t and me

Trump and Me by Mark Singer, Foreward by David Remnick (Crown, Tim Duggan Books, New York 2016)

In the foreward to this splendid retrospective (a “profile” published in The New Yorker Magazine in 1996) describes the particular problem posed by Donald Trump. He was “beyond parody”—a man of “rampaging ego, sufficient funds, and a neediness greater than that of an infant.” Not only was (and is) Trump beyond parody (though Alec Baldwin does nicely, doesn’t he?) but he was a “constant” in the New York tabloids, a guy who didn’t care if he came off as crude, his vulgarity “unstoppable and without limit.” Trump on the radio with Howard Stern said of his former wife (Ivana), “Nice tits, no brains.” Going on to Stern, Trump said, “You know it doesn’t really matter what you write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

Mark Singer, assigned by Tina Brown to “do Trump”, was understandably reluctant. Singer was the real deal, a solid writer of quality pieces on interesting people of genuine character. He did magician and scholar Ricky Jay among others. He was a superior magazine writer, intelligent, well read, educated and experienced. Singer had to take the assignment. And so, off he went to Trump’s gargantuan apartment, not then located in Trump Tower, but in another building on Columbus Circle. Off he went to Mar-a-Lago, just then being renovated and Trumps favorite stomping grounds, a garish La-La Land of gold trimming and marble. Here’s Singer on Trump’s “thing”. “Salesmen, and Trump is nothing if not a brilliant salesman, specialize in simulated intimacy rather than the real ting. His modus operandi has a sharp focus: fly the flag, never budge from the premise that the universe revolves around you, and above all, stay in character…The patented Trump palaver, a gaseous blather of ‘fantastics’ and ‘amazings’ and ‘terrifics’ and ‘incredibles’ and various synonyms for ‘biggest,’ is an indispensable ingredient of the name brand. In Trump’s office, Singer finds the walls plastered with photos and magazine covers of Trump’s face (or someone who looked like him). Singer concludes: “The profusion of these images—of a man who possessed unusual skills, though not, evidently, a gene for irony—seemed the sum of his appetite for self-reflection.”

Singer decides to look for Trump’s soul—his capacity for self-reflection. “Trump”—a fellow with universal recognition but with a suspicion that an interior life was an intolerable inconvenience, a creature everywhere and nowhere, uniquely capable of inhabiting it all at once, all alone.”

Nothing has changed, except that Trump is now President of the United States, not just a hack real estate shill, a narcissist, a louche foul buffoon. Just yesterday (May 1, 2017), Trump wondered out loud on some Right Wing radio program about Andrew Jackson’s worry over the outbreak of the Civil War. Never mind that Jackson had been dead for sixteen years when the war broke out at Ft. Sumter.

Singer’s piece is wow, fabulous, fantastic, amazing, really terrific, almost incredible, and really, really, really great.

I’m just kidding. It really is!