Richard Elfers

Richard Elfers

‘Art of the Deal’ still key to understanding Trump

The book gave me a deeper understanding of President Trump and his unique style of leadership.

“My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases I still end up with what I want” (P. 45 paperback). These words, in Donald Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” written in 1987, reflect his bargaining strategy.

After having watched President Trump’s negotiation style for the past almost two years, his statements, strategy, and style are quite closely in sync with how his ghost writer, Tony Schwartz, describes him in the book.

Trump states, “I like thinking big. I always have.” He has certainly shown himself to be an “out-of-the-box” thinker in regard to NATO, NAFTA and North Korea. Never mind that his actions terrify many Americans who are afraid that he is either way out of his element, dishonest, or that he doesn’t understand the long-term consequences of his decisions.

Trump’s public view of the media has changed since 1987. I include three of his media strategies from his book:

1) “… If you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you. … I don’t mind controversy. … Sometimes they (the media) write positively, and sometimes they write negatively. But from a pure business point of view, the benefits of being written about have far outweighed the drawbacks.”

2) “The other thing I do when I talk with reporters is to be straight. I try not to deceive them or be defensive, because those are precisely the ways most people get themselves into trouble with the press. Instead, when a reporter asks me a tough question, I try to frame a positive answer, even if that means shifting the ground.”

3) “The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. … I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion” (P. 57-58).

CNN’s programming deals almost exclusively with what Trump is doing. He has not changed his style or his strategy since the 1980s. Even the “liberal” media seems to be unconsciously promoting his agenda with its negativity about him. It’s all good and carries out his goals.

Trump offers a negative commentary about former New York Mayor Ed Koch (1978-1989) that offers an insight into his first two years as president:

“Koch has achieved something quite miraculous. He’s presided over an administration that is both pervasively corrupt and totally incompetent. … Meanwhile, no fewer than a dozen Koch appointees and cohorts have been indicted on charges of bribery, perjury, and accepting kickbacks, or have been forced to resign in disgrace after admitting various ethical transgressions. … The irony is that Koch made his reputation by boasting about his integrity and incorruptibility. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that if people he appoints prove to be corrupt, then in the end he must take responsibility” (P. 343-344).

This quotation brings to mind the mass of Mueller indictments and convictions of several of his appointees and associates. I wonder if President Trump ever sees the irony in his criticism of Mayor Koch 31 years later.

These facts bring to mind the Apostle Paul’s observation in Romans 2:1: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

“The Art of the Deal” gave me a deeper understanding of President Trump and his unique style of leadership. Schwartz portrays Trump as more complex and more competent than he is currently portrayed in the media.

President Trump constantly points out his several successes and his promises kept: The appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the 2017 tax cut, his pressuring of Europe, China, Canada and Mexico and others. Meanwhile, his opponents emphasize the thousands of lies he has uttered. So, who is the real Trump, the promise keeper or the habitual liar? Or is he both?

Based upon recently revealed information that his father actually left him $413 million, and the fact that he has had four bankruptcies, the first in 1991, a more complicated and less self-congratulatory picture emerges that the book ignores completely.

Schwartz does do a superb job of mirroring Trump’s “voice,” though. Since reading the book, I’ve watched Trump’s speeches, press interviews, and conferences through different eyes. Friend or foe of Trump should read it to understand this unique and outrageous person who now inhabits the Oval Office and dominates the government.

Richard Elfers is an adjunct professor at Green River College and a columnist for Reporter newspapers. Reach him at editor@courierherald.com.

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