Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money and Power
By Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher
431 pages, $28
By Gene Warner
This is why we need newspapers so badly.
Sorry for the biased view from a newspaper reporter, but “Trump Revealed” serves as the perfect argument for why America needs thriving daily papers. This book, a product of a massive reporting job by more than 25 Washington Post reporters and editors, provides the definitive look at the real Donald Trump, not that there were many disguises or subterfuges that distorted his true image.
The portrait here is of the Donald Trump we know, with all his warts and charm, his straight talk and bluster, his biases and folksiness.
But this book proves, beyond any doubt, that the Donald Trump we’ve seen nonstop for the last 15 months is merely the tip of a troubling iceberg. The man just hasn’t changed.
Take his views toward women. (Please.)
Those who follow the news can’t forget Trump’s offensive comments toward Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. Both sides can argue whether his comment about bleeding was a slip of the tongue or a hint about his true views toward women. The authors, though, detail – in painful fashion – Trump’s previous public comments about women.
Long before he apparently ever dreamed of diving into political waters, Trump regularly appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show to joke about his fantasies toward Princess Diana and others, to giggle about various female body parts.
It might be the kind of sophomoric crudeness that we could understand coming from a high school locker room or a corner tavern, but Trump was saying these things publicly, to a national radio audience, as a grown man and public figure.
That’s Donald Trump, the unfiltered version. It almost makes you think – shudder – that we’re now seeing a milder, better-behaved side of the man.
For those who could never support Trump as a presidential candidate, including this reviewer, the book could serve as a 431-page Hillary Clinton ad. It’s a devastating look at the man. And it would be hard for anyone to argue with the extremely well-documented reporting, culled from Trump’s books, many of his old comments, new interviews with him, public records and interviews extending even to his ancestral Scottish and German homelands.
That said, many Trump supporters might enjoy this more comprehensive look at the non-politician politician. No one can deny his remarkable populist appeal this year.
“Despite living in a golden palace high above Fifth Avenue and jetting to rallies in a private jet, Trump pitched himself as the voice of the beaten-down working class,” the authors write. And later, “Trump’s trademarked slogan, Make America Great Again, promised a return to better times – economically and culturally – in America’s past. He was offering not an ideology, but a nostalgic journey to a better place.”
Some readers may find something missing in this well-crafted, beautifully written book. The authors, as top-flight, well-schooled newspaper journalists, stick to the facts and quotes and anecdotes, without revealing any of their opinions and biases.
Sometimes you want a little attitude in tell-all biographies.
For those who have studied Trump closely, there’s very little startling information here. But “Trump Revealed” beautifully fills in the details, providing a spot-on profile of the most fascinating presidential candidate of our time. Through anecdotes and Trump’s own words, the book shows that many of his tirades and political positions are rooted in his past, dating back decades, even more than a half-century ago. Some of those tidbits make great reading.
A few examples:
• The obvious irony of Trump’s mother, Mary, fleeing her destitute Scottish village of Tong to emigrate to America in 1930, as a British white welcomed to a nation closing its doors on other immigrants.
• Trump, during this campaign season, having to compromise on one of his personal idiosyncrasies, his germaphobia that dates back to his toddler years. So the candidate now shakes voters’ hands on the campaign trail. But he still claims he’s never had a drink in his life.
• The spirited little-kid Trump, who at age 5 or 6 threw rocks at a toddler; who disrupted his elementary-school classroom enough that his friends renamed detention “DTs” in his honor; and who once punched his second-grade music teacher in the eye.
On his hospice death bed last year, that teacher told family members, “When that kid was 10, even then he was a little (expletive).”
• The discipline at New York Military Academy that sent him onto a straighter life path.
• The influence that notorious attorney Roy Cohn had on Trump, teaching him his credo that when you’re attacked, counterattack with overwhelming force. So when Trump Management faced Justice Department racial-bias charges, after getting caught placing a capital “C” (for “colored”) on blacks’ rental applications, Trump filed a $100 million countersuit against the U.S. government in 1973.
• The strong circumstantial evidence that Trump often has overstated his personal wealth, by a factor of 10 or more.
• Trump’s willingness to laugh at himself about his hair, his vanity, even his three marriages – everything but the true extent of his wealth.
• Earlier public hints of his presidential aspirations, dating back to at least 2000, though he changed his party affiliation seven times from 1999 to 2012.
• And his devotion to what he calls “truthful hyperbole.”
This book also suggests how poorly major cable TV newscasts have covered the 2016 presidential campaign, focusing on the loud and rowdy food fights among the candidates, rather than insightful looks at the real issues.
The Washington Post reminds us what true reporting is, providing a detailed and balanced inside view of the man who could be president.
Gene Warner is a veteran News reporter and election observer.