Donald Trump supporters often point towards The Art of the Deal, Trump’s 1987 autobiography, as definitive proof of his business efficacy. The book chronicles Trump’s life as he strolls from one success to the next, effortlessly outsmarts his competition and always emerges victorious.
According to the individual who actually wrote the book, this particular painting of Trump may not be entirely honest.
Tony Schwartz spends a lot of time thinking about The Art of the Deal; after all, he did spend 18 months writing it in the mid-80s. The novel instantly became a bestseller, launching Trump into super-stardom and crafting his mythos.
Schwartz has not spoken publicly about Trump for decades. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, he made known how deeply he regrets his part in creating what we see today.
“I put lipstick on a pig,” said Schwartz. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”
For his part as ghostwriter, Schwartz earned an upfront two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollars in addition to half of the book’s hefty royalties. ‘A deal with the devil’, as he calls it.
Schwartz spent months shadowing Trump as he went about his day to day business. He sat in on meetings, eavesdropped on every business call and spoke with Trump regularly to record his thoughts. Apparently, Trump loved every second.
He believes this gives him unique insight into the business mogul’s mind, knowing him on a level reserved for his close friends and family.
Not a single call was considered too private for Schwartz to listen in on.“ He loved the attention. If he could have had three hundred thousand people listening in, he would have been even happier”.
One thing quickly became apparent to Schwartz; Trump craves attention.
“All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’ — recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular,” wrote Schwartz in a journal he kept while shadowing Trump. A few days later he wrote, “The book will be far more successful if Trump is a sympathetic character — even weirdly sympathetic — than if he is just a hateful or, worse yet, a one-dimensional blowhard.”
Schwartz would often try to follow up with Trump’s business partners over the phone, but all this led to was conflicting accounts with what Trump had told him. Schwartz states lying is so second nature for Trump, that he honestly believes whatever he is saying at any given moment, no matter how ridiculous or easily disprovable. These lies were often about money, according to Schwartz.
“[He would lie about] how much he had paid for something, or what a building he owned was worth, or how much one of his casinos was earning when it was actually on its way to bankruptcy,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz explained this aspect of Trump in The Art of the Deal, although with a much more positive spin. “I play to people’s fantasies…” writes Schwartz masquerading as Trump. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”
Today Schwartz calls that passage deceitful. “Truthful hyperbole is a contradiction in terms. It’s a way of saying, ‘It’s a lie, but who cares?’” He says, adding that Trump loved the phrase “Truthful hyperbole”.
Trump’s business successes were just another of the book’s many falsehoods. It greatly downplayed the financial and political role Trump’s father had on his early successes. In addition to starting Trump off with a humble sum of several millions, his father also had to co-sign many of his earliest ‘successes’ and bail him out when he failed.
The Donald J. Trump presented in the book is effortlessly successful, a winner in every sense of the word, and, if Schwartz is correct, a fictional character. One that Schwartz regrets introducing to the world, for it is too often mistaken for reality.
“Trump stands 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,” wrote Schwartz in another journal entry.
If he could write it again today, says Schwartz, it would be called The Sociopath.
Luiz Brasil, External News Editor