Published in 1987, ‘The Art of the Deal’ by Donald J. Trump will likely be a relic studied for years: how did that guy become president? .
The book’s authors are, “Donald J. Trump with Tony Schwartz.” And as soon as you research how the book was written, it becomes contentious.
Trump calls the book his “second favorite book of all time behind the bible,” and has said it is one of his proudest accomplishments.
Schwartz called writing this book the “greatest regret in [my] life, without question.” Schwartz and the book publisher claimed Trump had no part in writing the book.
The book starts with a chapter dedicated to a week in the life of Trump. The next chapter is titled, “Trump cards: elements of a deal.” And the rest of the 367 page book is the life of Trump, told through stories of his experiences in the real estate industry.
In 1987, Trump was 41. He is now 73. Nearly 40% of his life is not in this book and that provides a certain mystique. The character we see today is, in part, on the pages of this book. But the degree to which the previous sentence is true is nearly impossible to say.
For example when it comes to Trump’s encounters with the media and his general rhetoric towards journalism, he hasn’t really changed his opinion.
“Instead when a reporter asks me a tough question, I try to frame a positive answer, even if that means shifting the ground. For example, if someone asks me the negative effects the world’s tallest building might have on the West Side, I turn the tables and talk about how New Yorkers deserve the world’s tallest building, and what a boost it will give the city to have that honor again … I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.”
Throughout ‘Art of the Deal’ he mentions how valuable the media can be. Such as his story of building the Wollman Rink.
The backstory: Trump was fed up that New York had spent over six years trying to renovate the rink and offered to build it himself. The mayor at the time, Ed Koch, denied Trump in a public fashion. Then the New York Times, according to Trump, slammed Koch and New York, urging the city to give the contract to Trump. New York obliged. Trump then built the ice rink within six months.
Trump views the media as a tool. Something to force the hand of politicians/ people he is doing deals with. Here is an excerpt from the book right after the Wollman rink fiasco, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from dealing with politicians over the years, it’s that the only thing guaranteed to force them into action is the press- or, more specifically fear of the press.”
This is the general theme of the book. Trump’s reductionist view of society.
He claims he was smarter than most people at college. Dismisses surveys and number-crunchers. Says “committees are what insecure people create in order to put off making hard decisions.” And then on consultants, “I like consultants even less than I like committees.” Trump, multiple times, says that stockbrokers do nothing more than push a button to execute a trade. And he hates lawyers.
So what does Trump trumpet?
His instincts. “It pays to have your instincts,” is the exact quote. Over and over, Trump signs deals or backs out of them based on his gut.
Like a deal he had in Cincinnati. “Now, I’m someone who responds to people I have respect for, and I listen. Again, it’s instincts, not marketing studies. So I spent an extra two days in Cincinnati, and I rode around, and I saw that there was trouble brewing, that neighborhoods were getting rough.” And then Trump sells the deal. Just like that. Two days of driving around Cincinnati and Trump knew he had to back out of the deal.
It is hard to say what the book means. We have the ability to judge past events with knowledge of how the future turned out. And even though Schwartz claimed the book should be “reclassified as fiction,” Trump comes off as a winner. Trump is a salesman to the people in the book and the reader.
He even was a salesman to the people of America. He used the same sales pitch as he did in the ‘80s when he was selling units in the Trump Tower, “We took our strengths and promoted them to the skies. From day one, we set out to sell Trump Tower not just as a beautiful building in a great location but as an event. We positioned ourselves as the only place for a certain kind of very wealthy person to live – the hottest ticket in town. We were selling fantasy.”
Trump was selling a fantasy then. He sells fantasy now. And if he loses in November, it won’t be pretty, “If I went down, it would have been kicking and screaming … That’s just my makeup. I fight when I feel I’m getting screwed, even if it’s costly and difficult and highly risky.”