But it was one thing for Donald to stay out of his father’s crosshairs and another to get into his good graces. Toward that end, Donald all but eradicated any qualities he might have shared with his older brother. Except for the occasional fishing trip with Freddy and his friends, Donald would become a creature of country clubs and offices, golf being the only thing on which he and his father differed. He would also double down on the behaviors he had thus far gotten away with: bullying, pointing the finger, refusing to take responsibility, and disregarding authority. He says that he “pushed back” against his father and Fred “respected” that. The truth is, he was able to push back against his father because Fred let him. When he was very young, Fred’s attention was not trained on him; his focus was elsewhere—on his business and his oldest son, that’s it. Eventually, when Donald went away to military school at thirteen, Fred began to admire Donald’s disregard of authority. Although a strict parent in general, Fred accepted Donald’s arrogance and bullying—after he actually started to notice them—because he identified with the impulses.This is the other must-read Trump book of the summer, after John Bolton's expose, but I confess I didn't find it quite as grimly fascinating. The Trump family is obviously pretty dysfunctional; Trump's niece, herself a psychologist, goes through the history of her grandfather and his two older sons, her father Fred and her uncle Donald. Poor Fred was not up to the mark of his father's expectations, was kicked out of the family business and died at 42 of alcoholism. Donald became the public face of the family empire, with everyone from top to bottom scrambling to cover his deficiencies, and to cover themselves in the conflicts among advisers that he deliberately generated. The best quote for me is at the end of Chapter Nine, where she describes her unsuccessful attempt to ghost-write a book for her uncle:
Finally Donald told me his editor wanted to meet with me. A lunch was set up, and I arrived at the restaurant thinking he and I were going to be discussing next steps. It was an expensive “in” place in Midtown, and we were seated at a small, cramped table near the kitchen.Fundamentally it is a readable enough book about some pretty unpleasant people, one of whom unfortunately ended up as the most powerful man in the world. It's a pretty quick read at least. You can get it here.
With very little preliminary conversation, the editor told me that Random House wanted Donald to hire someone with more experience.
“I’ve been working on this for a while,” I said, “and I think I’ve made some progress. The problem is, I can’t get Donald to sit down with me for an interview.”
“You can’t expect to play a Mozart concerto the first time you sit down at a piano,” the editor said, as if I’d just learned the alphabet the day before.
“Donald told me he likes what I’ve done so far,” I said.
The editor looked at me as if I’d just proved his point for him. “Donald hasn’t read any of it,” he said.
I stopped at the office the next day to clear out my desk and hand over anything that might be useful to my eventual replacement. I wasn’t upset. I didn’t even mind that Donald had had somebody else fire me. The project had hit a wall. Besides, after all of the time I had spent in his office, I still had no idea what he actually did.