didn’t do it to upset his brother, but rather took the chance to make something bigger and better when the opportunity presented itself. A story worthy of The Fountainhead that would make Ayn Rand proud.

He learned his sense of drama from Mary Trump and the Queen:

One of Trump’s most pivotal memories was being 6 years old and being completely enraptured while watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II with his mother. His father hated the royal family and dismissed it, but his mother’s gushing admiration for the royal event showed him the importance of showmanship and skewed his personal tastes towards a flair for the dramatic. This preference is something that would come to greatly influence his presence as an entertainer. He cites his mother’s love of the dramatic and grand as a big inspiration of how to conduct himself as the ultimate showman.

He assaulted a teacher at the age of seven or eight:

Back when he was in second grade he gave his music teacher a black eye because he thought he didn’t know anything about music. Trump sees this as proof of the positive attribute of standing up and making his opinions known through forceful means. The only difference now is instead of using his fists to get his way he uses his brains, wealth, and attorneys.

Trump’s incorrigibility landed him in New York Military Academy:

Trump was kicked out of Kew-Forest school and enrolled in the New York Military Academy by his parents. Trump took well to the military academy, embracing the military style with so much gusto that by the time he reached his senior year he was participating in marching drills, wearing a uniform, and even attained the rank of captain. Today, Trump believes his time here taught him how to focus his natural aggression into great achievement.

Whilst there:

The main person responsible for teaching him how to channel and contain his impulses was Theodore Dobias, a baseball coach who had previously served in World War II. Theodore didn’t take any disrespect or sass from his students, even going as far as to smack the ones who gave him any lip or back talk. The ultimate lesson Trump learned that would serve him greatly later in life was how to respect Theodore’s authority, but also show him that he wasn’t intimidated by it.

He closely observed Fred Trump at work:

He took notice of the fact that every time his father would start a building project, two or three of his competitors would start rival construction projects nearby. But his father always finished his buildings first, and his project would always be better-looking than his competitors, and offer more amenities and more space. He’d rent them out and after his competition went bankrupt he’d acquire their buildings, adding them to his empire. This competitive spirit came to influence Trump’s perception of economic competition and serves as his guiding principles for how he manages businesses to this day.

During his years at university:

He began working at his father’s company Elizabeth Trump and Son. Due to these efforts, he was able to turn a 1200 unit apartment in Cincinnati with a 66 percent vacancy rate into one with 100 percent occupancy within two years or taking over the project. Beginning to build this nest egg is what would form his fortune for the rest of his career.

By the time he graduated:

Thanks to his work at the family business, Donald Trump was worth about $200,000 after graduating from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He used his wealth to make a bid on Broadway by investing $70,000 to become the co-producer of the 1970 Broadway comedy Paris is Out which become a huge flop and taught him a harsh lesson.

Now onto actual quotes from Trump in March 1990.

On his childhood and paternal authority:

He was a strong, strict father, a no-nonsense kind of guy, but he didn’t hit me. It wasn’t what he’d ever say to us, either. He ruled by demeanor, not the sword. And he never scared or intimidated me.

My father never made me work. I liked to work during summers. I don’t understand these teenagers who sit home watching television all day. Where’s their appetite for competition? Working was in my genes.

Why he prefers property to media and the stock market:

There’s something about mother earth that’s awfully good, and mother earth is still real estate. With the right financing, you’ve essentially invested no money. Publishing, movies, broadcasting are tougher, and there aren’t too many Rupert Murdochs, Si Newhouses, Robert Maxwells, and Punch Sulzbergers. I’ll stick to real estate.

[The stock market is] a crap shoot. Real estate is something solid. It’s brick, mortar.

The Plaza Hotel is far more valuable than any movie I could make. If I put together a string of movies that were all hits, I couldn’t have made anywhere near what I made in real estate. I believe I’ve added show business to the real-estate business, and that’s been a positive for my properties and in my life.

Why he’s so tough:

I think everybody has to have some kind of filtering system. I’m very fair and I have had the same people working for me for years. Rarely does anybody leave me. But when somebody tries to sucker-punch me, when they’re after my ass, I push back a hell of a lot harder than I was pushed in the first place. If somebody tries to push me around, he’s going to pay a price. Those people don’t come back for seconds. I don’t like being pushed around or taken advantage of. And that’s one of the problems with our country today. This country is being pushed around by everyone.

On toughness and winning:

Tough is being mentally capable of winning battles against an opponent and doing it with a smile. Tough is winning systematically.

How he gauges his toughness:

… I study people and in every negotiation, I weigh how tough I should appear. I can be a killer and a nice guy. You have to be everything. You have to be strong. You have to be sweet. You have to be ruthless. And I don’t think any of it can be learned. Either you have it or you don’t. And that is why most kids can get straight As in school but fail in life.

On ‘it’, genes and why smart people fail:

I’m a strong believer in genes, that my kids can be brought up without adversity and respond well if they have the genes. I have a friend who is extraordinarily smart. But he never became successful, because he couldn’t take pressure. He was buying a home and it was literally killing him—a man of forty with an IQ of probably 190. He called me one day for the umpteenth time, worrying about his mortgage and I was sitting in my chair, thinking to myself, Here I am, buying the shuttle, the Plaza Hotel, and I don’t lose an ounce of sleep over any of it. That’s lucky genes.

On his children, who were in school at the time:

Statistically, my children have a very bad shot. Children of successful people are generally very, very troubled, not successful. They don’t have the right shtick. You never know until they’re tested. But I do well with my children.

I would love them to be in business with me, but 95 percent of those children fail in a sophisticated big business. It takes confidence, intelligence, shtick. If any one of these traits is missing, you’re not going to make it.

I would be happier if they were able to preserve rather than build. I’m not looking to have a great deal maker as a son, though I’d certainly like everything to run beautifully when I’m not around. I’d be happier if my son became a great manager rather than a great entrepreneur. My kids are extremely well adjusted. But I wonder what they think when they walk into Mar-a-Lago and see ceilings that rise to heights that nobody’s ever seen before. And when my daughter’s date picks her up at Trump Tower in a few years and sees the living room, how will he feel when he takes her out and tries to impress her with a studio apartment?

Given that last sentence, it’s interesting that Ivanka ended up marrying Jared Kushner, the son of another real estate billionaire in the New York area. Kushner and Trump have a very close relationship.

On winning and sleep:

Some of my friends are unbelievably successful and miserable people. I truly believe that someone successful is never really happy, because dissatisfaction is what drives him. I’ve never met a successful person who wasn’t neurotic. It’s not a terrible thing… it’s controlled neuroses.

Controlled neuroses means having a tremendous energy level, an abundance of discontent that often isn’t visible. It’s also not oversleeping. I don’t sleep more than four hours a night. I have friends who need 12 hours a night and I tell them they’re at a major disadvantage in terms of playing the game.

At the time, Trump told Playboy he was still happily married to Ivana. However, stories about him and Marla Maples, who became his second wife, were already circulating in the press. The interviewer did not press the issue but did ask about flirtation:

I think everybody likes knowing he’s well responded to. Especially as you get into certain strata where there is an ego involved and a high level of success, it’s important. People really like the idea that other people respond well to them.

Although he told Playboy he had no intention of running for president at the time, when Bush I was in the White House, he did say:

I’d do the job as well as or better than anyone else. It’s my hope that George Bush can do a great job.

I don’t want to be President. I’m 100 percent sure. I’d change my mind only if I saw this country continue to go down the tubes.

If he were in the Oval Office:

A toughness of attitude would prevail. I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.

He discussed his political stances at length, which sound remarkably like those he is promoting today, 16 years later.

Two events at the time are worth mentioning.

On the hostages in Lebanon:

Number one, in almost all cases, the hostages were told by our Government not to be there. If a man decides to become a professor at Beirut University, when he was told not to be there, and that person is captured—

On Bush I:

I like George Bush very much and support him and always will. But I disagree with him when he talks of a kinder, gentler America. I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it’s literally going to cease to exist. I think if we had people from the business community—the Carl Icahns, the Ross Perots—negotiating some of our foreign policy, we’d have respect around the world.

Why he was taking out full page newspaper ads on various political stances:

Because I hate seeing this country go to hell. We’re laughed at by the rest of the world. In order to bring law and order back into our cities, we need the death penalty and authority given back to the police. I got 15 thousand positive letters on the death-penalty ad. I got 10 negative or slightly negative ones.

I take out those ads to wake up the Government about how Japan and others are ripping our country apart—

On ego:

Every successful person has a very large ego.

Nothing wrong with ego. People need ego, whole nations need ego. I think our country needs more ego, because it is being ripped off so badly by our so-called allies; i.e., Japan, West Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, etc. They have literally out-egotized this country …

On trust and friendship:

I saw people really taking advantage of Fred [eldest brother, who died of alcoholism] and the lesson I learned was always to keep up my guard 100 percent, whereas he didn’t. He didn’t feel that there was really reason for that, which is a fatal mistake in life. People are too trusting. I’m a very untrusting guy. I study people all the time, automatically; It’s my way of life, for better or worse …

I enjoy testing friendship… Everything in life to me is a psychological game, a series of challenges you either meet or don’t. I am always testing people who work for me.

… to me, friendship can be really tested only in bad times. I instinctively mistrust many people. It is not a negative in my life but a positive.

Finally, Trump on the hugeness and glamour of everything in his life:

Props for the show.

The show is “Trump” and it has sold out performances everywhere. I’ve had fun doing it and will continue to have fun, and I think most people enjoy it.

That they do.

9 comments for “Into the mind of Donald Trump

  1. Errol
    August 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I’m not so sure, to be honest. He’s brash, egocentric, arrogant, inarticulate (perhaps sufficient for America but not for me), comes across as a bully, not a capable negotiator. You can have national pride without ego. Courage without thuggery, respect without being a bully.

    Is he honestly a good example of American thinking? Of how they want to be portrayed to the world? This is a man who wants to tax vehicles people want to buy. He doesn’t want to address why people buy them, just make what he disagrees with more expensive. That’s not a market economy.

    As for the anecdote about his intelligent friend – that man was looking to a businessman for help and advice, not mockery over how wonderful Trump is. There is no sense of the other at any point in the interview: it’s all about him. Never his relations. He defines himself by money and who he has defeated behind that, is there anything more than a thug expecting to get his way?

    Don’t get me wrong, Hilary Clinton is precisely the opposite of what the US needs: a soft Left, ignorant, career politician. Equally as much a bully with a decidedly shady past and a skewed sense of what is actually needed to do the right thing (it’s usually a Right minded concept). Her views on tax are daft, on national security odd, but at the other end is Trump making a lash up of it as well with his loud mouthed proclamations that get headlines but don’t make sense.

    When I watch officials in the US – a black police sergeant springs to mind – my first thought is how utterly stupid they are, how little professionalism or discipline they have. The US media seems to be attempting entertainment with serious issues. There is no respect for interviewee or interviewer. It’s just a scramble for points without an exchange of information. It’s celebrity big brother combined with radio 4 and presented as news.

    What I find increasingly frustrating is with such a huge country, a massive pool of talent to choose from that the candidates available are such utter turnips.

    We had the same with Blair, then Cameron (Neither May nor Brown were elected, rather usurped). Surely there are people of talent, dignity and character who are bright enough to carry weight without being brash or so steeped in their own conceits that they make the right choices no matter how difficult or unpopular those are?

    • September 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      On Trump’s abilities, please see Mona’s comment below, if you haven’t already.

      On the coming Idiocracy, 15 years ago young people in their 20s were getting their news from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show. Twenty years on, they’re probably still watching the same programme as well as Colbert’s subsequent spin-offs and, more recently, John Oliver.

      Their kids are no doubt watching those shows, too. The family probably sits around the telly together.

      The news broadcasts of yesteryear are no longer. The media tell us our attention spans are too short. However, it’s probably that there’s too much to hide. Yet, even if hidden details were revealed, would anyone care? Doubtful. Bread and circuses — materialism and sport — are the order of the day.

  2. mona
    August 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Trump is way ahead in reality, considering the risk he has taken being a non-politician but astute to the highest degree he knows that America, indeed the western world is in danger of implosion,, he and he alone has the dynamics, morality, charisma to prevent the catastrophe due.

  3. August 28, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Once again, a Sunday vignette which is, by definition, archived here. Methinks you should gather these after the event into a book.

    • September 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you, James! I might just do so.

      Glad you enjoy these posts!

  4. Lord T
    August 29, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Who cares if he fucks it up. Clinton will take it further down the same path.

    What I want to see is the applecart overturned and then we can have a serious talk about moving forward. It is about time we did so.

    • Hereward Unbowed.
      August 29, 2016 at 4:36 pm


    • September 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Completely agree.

      Trump can’t do any worse than previous incumbents — and is highly likely to do much better.

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