(This review is taken from The American Spectator’s February 2000 issue.)
The America We Deserve
Donald J. Trump with Dave Shiflett
Renaissance Books / 286 pages / $24.95
Reviewed by Dave Shiflett
Editors’ note: No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: This review is indeed written by the writer who co-wrote the book under review. The age of New Politics demands new approaches. So enjoy this New Review.
President Trump—now there’s a bold concept for this new millennium.
It’s not for everyone. Donald J. Trump, the nation’s most flamboyant billionaire, has deeply alarmed the political class by threatening to wade into its most sacred process and buy its most exalted office-without its permission! Politics Inc. is outraged. Murdoch’s BeltwayStandard goes so far as to call Trump a chump—on its front page! Other Toadtown analysts, including the Washington Post’s fashion writer, insist the man has no substance.
But Trump has a great deal of substance—about $5 billion worth—and says he may be willing to spend $100 million to convince America that what it really needs is a real estate guy in its top political job. His budding relationship with politics also reflects the workings of a very canny political mind. A plurality of voters are now independent of party loyalty. Trump is independent—both of party and of financial worry. Or, as he puts it, Trump has one financial backer: Trump. And so this most independent of men is courting a nation increasingly populated by political individualists. It could be a potent equation.
So what’s the deal with Trump? In The American Spectator’stime-honored tradition of investigative journalism, we have looked beyond the glitter and gab to get the true picture of the man. In fact, it can be rightly said that we have written the book on Trump—and in this reviewer’s opinion it’s a pretty good read. Indeed, if America begins choosing its presidents according to the quality of the books they produce, Donald Trump will coast into that somewhat smallish white rambler on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The competition shall be trashed in due time. But first, in the service of history, it is important to chronicle how Trump’s latest book, The America We Deserve, came into being. Apparently by late 1998, Trump—from this point on, let me call him Mr. Trump—had become convinced that the time might be right for a run at the presidency. His name had been bandied about before; fellow New Yorkers had asked him to consider running for that city’s mayorship, or for governor. But why go for peanuts when the presidency, brought to a low state by Bill Clinton, is on the block?
Reviewing his assets, Mr. Trump found he held commanding leads in vital areas: money, name recognition (or, as it is more properly called, celebrity), youth, a mailing list of 6.5 million people, and chicks so beautiful they could raise the sap in a piano leg. He had some hopes and fears about America, and the suspicion that he was at least as competent to head the government as Clinton. All he needed was someone to help him put his bid to prose.
“Who is the most eminent hack writer in America?” Mr. Trump is said to have asked his pin-striped aide, Roger Stone. “I’ll make a few calls,” the latter is reported to have replied.
Soon enough, one of the great collaborative literary efforts of the modern era was born—the perfect union between a man of high achievement and a hack writer who, according to close friends, would write his own mother’s death warrant for a quarter a word. (Like Mr. Trump, this hack sometimes refers to himself in the third person.)
The first meeting between the two took place last spring in Mr. Trump’s 26th Floor Manhattan office, a Krugerrand’s toss from Central Park. Mr. Trump laid out his vision as his hack took furious notes. Occasionally the phone would ring and Mr. Trump would discuss the ups and downs of his fabled life. At one point, the name Bianca floated through the office like a gossamer-winged succubus. “This guy makes Warren Beatty look like a monk,” the hack marveled to himself.
But the most riveting moment came when Mr. Trump suddenly took on a far-away look while recalling a warning his uncle had given him while Mr. Trump was still a boy. His uncle, an MIT professor, foresaw the day of miniaturized weapons. “One day,” Mr. Trump quoted him, “somebody will be able to detonate a suitcase-sized bomb in Manhattan that will flatten the entire city.” Thus was born what is perhaps the most mesmerizing chapter in TAWD—one in which, among other things, Mr. Trump warns that under his presidency, North Korea could experience some live-ammo discipline.
But there are many other great chapters.
In fact, as any reader will be forced to admit, the book shows Mr. Trump to be a sensible and erudite fellow. What’s more, it provides the clearest exploration of America’s New Politics, which can be understood as the attempt by a highly diverse voter coalition to achieve a thoroughly American purpose: Throw the bums out. And in this case, put a rich guy in.