Can't handle the truth
It is well established that Donald Trump's lying is prolific. The much-awaited book by the president's niece Mary L. Trump offers an explanation on why he made it an essential life tool.
"For Donald, lying was primarily a mode of self-aggrandizement meant to convince other people he was better than he actually was,” Mary wrote in “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” He needs lies to convince himself, too. The past six months of the coronavirus pandemic, she wrote, further have shown her uncle to be a “petty, pathetic little man — ignorant, incapable, out of his depth, and lost in his own delusional spin.”
Copies of the book, due for publication next week despite the family's efforts to stop it, landed in newsrooms on Tuesday. Mary examined her uncle from the standpoint of both family connection and a trained clinical psychologist. Even so, she said, she cannot fully explain what she portrayed as the 45th president's maladies, including an inability to "experience the entire spectrum of human emotion" such as empathy and caring for other people.
“Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neurophysical tests that he’ll never sit for,” wrote his niece, who began the first part of the book with the heading "The Cruelty is the Point."
According to the book, Donald embraced “cheating as a way of life.” Worried that his low grade-point average would cost him admission by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he paid a friend who had a reputation as a good test-taker to sit for his SAT exams, Mary wrote. Donald made it to Wharton as a transfer student after two years at Fordham University. (White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews called the SAT stand-in story “completely false.”)
The self-proclaimed "stable genius" may suffer not just from personality disorders but also a “long undiagnosed learning disability that for decades has interfered with his ability to process information.” The likes of Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un “recognized … that Donald’s checkered personal history and his unique personality flaws make him extremely vulnerable to manipulation by smarter, more powerful men,” she asserted.
"His pathologies have rendered him so simple-minded that it takes nothing more than repeating to him the things he says to and about himself dozens of times a day — he's the smartest, the greatest, the best — to get him to do whatever they want." Her uncle's hunger for flattery is insatiable. "His deep-seated insecurities have created in him a black hole of need that constantly requires the light of compliments that disappears as soon as he’s soaked it in."
Grifter and regifter?
Before Twitter, there was the Trump family dinner table, so her uncle's delight in insulting others was not new to Mary. "I was reminded of every family meal I’d ever attended during which Donald had talked about all of the women he considered ugly fat slobs or the men, usually more accomplished or powerful, he called losers," she wrote. “That kind of casual dehumanization of people was commonplace."
The family patriarch, real estate developer Fred Trump Sr., was a “high-functioning sociopath” and his mother “emotionally and physically absent.” He insisted that his offspring become “killers” unhindered by emotion. “Fred perverted his son’s perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it,” Mary wrote. (Matthews, the White House spokeswoman, said the president and his father had a "warm" relationship.)
Mary wrote that her father, Fred Trump Jr., also known as Freddy, was the least favorite because he wanted to be a pilot instead of joining the family business. Donald "had plenty of time to learn from watching Fred humiliate his older brother and Freddy’s resulting shame,” she wrote. "Fred thought Freddy was weak, and therefore so did Donald.” Freddy became an alcoholic, which contributed to his death from a heart attack at age 42. Mary wrote that no one from the family accompanied him to the hospital; Donald and his sister Elizabeth went to the movies.
Mary's enmity toward her uncle hardened in a battle with her father's surviving siblings over Fred Sr.'s estate — she believed she was shortchanged of her rightful inheritance. She also charged that Donald previously schemed, unsuccessfully, to "steal vast sums of money from his siblings" by secretly trying to change his ailing father's will to write them out of control of the family fortune. Some two decades later, she provided documents to The New York Times for a blockbuster story suggesting Donald was part of a massive tax fraud scheme to conceal Fred Sr.'s assets before they went to the patriarch's children.
There were other occasions in which her uncle was not generous, Mary wrote. One Christmas, Donald and his first wife, Ivana, gave her a three-pack of underwear from Bloomingdale's. Another year, they gave her an obviously regifted basket with crackers, sardines and a salami — with an imprint in the cellophane wrap where a tin of caviar had been.
'Clown' of the family
When they were kids, Donald's big sister Maryanne did his homework for him, their niece wrote. Maryanne went on to become U.S. Appeals Court Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, and she did not think of her brother as presidential timber.
When the aunt and niece met for lunch in 2015 after Donald launched his campaign, the judge said of her brother that "he's a clown" who could never win, according to the book. When Mary asked her aunt what her uncle had accomplished on his own, Maryanne replied: “Well, he has had five bankruptcies,” according to Mary's account.
Maryanne, a devout convert to Catholicism, was astonished as Donald began picking up endorsements from evangelical leaders. “The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there. It’s mind-boggling,” she is reported to have said. “He has no principles. None!”
Keeping up with the Conways' reviews
Kellyanne Conway, the White House senior counselor, and her husband, George Conway, the Trump critic, offered early takes on Mary Trump's book.
“I believe family matters should be family matters," Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday on Fox News. "I think the thin-skinned, troubled, living-in-a-glass house, mainstream media members who think people’s families are their business ought to really think thrice the next time they do that.” Earlier, she told reporters that Mary Trump's Ph.D. in clinical psychology aside, "he's not her patient, he's her uncle."
Kellyanne Conway also took a shot at "people who aren't medically trained in their medical diagnoses of the president." Though she didn't name a name, that would include her husband, a conservative lawyer who has written and tweeted often that Trump suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder so severe it should disqualify him from the presidency.
Another view from Trump's team: "I have yet to see the book, but it is a book of falsehoods," said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Janison: All the wrong turns
If something doesn't shift very soon, Trump's political story could end like that of a privileged heir who blew all of a fat inheritance on careless investments and whims, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
By the usual measures, the incumbent should look like the favorite right now in the presidential race. The Republican Party still sits under his thumb. He is never shy about using government resources to promote himself. His opponent, Joe Biden, is no fresh face and his vulnerabilities were plain to his rivals during the Democratic primaries.
Yet, less than four months from Election Day, Trump appears foundering and spiteful, trailing in polls and worrying his allies, evoking dark and subversive threats. He even wastes time and political capital defending symbols of the Confederacy, a failed 19th century insurrection against the United States. His handling of the coronavirus response has driven his approval ratings to a low point and handed Biden lines of attack.
Former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned in a Fox Business Network interview that Trump is in trouble if he can't make the contest about Biden instead of himself. "If it ends up being a popularity contest or, worse, a referendum on President Trump, I think he’s got some real headwinds to face," Mulvaney said.
Trump: School's in, or else
Trump on Tuesday ramped up his calls for schools to reopen in the fall after the long coronavirus shutdowns, saying he is “very much going to put pressure on governors” to return to full-time, in-school instruction, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Trump spoke at a White House roundtable discussion with educators and students as more than two-dozen states continue to grapple with increasing COVID-19 cases. School districts across the country weigh the possibility of hybrid sessions that include online learning from home and part-time in-class lessons that would allow for social distancing.
Trump ripped Harvard University, which is among the higher education institutions planning to stick with online classes this fall. He said, “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s an easy way out. And I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves, if you want to know the truth.” He charged governors who resist opening "think it's going to be good for them politically."
In an interview shown later with Gray Television's Greta Van Susteren, Trump took a shot at Dr. Anthony Fauci's assessment that the nation's situation is "not really good" in controlling the pandemic. "Well, I think we are in a good place. I disagree with him," Trump said of the government's top infectious diseases expert, adding, "I think we are going to be in two, three, four weeks … in very good shape."
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- With Florida suffering a coronavirus surge, Trump appeared to acknowledge he may not be able to get the packed arena he wants for his Republican nomination acceptance speech in Jacksonville next month. "It really depends on the timing,” Trump told Voice of America when asked about downsizing the convention. “Look, we're very flexible. We can do a lot of things. But we're very flexible.”
- At least five GOP senators have said they will not go to Jacksonville due to either coronavirus concerns or political reasons.
- Trump is expected to travel to the Miami area on Friday for a drug-trafficking briefing at U.S. Southern Command headquarters and for a campaign fundraiser.
- New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he's sure Trump's outdoor rally in Portsmouth Saturday can be pulled off safely without a mandatory mask order, but he won't be there. "I'm not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people, if that's your question specifically," the Republican told reporters.
- The Trump administration, complaining of China's influence, formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, although the pullout won’t take effect until July 6, 2021. Biden said he would reverse the decision on his first day in office. “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health," he said.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration may ban TikTok because it views the popular social media app owned by a Chinese company as a security threat. The video app has an estimated 65 million to 80 million active monthly users in the U.S.