Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is the author of the book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” and co-author with Peter Eisner of “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Donald Trump Jr. has already copped to being a troll. In his new book he offers proof that he is also a huckster who goes all-in with the entertaining gobbledygook associated with the family name. Sometimes he’s a whining victim. Sometimes he’s a hero. Always he’s a chip off the old block.
The nonsense begins with the title, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” “Triggered,” used this way, refers to a person’s feeling of sudden distress over something said or done. Since Trump Jr. is pictured on the cover you might think he’s telling us he feels triggered.
Not at all! In Trump Jr.’s world, “triggered” is uttered with a sneer in the direction of wimps and cowards. Surely the President’s son, who has slain an elephant while on safari, doesn’t want us to think he’s a triggered softy. What, oh what is Donald Trump Jr. trying to say?
Normally the subtitle would provide a clue, but do we really need one? All you have to do is consult Twitter to discover that hate is Trump Jr.’s thing. Remember how a few months ago he spread the idea that Sen. Kamala Harris is not an “American Black?” (“Is this true? Wow!” he added to the retweet, before deleting it all later. Trump Jr.’s spokesperson told the New York Times that the tweet was deleted because people were “misconstruing the intent” of the tweet.)
How about the tweet comparing immigrants to dangerous animals that belong behind walls? And if there’s such a big, scary effort to silence him – per the book title – how did he manage to get this published by a mainstream media conglomerate? The mind reels. And we haven’t even opened the book yet.
But we do.
In its first few chapters, readers who attempt to follow Trump Jr.’s words will find hot-button assertions – “We’ve allowed … anti-Semitism to run rampant throughout our government” – but no follow-up facts. Who are these anti-Semites? How does he know they exist throughout the government? You won’t find out here because Don Jr. isn’t trying to inform you. He’s just trying to scare you.
Here the “angry mobs” threatening the peace are not comprised of Trump rallygoers screaming “send them back,” referring to immigrants, but of journalists reporting the news. The author declares Russia’s well-documented attack on the 2016 election “a hoax” and judges former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who proved it happened, a “feeble old fool.”
Nevertheless, Trump Jr. seizes up Mueller’s report to brag that it offered “zero evidence” that his father, the President, obstructed justice. Let’s set aside the vast evidence of obstruction in the report (all of which President Donald Trump denies) and ask why the author would question Mueller’s mentation and then, a few pages later, cite his work as conclusive.
No logic could explain why Trump Jr. would depend on a fool for reassurance, but then logic isn’t the point. This is a book of fanciful notions intended to make us both pity the son of a billionaire president but also see in his tale the origin story of the superhero who will save us.
Our pity is evoked by lines like this: “As the son of a rich guy living in 2019, I’m essentially not allowed to have an opinion anymore, let alone express that opinion in public.” I’ll give the author points for consistency in this instance. In 2014, he expressed the very same complaint, in very similar language, when I interviewed him at Trump Tower. Then, he said, “It’s very difficult to even have an opinion anymore as a privileged white guy who is second or third generation in a family company.”
Our hope is supposed to be stirred by Trump Jr.’s biographical anecdotes, which he uses to create a mash-up identity. It must be granted, of course, that anyone born Donald Trump Jr. would live an uncommon and interesting life. The problem is that he writes about it in such an uninteresting way.
Trump Jr. notes bizarre experiences that include tabloid sex scandals involving his parents and luxuries of the sort most people only imagine. But he wants us to know that he’s really a regular guy at heart – he likes guns! – and he wants us to bond with him over the ridiculousness of his mother’s attempt to order chardonnay at Taco Bell.
Trump family lore is so full of falsities, including the oft-repeated claim that the same woman who couldn’t fathom Taco Bell was an Olympic skier (she wasn’t), that the personal narrative that Trump Jr. offers cannot be considered reliable or informative. The same is true with the elementary school-level-history thrown into the mixture. Add the writer’s many attempts to breathe life into ancient culture wars about the Sixties and you get something close to a front-porch monologue issued by a slick, young plutocrat posing as a resentful old coot.
If you think that all of the above suggests that this bound object bearing Donald Trump Jr.’s name and likeness is hardly enlightening, you are correct. “Triggered” is not so much a book as it is a blast of marketing concepts to help true believers stay committed to the Trump cause.
The President may be on his way to impeachment, but his son is here to offer an alternate reality. If the book’s spot on the Amazon bestseller list is any indication, great numbers will buy what he’s selling. With Trumps that has always been the point.