President Donald Trump’s most famous book is 1987’s “The Art of the Deal” — but his second book, written three years later, might be even more revealing.
An old 1990 New York Times review of Trump’s book “Surviving at the Top” highlights several aspects of Trump’s personality that have manifested themselves repeatedly throughout his tenure at the White House, such as his angry attacks on media critics and his serial deception to make himself seem more powerful than he really is.
The review, which was written by journalist Michael Lewis, takes a caustic look at Trump’s personal self-regard, and marvels at the way he was able to hoodwink people into believing he was a fabulous success despite losing money hand-over-fist in 1990.
“With his debts possibly exceeding his assets by as much as $250 million, his bankers watch and advise his every move,” Lewis writes. “He has had to agree, for example, not to spend more than $450,000 a month on his personal expenses. Yet he still insists, like a captured tyrant, that he is in charge.”
Lewis also takes note of the way Trump uses populist tropes to make him seem more in touch with the “working man” — even though Trump’s praise of working-class people stems almost entirely from the fact that they say nice things about him when they see him on the street.
Specifically, Trump writes that one-fourth of the people who see him on the street say things like “Hi, Donald,” and “How’re you doing, Donald,” and “Keep up the good work,” which proves to him that “the average working man or woman is a lot better adjusted and more secure than the supposedly successful people who stare down at them from the penthouses.”
The review also shows Trump’s habit of not letting a single slight get past him is one that goes back decades.
“The book Mr. Trump has presided over… is full of petty, desperate and often laughable swipes at anyone who has ever dared to criticize Donald Trump,” Lewis writes. “Of a Village Voice reporter, Mr. Trump says that the writer, ‘whose last book was a major failure, is still trying to make his name at my expense.’ Of a recent article in Forbes magazine estimating… his net worth at a mere $500 million: ‘Who can say what these one-of-a-kind assets are worth until they’re put on the market? Certainly not some mediocre reporter from Forbes.'”
In the end, Lewis concludes that “only fools” would ever take Trump’s empty boasts and self-aggrandizement seriously.