Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate
Topics

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

Tony Schwartz provides an alarming portrait of the Donald Trump he got to know.

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.

Article continues after advertisement

“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.’”

Article continues after advertisement

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.