Ghostwriter of ‘The Art of the Deal’ says Trump book should have been titled ‘The Sociopath’

Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s best-seller “The Art of the Deal,” made millions from that gig and still gets regular royalties. This year, he is donating those royalties to charities that seek to help people whose rights Schwartz believes Trump seeks to abridge: The National Immigration Law Center, Human Rights Watch, the Center for the Victims of Torture, the National Immigration Forum, and the Tahirih Justice Center.

He told this to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, who wrote a breathtaking, frightening piece about what Schwartz learned ghosting for Trump on the book. Schwartz had a very negative — if very lucrative — experience getting to know Trump while writing the book. He kept it mostly to himself over the years, but as Trump emerged as a serious presidential candidate, Schwartz decided to cooperate with Mayer’s piece. The view of Trump that emerges from Schwartz’ up-close-and-personal relationship with the Donald is beyond alarming. A few excerpts:

The prospect of President Trump terrified [Schwartz]. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology — Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.

Schwartz thought about publishing an article describing his reservations about Trump, but he hesitated, knowing that, since he’d cashed in on the flattering “Art of the Deal,” his credibility and his motives would be seen as suspect. Yet watching the campaign was excruciating. Schwartz decided that if he kept mum and Trump was elected he’d never forgive himself. In June, he agreed to break his silence and give his first candid interview about the Trump he got to know while acting as his Boswell.

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Trump, says Schwartz, has “no attention span.”

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit — or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then …” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

… “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

… Because of Trump’s short attention span, interviewing him for the book didn’t go well. Trump would lose interest quickly and end the interview. So Schwartz came up with a plan, which Trump liked, of allowing Schwartz to actually sit and listen to Trump on the phone doing business. But when he later followed up with some of Trump’s business associates to expand on what he had heard, he learned that much of what Trump had told him was untrue.

“Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.” Often, Schwartz said, the lies that Trump told him were about money — “how much he had paid for something, or what a building he owned was worth, or how much one of his casinos was earning when it was actually on its way to bankruptcy.’”

… Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

… Schwartz reminded himself that he was being paid to tell Trump’s story, not his own, but the more he worked on the project the more disturbing he found it. In his journal, he describes the hours he spent with Trump as “draining” and “deadening.”  Schwartz told me that Trump’s need for attention is “completely compulsive,” and that his bid for the Presidency is part of a continuum. “He’s managed to keep increasing the dose for forty years,” Schwartz said. After he’d spent decades as a tabloid titan, “the only thing left was running for President. If he could run for emperor of the world, he would.’”

Mayer contacted Trump for this piece:

“In my phone interview with Trump, he initially said of Schwartz, “Tony was very good. He was the co-author.” But he dismissed Schwartz’s account of the writing process. “He didn’t write the book,” Trump told me. “I wrote the book. I wrote the book. It was my book. And it was a No. 1 best-seller, and one of the best-selling business books of all time. Some say it was the best-selling business book ever.” (It is not.) Howard Kaminsky, the former Random House head, laughed and said, “Trump didn’t write a postcard for us!”

After learning from Mayer that Schwartz was speaking ill of him, Trump called Schwartz and accused him of great “disloyalty.” Mayer’s piece ends thus:

Schwartz can understand why Trump feels stung, but he felt that he had to speak up before it was too late. As for Trump’s anger toward him, he said, “I don’t take it personally, because the truth is he didn’t mean it personally. People are dispensable and disposable in Trump’s world.” If Trump is elected President, he warned, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows — that he couldn’t care less about them.’”

Again, Mayer’s full New Yorker piece is here.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/19/2016 - 05:39 pm.

    Is Anyone Surprised?

    Since he started campaigning, Trump has lied repeatedly,* and doubled down on his lies when confronted with the evidence. He doesn’t even take the trouble to hide it.

    Of course, the signs have been there for years. What sane person feels the need to emblazon his name on everything he owns?

    *Just to save those of you on the right the trouble: Hillary Clinton lied, and it was a very, very bad thing.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 07/20/2016 - 09:19 am.

      Mostly agree, RB

      Answer: “Hilton” “Howard Johnson” etc.

      Personal branding is neither new nor necessarily narcissistic, customarily used to convey images of assured quality. In Trump’s case, one certainly can challenge this norm; however, I understand his properties are pretty nice.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/20/2016 - 09:52 am.

        You Forgot “Duncan Hines”

        There is branding. I understand Trump now makes more money from licensing his name than he does from real estate development.

        I’m not sure about the “pretty nice” part. From what I have seen, they look like monuments to excess and poor taste (whatever happened to “understated elegance?”). Proof once again that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/20/2016 - 08:27 am.

    It Never Ceases to Amaze Me

    How people with similar tendencies to Mr. Trump,…

    allow themselves to be swept up in his hype and hyperbole,…

    without ever considering that, given his tendencies,…

    he will absolutely victimize them,…

    impoverish them,…

    and make their lives worse in a thousand ways,…

    in order to feather his own nest,…

    pad his own pockets,…

    and make it easier for “top dogs” like himself,…

    to continue to do much more of the same,…

    once he leaves office.

    Mr. Trump is the poster child for the “I, Me, Mine,” kleptocratic society,…

    in which those at the top desire to set themselves up as a latter day “Sheriff of Nottingham,”…

    and lock up every Robin Hood who might seek to get in their way.

    How can those who so admire his “success”,…

    papered over by multiple bankruptcies,…

    not see that this is how he’s done it,…

    by cheating and stealing from people just like themselves,…

    and this is what he would do as president?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/20/2016 - 09:24 am.

    I think

    Eric and RB Holbrook have pretty much nailed it. “The Sociopath” seems an accurate title, and sadly, I’m pretty well convinced that Schwartz’s last paragraph in Eric’s story is likely to be true. His supporters, quite a few of whom have legitimate grievances, will get cold comfort from him in the end. Mr. Trump may have a shorter attention span than most of his fellow 1%’ers, but like many of his compatriots, he suffers from an egocentric view of the universe to go with that minuscule attention span. Mentally, at least, I shudder whenever I hear or read one of us ordinary citizens extolling Trump’s alleged virtues by starting with something like “We need a strong leader…” Virtually every dictatorship in history has come to power, or stayed in power, because of that sentiment.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/20/2016 - 10:22 am.

    Art imitating life or vice versa?

    Mr. Schwartz’s account reminds me of the story line in “House of Cards” involving the writer hired by the fictionalized President Underwood to spin his story. One wonders if Trump is as calculating and criminally minded as Underwood. While I’m no psychologist, we can be alert to signs of disturbance or personality disorders in ourselves and others.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/20/2016 - 10:41 am.


    I wonder if anyone has speculated whether Trump would meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD?
    The answer is yes from a quick Google search.

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 07/20/2016 - 12:16 pm.

    Please, everybody: Read the New Yorker article. That magazine, one of the most trusted for good reporting and great writing, is aware of how powerful the piece is, in its demolition of the very piece of Trump material that he bases his “I’m a great businessman on,” the book from 1987. With great caution, the magazine chose one of its most powerful and proven-accurate reporters to write the piece and make sure that the reporting was thorough, because this is a bombshell.

    This author, who because of his awful experience writing what Trump resents as “his” book, left journalism and now does something completely different. He hoped nothing would come of his selling his soul to the devil (as he portrays it) for that project.

    Trump may be psychologically unstable (see Republican-leaning David Brooks’ New York Times op-ed article from earlier this week) and he may have attention deficit syndrome, as the writer of “The Art of the Deal” portrays the Donald as incapable of paying attention for more than a couple of minutes, to anything. He has a volatile temper (see today’s papers about how he spent all day yesterday ranting and raving over the hubbub raised by his wife’s verbatim plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech). But if you put together all the information we’re now starting to get–and NOT from Fox News!–about how unsuited his personality is to the demands of the Presidency, Trump is possibly America’s Biggest Mistake.

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