Appearing two pages apart, the boxer and the president inspire Trump's tough guy approach to foreign policy. He likes Roosevelt's notion of walking softly while carrying a "big stick," and he admires the wisdom in Tyson's observation that "everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
These gems support a vague argument in favor of military strength and diplomatic toughness. Both of these qualities have long been lacking in U.S. policy, says Trump. He doesn't offer much detail on his plan to restore them, but then again, what could you expect from a book of just 208 pages that lacks an index, a list of sources or footnotes? (However, it does come with a lengthy list of Trump holdings and folio of photographs in which the pictures of Trump's various properties outnumber those of his family.)
Published by Simon & Schuster with a list price for the hardcover of $25 ($12.99 as an e-book), "Crippled America" argues for higher taxes on financial managers, repeal of Obamacare, making concealed carry gun permits valid in every state, and a host of other changes described in the barest terms.
Trump offers personal anecdotes as proof of his policy analysis, skipping over some moments when he contradicts himself.
In one passage he cities a visit with unnamed Kuwaiti businesspeople as proof of the nation's economic woes. He reports they told him, "No no no, we do not like the United States for investment purposes." A few pages later, Trump notes with a dire tone that "China holds more of our debt, $1.5 trillion, than any other country." Obviously, China's purchase of American securities is an investment, and it signals confidence in the U.S. economy. Clearly the Chinese and the Kuwaitis disagree.
Of course few purchasers will buy "Crippled America" expecting detailed policy proposals. This is a campaign product, and it delivers the candidate almost as you would find him at a rally. "I'm a fighter," he writes. "Knock me down and I come back even stronger. I love it." Here too we can find lots of "winning" (by Trump) and "losing" (by America's leaders) and many promises to win on the nation's behalf.
As a biographer who interviewed him five times, and reviewed thousands of pages of reports on his activities, I can say that Trump has made most of these points before. Many are variations on themes he established decades ago when he began building a public persona to benefit his business interests.
So much of "Crippled America" is drawn from Trump's experience on the campaign trail that it often reads like a sugarcoated report from the stump. In Trump's telling, you won't find the empty chairs
at his meeting with black businesspeople or the angry supporters
who manhandled protesters. However he eagerly recounts how "we had to move our rallies into football stadiums and convention centers." He adds, "The enthusiasm was based on pure love and love of what we are doing."
Those who don't love Trump and what he is doing can be found asking him questions on TV and writing about him in print. "For the record," Trump writes, "I think Fox News and CNN treated me badly" during televised debates. He notes that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was "clearly out to get me" and he insists that the news media are generally preoccupied with "the same silly `gotcha' games."
This lament about news reporters and analysts who ask questions that reveal gaps in a candidate's claims is being echoed by a great many in the GOP who insist that Republican candidates are being probed unfairly. The strategy of demonizing the media goes back at least as far as the Nixon years and is rolled out every election season. The "gotcha" complaint is of more recent vintage. In 2008, then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin raised it after her bumbling interview with Katie Couric.
Trump, who has dealt with the press for about 40 years, is a more far more adept interview subject than Palin and has thought so much about the mass media that he devotes an entire chapter to it. As Trump tears at the notion that the press seeks to inform and enlighten, he stumbles into some inconsistencies. In one passage he notes, with pride, "I use the media the way the media uses me, to attract attention." But a few paragraphs later he writes, "Anybody who believes I can use the media is absolutely wrong. Nobody can use the press. It's too big, too widespread."
As proof of the media bias against him Trump offers two quotes, apparently headlines, from the coverage of his campaign kickoff speech. He reports that one said, "Trump calls all immigrants criminals" and another declared, "Trump calls all Mexicans rapists." If these headlines actually appeared in June, they are exceedingly difficult to locate today. An Internet search turned up neither.
Accuracy is not a strong feature of this book, even when Trump talks about himself, which he does almost continually. (Trump uses his life experience to illustrate everything from energy issues to health care. In his telling, he started his professional life at "a relatively small real estate company based in Brooklyn." In fact the Trump organization built by his father, Fred, was one of the biggest in New York City -- it was based in Brooklyn, and the Trump operation counted about 15,000 apartments in that borough and in Queens. By the time Donald undertook his first big project, the Trump holdings were worth
an estimated $200 million, which made his dad one of the richest men in the country.
And about that first project. In Donald Trump's retelling of the story of the renovation of the old Commodore Hotel it was "on the verge of becoming a welfare hotel." This is not the case. The hotel was in business until the very end, and its owners were too concerned about maintaining its value to consider what Trump suggests. Also, Trump repeats the claim that he received little help from his father, other than a $1 million loan. The truth is that Fred Trump guaranteed the project himself, and put both his financial and political credibility on the line so his son could succeed.
It's hardly surprising that Fred Trump gets less credit than he deserves. Throughout the book, Donald Trump gives short shrift to others, even when he praises them. Barbara Res, the engineer he hired to oversee construction of Trump Tower, isn't named, but she is noted as an example of how Trump cares about women.
No person is described in real detail, not even the members of his family. Although Trump expresses deep concern and affection for the heartland Americans who turn out for his rallies, not a single one of them is revealed in his book.
Trump, however, is revealed so fully that future generations may regard this book as a window into his psyche. Most telling of all may be the fact that he begins the text with a reflection on his own reflection. By this, I mean, the story of how he came to select the photo of himself that appears on the jacket cover:
"I wanted a picture where I wasn't happy, a picture that reflected the anger and unhappiness that I feel, rather than joy. There's nothing to be joyful about." As Trump proceeds to explain, at modest length, the country is an unhappy mess.
Fortunately, he concludes, he is offering himself to fix it. Why should we trust him? The answer can be found in his business success. For these, just check the back of the book for the list of places and things that he owns, including his Boeing 757, his Cessna Citation jet and his three helicopters.