I’ll admit it. I am fascinated by Donald Trump. Somehow largely immune to his rhetoric, which tends to evoke either tremendous love or extraordinary hate, I am, more than anything, curious. I want to know who the man really is, beyond the 2D caricature we all know. And so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was writing the inside story of Trump’s rise to the presidency. It did not disappoint.
How can we know if the stories in this book are true? We can’t. This is one of the maddening things about our 45th president. There is so much bullshit swirling around Trump—plenty of which he propagates himself—deciphering what’s fact and what’s fiction is virtually impossible. And as someone who seeks to find the “truth”, that is incredibly frustrating. What I can say is that while this book is undoubtedly loyal, it does not pull its punches. “Loyalty and unvarnished truth can coexist,” as Corey says. Some stories paint Trump as a media mastermind, while others draw him as a petulant child. Perhaps he’s both. The excerpts I’ve highlighted below are either corroborated by other accounts of Trump I’ve read, or simply too juicy to ignore.
“President Trump, still ‘the boss’ to us, though we hadn’t technically been his employees for a while, reached over to a small wooden box in the corner of the Resolute desk, emblazoned with the letters POTUS, and pressed the little red button on top. From the adjoining kitchen, a naval steward entered the Oval Office, carrying a tall glass of Diet Coke with ice. For years, Donald Trump has imbibed a steady stream of Diet Coke. He took a sip, then placed the glass in front of him on a coaster. Even with all the pressure that being the leader of the free world brings, he’ll never stop being Donald J. Trump. There is something very heartening about that.”
So it’s true! I remember hearing stories about Trump’s Coke Button months ago, but I wasn’t sure of their validity. As far as I’m concerned, this confirms it. Trump has a Coke addiction.
“Donald Trump has more than a fundamental grasp on a surprising number of fields, including Jungian psychology. One of his favorite books is “Memory, Dreams, Reflections”, Jung’s autobiography. Steve Bannon insists that Trump came up with the idea for the names Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Low-Energy Jeb, and later, Crooked Hillary, from his knowledge of Jungian archetypes.”
Having been a long time reader of Scott Adams, whose coverage of Trump is almost exclusively about persuasion and psychology, this little tidbit stuck out to me. Even people who despise Trump tend to give him credit for his clever nicknaming. Seriously, is there anyone who can picture Jeb Bush without also hearing the phrase “low-energy”? I can’t. Whether or not it’s based on a Jungian archetype, who knows. But I also don’t know what the motivation would be to make up such a strange and random fact.
Wrath of the Don
“Sooner or later, everybody who works for Donald Trump will see a side of him that makes you wonder why you took a job with him in the first place. His wrath is never intended as any personal offense, but sometimes it can be hard not to take it that way. The mode that he switches into when things aren’t going his way can feel like an all-out assault; it’d break most hardened men and women into little pieces. Around the campaign, we’d call it getting your face ripped off. Being the target of his wrath can make for a pretty jarring experience, especially if you aren’t used to it.
Stories of Trump’s temper are legion. Nothing too surprising here.
A Good Man
”Yes, the campaign was business. And in business the boss could get angry. But he would never sacrifice friendship for business. The friendship between the boss and Corey and Hope—and Keith too—was strong. At dinner, the boss would be caring and entertaining. He would regale them with stories from his amazing life, the people he’d met and the places he’d gone. It’s hard for us to say this without sounding corny. But Mr. Trump, at his core, is a good man. When George Gigicos had to miss his little girls’ ballet recitals because of the campaign, the boss recorded a video message for them: ‘Girls, your father loves you. We’re running for president. If it’s okay with you, I’ll steal your father for the day. He’s a very talented guy, and I need him. Thank you girls.’”
Despite his combative and cantankerous reputation, I have heard again and again from people who’ve known Trump for decades that, at his core, he cares deeply about people. Whether it’s Tony Robbins, or Larry King, or Tom Barrack, or his children, or his wife, or his two pilots who’ve flown him for decades, or his security guard who’s protected him for decades, the message is the same. For all of his flaws, Trump genuinely cares about people. I say this not to absolve Trump of whatever he may be guilty of, but to show there is more to our 45th president than the 2D character we are often shown.
The Failing New York Times
”As Trump Force One streaked westerly thirty thousand feet above the fray, Mr. Trump sat in his seat reading the New York Times. Though he truly does think the paper’s failing and promotes fake news, he reads it cover to cover regularly and has for most of his adult life. Mr. Trump is a New Yorker to his core.”
Again, no surprises here. Having lived in NYC for two years, I can tell you that The New York Times is basically the Bible of every New Yorker.
I’m Lovin’ It
“When you flew with Trump, you flew first class times ten. Except, that is, when it came time to eat. The first time Dave told his wife Susan that he was going to be on Trump Force One, she asked him to take some photos of what they served him to eat on the plane. She had read somewhere that Mr. Trump had a personal chef who traveled with him. When dinner came on the flight, Dave pulled out his BlackBerry and snapped a picture of the bag of McDonald’s hamburgers and unopened package of Oreo cookies and emailed it to Susan. On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza, and Diet Coke. There were also ancillary groups, including Vienna Fingers and the ubiquitous Oreo, before the boycott (after it was Hydrox).”
Gross. That’s all I really have to say about that.
“When traveling in the air with the boss, you also learned pretty quickly to like Elton John. Donald Trump really likes Elton John. We’re telling you, when the boss cranks up Elton, you can’t hear yourself think. The music is loud enough to rattle your brain. Still, suffering through a brain-rattling “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is far more preferable than the boss going off over something on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC–and yes, we would even watch MSNBS, perhaps just to hear what the liberals were saying about him.”
There is something both unsettling and hilarious about the image of Donald Trump jamming out to “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. It also shines his “Rocket Man” moniker in a whole new light.
“In the weeks leading up to the first debate, Stephen Miller and Jared spent time with the boss crafting solid, nuanced policy speeches—which was all part of the debate prep. Whatever the topic, Jared would be sure to load the speech up with facts, figures, and a few salient points that would play well as sound bites over many weeks. Mr. Trump would then give the speech, and—we kid you not—the material would stay in his head forever. Not a single detail or group of numbers would slip form his memory. Even when they’d made edits to the text, he could always recall both versions of it in seconds.”
So, apparently Donald Trump has a photographic memory. This actually came up in The Washington Post’s biography of Trump as well. Decades ago, a director on a commercial Trump was performing in handed him a script, which The Donald returned within seconds. The director was not happy, assuming they would have to do dozens of takes while Donald struggled to remember his lines. Instead, Trump got it on the first take, and the director nicknamed him “One-Take Donald”. Similar stories have been reported from The Apprentice, where Trump famously worked without any script at all. Having now heard this from multiple sources, I find little reason to doubt its validity. DT has a photographic memory.
I Want It Now!
“Mr. Trump was a stickler when it came to how he looked onstage and at events. He had a steamer on board that would take the wrinkles out of his suits. When we landed, it was Hope’s job to steam him. ‘Get the machine!’ he’d yell. And Hope would take out the steamer and start steaming Mr. Trump’s suit, while he was wearing it! She’d steam the jacket first and then sit in a chair in front of him and steam his pants. One time, Hope forgot to bring the steamer on the jet. ‘I don’t think we have time, sir.” she said when he yelled for the machine. ‘We’ll just get you pressed at the hotel.’ But Mr. Trump insisted. When Hope finally admitted she’d forgotten the steamer, he blew his top. ‘Goddammit, Hope! How the hell could you forget the machine?’ Trump said. ‘Sir, couldn’t we have it pressed at the hotel?’ Trump replied: ‘I want it now!’ It was a mistake she would never make again.”
Trump may connect with blue-collar workers, but that sounds an awful lot like pampered billionaire talk to me.
The Killer Stare
“The real estate mogul’s eyes began to narrow. In the coming years, Dave would grow to know that look well. It was his ‘tough as nails’ look, a New York real estate killer look. Sometimes, before Trump did interviews on shows like O’Reilly or Hannity, he’d turn to Hope Hicks or Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard, Jason Miller, Corey or Dave to ask if the stare was up to par that day. ‘How’s the look?’ he’d say, looking straight through the camera.”
This little anecdote I found particularly amusing. Trump is nothing if not a showman, and there have been many reports of him asking people how he performed.
How They Felt
”It didn’t matter to the people who listened to Trump whether the boss had gotten the details correct. His words captured the way they felt, and that’s all that mattered to them. His was a language the Left couldn’t and wouldn’t ever understand.”
Trump says things that are factually incorrect all the time. Even ardent Trump supporters must admit this. But Trump always says things that are emotionally true, at least to his base. I know for ardent rationalists (as I once was) that can be difficult thing to accept. “If something’s not true, it just isn’t true. End of story.” But that’s just not how humans think. We are deeply emotional creatures, and that is what Trump appeals to. That’s why people tend to either hate or love Trump. He polarizes their hearts.
I came away from this book having some of my assumptions about Trump upheld, and others challenged. I have long held that Trump is far from the stammering buffoon some people believe him to be. His study of Jungian psychology, daily reading of the New York Times, or photographic memory comes as no shock to me. However, I also once thought the Trump we saw on TV was nothing like the Trump that existed in everyday life. Gradually that belief has eroded, though not completely. Now I’ve come to view Donald Trump the persona as a hyper-exaggerated version of himself. He is brash, crude, cocky, shameless, egotistical—and on TV he is all of that times ten. Meanwhile, some of his other characteristics—generosity, thoughtfulness, intelligence—seem to fade away completely.