Trump’s ghostwriter gives a tell-all interview

Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter for Donald Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal that Trump touts as evidence of his ability to make deals that he thinks is the key to why he would make a great president. That process threw Schwartz into close and extended contact with Trump. He has viewed with alarm in the past year Trump’s rise in politics and has felt guilty for his own role in painting him in a better light than he deserved and now has decided to describe the person he really saw.

In an interview with the New Yorker magazine (thanks to reader Norm for the link), Schwartz reveals that not only is Trump’s deal-making prowess over-rated, but that Trump seems to have a very low attention span for anything other than discussions about himself and does not seem to read at all. Here are a few excerpts:

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.”

“Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

Schwartz reminded himself that he was being paid to tell Trump’s story, not his own, but the more he worked on the project the more disturbing he found it. In his journal, he describes the hours he spent with Trump as “draining” and “deadening.” Schwartz told me that Trump’s need for attention is “completely compulsive,” and that his bid for the Presidency is part of a continuum. “He’s managed to keep increasing the dose for forty years,” Schwartz said. After he’d spent decades as a tabloid titan, “the only thing left was running for President. If he could run for emperor of the world, he would.”

I doubt that these highly unflattering revelations will dent the enthusiasm of the true believers. They will likely spin it as another example of Trump’s ability to get a good deal, in this case getting a journalist who really despised Trump because he stood “for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money”, to portray him in a favorable light.


  1. Siobhan says

    In other words, Trump meets the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    That’s the guy we want in charge of nukes.

  2. EigenSprocketUK says

    For technical reasons, Mr President, the nuwkilla codes are a 40-character hexadecimal passcode which must be memorised by you and you alone, sir. If the secret service find you writing it down, or reading it in a crisis situation then it must be changed and a new one memorized. All the great Presidents can do this, sir, so we know you can because of your yuuuge brain.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Schwartz reveals that not only is Trump’s deal-making prowess over-rated, but that Trump seems to have a very low attention span for anything other than discussions about himself and does not seem to read at all.

    I am shocked, SHOCKED, to read this!

    On Meet the Press yesterday, they made a word cloud of the Donald’s VP announcement speech. “Gonna” is one of the most used words, and the rest of them are pretty much what you could hear on any elementary school playground.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    they made a word cloud of the Donald’s VP announcement speech. “Gonna” is one of the most used words, and the rest of them are pretty much what you could hear on any elementary school playground.

    Put another way -- he speaks the way a tabloid newspaper writes. That is, for a reading age of about eight years old. This isn’ t the first time I’ve seen that used as a criticism of him, as though it’s indicative of low intelligence. I saw a Youtube video (can’t find the link, annoyingly) that broke down one of his answers to a question on a news show and analysed it. Note that this was off-the-cuff, unprepared speech. In the course of several hundred words, the presenter noted that Trump hardly ever used words of more than one syllable, and when he did, those words were repeated for emphasis. It’s a comforting delusion to tell yourself that someone who can speak, off-the-cuff and fluently in words a primary-school child can understand is doing so because they have primary-school child level intelligence. Try speaking like that -- record yourself talking on any subject for thirty seconds, transcribe it accurately, and count syllables. Try to keep it simple. It’s really hard. None of this, of course, is related to Trump’s massive narcissism.

    Then again, there’s a little bit of narcissism going on right here:

    this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood

    “… except by me, obviously, because I know the guy so well and I’m so bright I spotted what everyone else has missed.”
    There’s an alternative explanation: Trump supporters understand perfectly well enough what the guy is like… and they don’t care. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. It’s incredible to me, over a year into Trump-mania, that rational people are still saying “but… but… but…” and pointing to facts, as though that has made any bloody difference at any stage. Hasn’t the UK referendum campaign taught you people anything? We’re living in the post-fact age. Lies work. Get used to it.

  5. lorn says

    The man is seventy years old, assuming he is genetically or environmentally predisposed to mental decline, he is at the right age for it to be getting unavoidably obvious. At one time he was a pretty smart guy but decades of being surrounded by yes-men may have played a part.

    The sad part for me is that if Trump makes the presidency it will be because a easy third of the people who vote for him are simply protesting the fact that the system no longer works for them. They want to highlight their distress and/or ‘break the system’ completely to bring about a better, more just, system.

    The US system of politics and government doesn’t work simply because it is set up as an adversarial system. It can handle disagreements over goals or priorities, or how to run things. What it can’t handle is if one of the two parties works hard to make sure it doesn’t work. Nothing particularly surprising about that very few organization can function if they have a significant number of saboteurs in their ranks.

    The irony is that people are dissatisfied because government doesn’t work for them. It doesn’t work for them because one of the two parties in a two-party system has decided to use its ability to keep the system from working as leverage to get its way but, having found the key to getting everything they want, can’t settle on a demand for what the government should be doing because it will invalidate the slogan that they used to justify shutting down the government in the first place: “government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem. The irony is that there is a non-zero chance that we will be giving the party keeping government from working the last remaining bit of control by putting Trump into the presidency. With that the saboteurs will be running the organization they want to fail.

    Americans have, pretty much from its founding, enjoyed a fairly functional government. Sometimes it worked better than other times but it generally worked and did what a government is supposed to do. We have never experienced a failed government. Because of this we are free to idolize a government “so small it can be drown in a bathtub” without realizing that a government that small can’t function, at all. For lack of any experience of a failed government we may end up with a failed government.

    Of course, we have, in an indirect way, seen a failed government. The modern miracle of telecommunications, digital video, and a small number of Americans with first-hand experience, has offered us a vision of what a fail government looks like. It looks like Somalia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *