El Diabilto. An artwork on display at the Ground Floor Theatre.

Review by Dr. M. Emanuele

What is Donald Trump’s favourite book? Is it Dr Seuss? Is it the Bible (which he likes to hold upside down like a disciple of Satan?), or is it The Spirit of Laws by Montesquieu? Actually, none of the above. It is the book My New Order, an anthology of the speeches by the man he apparently admires most: ADOLF HITLER. He keeps the book in a cabinet next to his bedside.

The source for this disgustingly sad piece of information is not a Democrat on the Impeachment Committee, or even that paragon of truth and liberty Lindsay Graham, his golfing buddy. Rather, we know this is a fact from none other than his darling (former) wife Ivana. So if any you DT supporters out there think this is just a smear campaign, consider the (unimpeachable) source, and then look inside yourself and ask why you love Hitler? Or does blind loyalty outweigh the truth? If so, wear a swastika.

It’s all in a book by Maggie Haberman, senior political correspondent for the New York Times; she was part of a team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on DT’s advisers and their connexions to Russia. Axios wrote that “This is the book Trump fears most.” Haberman says “For much of the last decade, reporting on him has been my full-time job.”

By the way, we all know he can’t tell the truth about anything, and the Hitler book is a fine example. DT said he was given the book by Marty Davis “and he’s a Jew.” Haberman writes that “Davis, however, said that he was not Jewish.” To encompass just a portion of his lies and deceits, Haberman has produced a hefty book of nearly 600 pages.

So who is the greatest conman or huckster of all time? Is it P.T. Barnum, Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff, or could it actually be DT, the conman’s conman? As Barnum said, there’s a sucker born every minute. And as DT has often been quoted, “If you say something long enough, loud enough and with intensity, people will believe it.” And should you ever be called out on it, “Delay, deny, deflect.” (which is exactly what Putin does; they both go by the KGB playbook). Using the term loosely, this basically sums up DT’s character. This book by Haberman tells how America has been broken by the biggest confidence man in history.

DT has spent decades surviving one professional near-death experience after another – by bluffing, charming, cajoling & strong-arming his way through. Haberman tells us his moods are explosive, and his management style is dysfunctional. The quick lie, the counterattack, the misdirection, and the shifting of blame. It’s there for all the world to see.

Many people refuse the blame a person’s parents when the seed turns out to be bad seed, but in this case it’s hard not to blame Fred. He taught DT to win at all costs: other people didn’t matter. “As a schoolboy, Donald became known for an aggressive temper and a bullying instinct. It extended to his younger brother, Robert, who was often his target.” Robin Leach joked that when DT was eight his father gave him his first set of blocks – Thirty-Ninth Street, Forty-Eighth Street and Park Avenue. His claim to have received very little from his father (in a vain attempt to bolster his claim to be a great businessman) is another famous lie. His father got him out of many scrapes. For example, when the Taj casino was about to go bankrupt, Fred sent over $3 million in cash “which he exchanged for gaming chips. It was a way for Fred to give his son money out of the banks’ view.” That was in 1990, but by 1991, DT filed for corporate bankruptcy for the first time. “Ultimately all his casinos were placed in structured bankruptcies.” Prevented from “selling off his historic Palm Beach compound in chunks, DT was forced to convert Mar-a-Lago into a private club and hawk memberships to his part-time home.” What a great businessman! To show how delusional he is, Haberman quotes from DT himself. “I see myself as a very honest guy stationed in a very corrupt world.”

Of course it was the TV show The Apprentice that is credited with his rise. The show gave him his first paycheck outside of his father or real estate. Additional benefits from the show, says Haberman, are hard to measure but she puts a value of $400 million on it. Over the course of his career he became “a pioneer in the business of marketing brand-name condos, discovering the value of his own name in the process.” This led to vodka, golf courses, and the infamous university. Not to mention 13 books, all done by ghost writers, since he can’t write!

Haberman spends a chapter entitled Rising on a Lie on the canard that Pres. Obama was not born in the United States. His obsession with Obama was so extreme he wanted to hire a Black actor portraying Obama and then fire him on The Apprentice. “From the outset of his presidency, DT began to undo every trace of the Obama presidency that he could.” He even replaced the toilet since he didn’t want to sit on a toilet that had been used by a black man.

But of course, he can’t do it all by himself. Just like the Black Shirts who propelled Hitler to power, DT has had his informants and enforcers: people willing to spy and sell out their own country if necessary. An example is Mike Pompeo, who said in 2016 DT would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution.” This did not prevent from accepting a cabinet job when it was offered. When President, he filled positions not on qualifications but blind loyalty (just like his man, Hitler). “There is no one smarter than me,” he told Mike Bloomberg, former NYC mayor in 2016. The reality is, as Haberman tells us, DT is unable to focus on details or anything difficult. He reads little (unless it is written by Hitler). Like a crime boss, he is very smart indeed. Instead of placing his phone calls “through a White House operator, which would have got them logged, he used his own cell phone or sometimes that of an aide.” Al Capone would be proud of him!

He had issues with female world leaders, especially Germany’s Angela Merkel. He tried to manipulate other world leaders, “highlighting for one leader criticism that another leader had made about them,” but DT’s own staff manipulated him, using his paranoia to turn him against people. He felt generals talked down to him (why wouldn’t they?). In a book by Peter Baker and Susan Glaser, we learn of this exchange between DT and General John Kelly: “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?” “Which generals?” Kelly asked. “The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.

In conclusion, probably the most ludicrous of all statements was made by Ivanka: “My Dad is a good man, you can trust him.” Guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The more outrageous, the more flamboyant, the more destructive, the more belittling: this is/was the Trump playbook. The unfortunate part is that we may not have seen the last of him. Like an acute disease, he just keeps trying to come back to reinfect over and over again. With some luck the majority will become inoculated against DT.

This is not a fast read, as one often has to re-read events that seem so bizarre and outrageous at first glance that they require a second look. Haberman has performed an excellent task here, revealing many insights that are either entirely new or obscure, and weaving them into a coherent chronicle that lays bare the life of one of the world’s most despicable inhabitants (I don’t use the word ‘people’ as Nazis and their supporters or emulators should never be accorded the rights of humanity). Buy the book, and learn the real truth.

Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America is by Penguin Press. It lists for $32.

El Diabilto. An artwork on display at the Ground Floor Theatre.

By Dr. Cliff Cunningham

Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books. His PhD is in the History of Astronomy, and he also holds a BA in Classical Studies.