Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, by Harry Hurt III

It may be that when Harry Hurt III set out to write Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump (1993), he meant to do a hatchet job.  It’s possible he wasn’t trying to write a balanced account.  On the other hand, a true and factual account of the subject’s life up to 1993 might have in the end seemed a hatchet job, an unbalanced narrative, simply because the details of Donald Trump’s life do not provide the basis for balanced biography.  One suspects that, in order to write an account that did seem balanced and fair, one would have to lie. In any event, Hurt did not lie in this book. In addition to interviews he conducted, he cites in his notes numerous published interviews, court papers, newspaper accounts, and other sources. Many of the episodes recounted in this book are corroborated in other published sources.
This biography covers Donald Trump’s life up to the verge of his first bankruptcies, around 1993.  The title suggests that with those first bankruptcies the “lost tycoon” moniker seems appropriate.  However, as we all know, there have been additional bankruptcies, several rises and falls in the ever-wavering career of the Donald (which is how his close associates and his first wife Ivana referred to him), since then. (By bankruptcies I mean those of his businesses, not of Trump personally).
Trump did not build his empire using primarily his own funds.  He borrowed money from his father early in career, and his father was a crucial financial deus ex machina in the years leading up to 1993.  Trump lived off loans and grants.  He would borrow money to build a hotel or apartment complex and skim money off the top of the loan for his own living expenses.  When his funds grew tight, or when he faced difficulty making payments on an earlier loan, he’d take out another loan.  Banks made money off big loans, so it paid them (up until the point they began to worry his financial empire was about to collapse) to lend him more money.  Banks share much of the responsibility for helping Trump to become what he became. At his worst, he didn’t pay bills, reneged on contracts (he tried to renege on a prenuptial account with Ivana), mistreated employees, lied, and attacked and blamed close associates, including his own family members, for his failures. His conduct of relationships with women, including his first wife Ivana and his girlfriend Marla Maples, in addition to a retinue of well known and anonymous women, was deplorable.  Ivana claimed in her divorce deposition that he raped her on one occasion, as punishment for the pain and disfigurement he felt from plastic surgery that she’d recommended.  Later, she maintained that she used the term rape as a figure of speech, not as a criminal allegation.
Little about Trump was admirable.  Nothing about him would make him any kind of role model.  He exemplified the worst characteristics of American capitalism.  In the years covered by this biography, he was venal, acquisitive, narcissistic, and dishonest. He continues to be.

What flaw in democracy, in the American populace, led to the election of such a man as President of the United States?

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