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Bowden writes: "I spent a long, awkward weekend with Donald Trump in November 1996, an experience I feel confident neither of us would like to repeat."

Donald Trump perched on a parrot sculpture in his Mar-a-Lago estate in May 1996. (photo: Brian Smith/Corbis)
Donald Trump perched on a parrot sculpture in his Mar-a-Lago estate in May 1996. (photo: Brian Smith/Corbis)


Donald Trump Really Doesn't Want Me to Tell You This, But...

By Mark Bowden, Vanity Fair

13 December 15

 

spent a long, awkward weekend with Donald Trump in November 1996, an experience I feel confident neither of us would like to repeat.

He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States?

His latest outrageous edict on banning all Muslims from entering the country comes as no surprise to me based on the man I met nearly 20 years ago. He has no coherent political philosophy, so comparisons with Fascist leaders miss the mark. He just reacts. Trump lives in a fantasy of perfection, with himself as its animating force.

Before I met him back in 1996, I felt bad for him. He’d had a rough 10 years. He had just turned 50 and wasn’t happy about it. He looked soft, from his growing jowls to the way his belt bit deeply into the spreading roll of his belly. As a businessman he had crashed and burned, rescued only by creditors who had to bail him out lest they be dragged down with him. His enterprises were being run by court-appointed managers, who had put him back on his financial feet mostly by investing heavily in Atlantic City, which was then on the rise.

He had insulated himself from failure with bluster. In public he was still The Donald—still rich, still working hard at being a symbol of excess. I was working on a profile of him for Playboy, which was his kind of magazine. He considered himself the magazine’s beau ideal, and was inordinately proud of having been featured on the magazine’s cover some years before. His then wife, Marla Maples, told him, sardonically, that he ought to buy the magazine: “You bought the Miss Universe Pageant; it’s right up your alley.” He must have figured it was a safe bet to agree to cooperate for my story. But well before I left him, we both knew he probably wouldn’t like the final product.

I was prepared to like him as I boarded his black 727 at La Guardia for the flight to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home—prepared to discover that his over-the-top public persona was a clever pose. That underneath was an ironic wit, an ordinary but clever guy. But no. With Trump, what you see is what you get. His behavior was cringe-worthy. He showed off the gilded interior of his plane—calling me over to inspect a Renoir on its walls, beckoning me to lean in closely to see . . . what? The luminosity of the brush strokes? The masterly use of color? No. The signature. “Worth $10 million,” he told me. Time after time the stories he told me didn’t check out, from Michael Jackson’s romantic weekend at Mar-a-Lago with his then wife Lisa Marie Presley (they stayed at opposite ends of the estate) to the rug in one bedroom he said was designed by Walt Disney when he was 18 (it wasn’t) to the strength of his marriage to Maples (they would split months later).

It was hard to watch the way he treated those around him, issuing peremptory orders—“Polish this, Tony. Today.” He met with the lady who selected his drapery for the Florida estate—“The best! The best! She’s a genius!”—who had selected a sampling of fabrics for him to choose from, all different shades of gold. He left the choice to her, saying only, “I want it really rich. Rich, rich, elegant, incredible.” Then, “Don’t disappoint me.” It was a pattern. Trump did not make decisions. He surrounded himself with “geniuses” and delegated. So long as you did not “disappoint” him—and it was never clear how to avoid doing so—you were gold.

What was clear was how fast and far one could fall from favor. The trip from “genius” to “idiot” was a flash. The former pilots who flew his plane were geniuses, until they made one too many bumpy landings and became “fucking idiots.” The gold carpeting selected in his absence for the locker rooms in the spa at Mar-a-Lago? “What kind of fucking idiot . . . ?” I watched as Trump strutted around the beautifully groomed clay tennis courts on his estate, managed by noted tennis pro Anthony Boulle. The courts had been prepped meticulously for a full day of scheduled matches. Trump took exception to the design of the spaces between courts. In particular, he didn’t like a small metal box—a pump and cooler for the water fountain alongside—which he thought looked ugly. He first questioned its placement, then crudely disparaged it, then kicked the box, which didn’t budge, and then stooped—red-faced and fuming—to tear it loose from its moorings, rupturing a water line and sending a geyser to soak the courts. Boulle looked horrified, a weekend of tennis abruptly drowned. Catching a glimpse of me watching, Trump grimaced.

“I guess that’ll have to be in your story,” he said.

“Pretty much,” I told him.

This apparently worried him, because on the flight home a day later he had a proposition.

“I’m looking for somebody to write my next book,” he told me.

I told him that I would not be interested.

“Why not?” he asked. “All my books become best-sellers.”

The import was clear. There was money in it for me. Trump remains the only person I have ever written about who tried to bribe me.

As I’ve watched his improbable political rise, it is clear that he hasn’t changed. The very things that made him so unappealing apparently now translate into wide popular support. Apart from the comical ego, the errors, and the self-serving bluster, what you get from Trump are commonplace ideas pronounced as received wisdom. Begin registering all Muslims in America? Round up the families of suspected terrorists? Ban all Muslims from entering the country? Carpet-bomb ISIS-held territories in Iraq (killing the 98-plus percent of civilians who are, in effect, being held hostage there by the terror group and turning a war against a tiny fraction of the world’s Muslims into a global religious crusade)? Using nuclear weapons? The ideas that pop into his head are the same ones that occur to any teenager angry about terror attacks. They appeal to anyone who can’t be bothered to think them through—can’t be bothered to ask not just the moral questions but the all-important practical one: Will doing this makes things better or worse? When you believe in your own genius, you don’t question your own flashes of inspiration.

I got a call from his office some days after my profile of him appeared in the May 1997 issue of Playboy. I had already heard how he’d blown his stack to Christie Hefner. I was traveling at the time, working on my book Black Hawk Down. The call came to me in a motel room in Colorado, from his trusty assistant, the late Norma Foerderer.

“Mr. Trump would like to talk to you,” she said.

I waited, sitting on the edge of the bed, bracing myself.

Foerderer came back on the line. She said:

“He’s too livid to speak.”


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+121 # CL38 2015-12-13 15:07
He IS too livid to speak...about anything. Too bad one of his 'talents' isn't listening.

Are you listening America???
 
 
+51 # babaregi 2015-12-13 16:29
"Trump lives in a fantasy of perfection, with himself as its animating force."

-------------------------

Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate reminds me of Mr. Roarke on the Fantasy Island '70's TV series (white suit and all).

I can almost hear Tattoo yelling: "Boss, da plane, da plane!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x_QbVDlLbI


And, yes Tattoo, what ever happened to da plane?

http://kfor.com/2013/05/06/fantasy-island-plane-used-to-smuggle-drugs-into-ok/
 
 
+39 # rich black 2015-12-13 16:37
Among the things that Trump has been able to keep out of the press is that he has a twin brother. Fortunately, I was able to obtain a photo of the two of them, side by side. It is very difficult to tell them apart:

http://static.boredpanda.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%8B%D0%B9-%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B6__700.jpg
 
 
+60 # rich black 2015-12-13 18:30
So what's Trump got right now? He has under 30% of the Republican vote, according to most polls. And, since only approximately 25% of US voters call themselves Republicans, that gives him a grand total of less than 8% of the combined US electorate.
 
 
+23 # Bruce Gruber 2015-12-14 08:05
Trump HAS the the BENEFIT of the schizophrenic ignorance of the 1% who 'competitively' allow their media 'tools' (simultaneously ) to profit from concentrating their 'influence' on promotion and entertaining puffery, while maintaining division among the American "unwashed and uneducated" masses of frustrated blamer's, indirectly dominating the 'politics' that enables them to profit from exploitation of resources, the environment and cheap labor.

Narrow minded, self-righteous and short sighted, their carrion-fed efforts persist "...for tomorrow they die".
 
 
+1 # Patriot 2015-12-17 12:16
Rich Black: Let's hope so.
 
 
+47 # dbrize 2015-12-13 18:46
Hey, this is a fun piece. Lord knows we need some laughs.

Like everything else written about "The Donald", it will invoke migraines in the heads of the powers that be (PTB) both right and left, provide lots of red meat for the Godwin's Law crowd along with chortles and guffaws from the unwashed masses who simply enjoy anyone like Trump, who appears to be sticking it to the PTB.

Fear not brethren, in the unlikely event "The Donald" ascends to take up residence in the WH, he will promptly be brought down to size by the very PTB whose hands he is currently biting:

"Do it our way Don baby or face impeachment or...". On this we can count.

Besides, if egoism, lying, philandering, temper tantrums and other such peccadilloes were disqualificatio ns for high office we would be taking names off buildings for the next decade or so.
 
 
+3 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-12-13 23:31
Time for the Supreme Court to step in and "select" Trump to be sure Reagan, Bush, Clinton, W.Bush, Obama policies as President are continued until they work.
 
 
-68 # KasC 2015-12-13 23:31
Trump's Tyrannical Tantrums are not totally useless. They remind us that right now he's got the popular vote because he's willing to be blatantly truthful, which intelligent and discerning people realize that sometimes he serves to bring out the "dirt" that has been hiding under the carpet for a long time. No one has thought of approaching him for public debate, which could be very revealing and educational for a lot of folks!
 
 
+41 # Peakspecies 2015-12-14 00:52
I'm amazed that anyone could be so clueless about what was just described about Trump. More evidence of the amazing filtering capacity of the human brain.
 
 
+34 # SusanT136 2015-12-14 07:53
Quoting KassyClemen:
Trump's Tyrannical Tantrums are not totally useless. They remind us that right now he's got the popular vote because he's willing to be blatantly truthful...


Saying something in a pompous, arrogant manner does not make it bold or true. It just makes the speaker look like a self important a--hole, which is the point of this piece. Trump is clueless as to any real policy or solutions, he just knows how to get people riled up at scapegoats like illegal immigrants. God forbid people realize that it's wealthy a--holes like him who are leeching money out of the economy into their own pockets at the expense of everyday citizens. Trump wants people to believe he's a self made man, a business genius. What a farce. This article mentions his multiple bankruptcies. Also Trump was a silver spoon child of a real estate tycoon whose fortune was fostered by FHA (government backed) loans for construction.
 
 
+14 # SusanT136 2015-12-14 08:15
However - despite my previous comment, I partly AGREE with Trump re: US trade policy. He has pointed out we are running a huge trade deficit (obvious, but many candidates don't want to talk about this), he's said our trade policy does not protect US businesses or workers (echoes of Bernie Sanders)and he's against the TPP, which all other Repubs are FOR and which of the Dems, only Bernie Sanders has consistently opposed. So I will grant that he does occasionally bring out inconvenient truths. The point of this article is that Trump is egotistical, juvenile and fickle, which are not qualities that lead to consistent good judgement. Even in regards to trade he's a hypocrite as he likes to blast China and Mexico yet his ties are manufactured in China. When this is pointed out to him he claims the US government has made manufacturing here too expensive. This ignores the true reason - the elimination of tariffs and the encouragement thru tax breaks of companies to move manufacturing overseas. So even when Trump puts his finger on a true problem, he gets it all wrong. Do we really want sweatshop wages and conditions here in the US, to make it "cheaper" to manufacture here?
 
 
+13 # bmiluski 2015-12-14 17:34
KassyClemen ..........
HE DOES NOT HAVE 30% OF THE POPULAR VOTE!!!! He has 30% of the REGISTERED republican vote.
 
 
+48 # Lennie 2015-12-13 23:43
Let's just make it short and sweet. Donald J. Trump is a jerk.
 
 
+26 # Peakspecies 2015-12-14 00:46
The term "jerk" is a gross understatement. I prefer the lengthy descriptions that spell out all the sordid aspects of the personality that such a large segments of Americans are apparently in love with.
 
 
+38 # dheiser41 2015-12-13 23:50
Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States?

This just illustrates how uninformed the electorate is in our country. They do not, or cannot, evaluate what is being said over the airwaves and in the print media. Reader Supported News needs to be our main source of honest reporting. That the masses listen to and accept what the corporate media feeds them is more than disappointing; We ought to be ashamed, and many of us are.
 
 
+22 # Doggone 2015-12-14 00:24
Oh wait, Donald is going to call you a liar and a loser. He has never owned up or taken responsibility for anything, don't expect it now!
 
 
+35 # Peakspecies 2015-12-14 00:27
"The ideas that pop into his head are the same ones that occur to any teenager angry about terror attacks. They appeal to anyone who can’t be bothered to think them through—can’t be bothered to ask not just the moral questions but the all-important practical one: Will doing this makes things better or worse? When you believe in your own genius, you don’t question your own flashes of inspiration."

Apparently, this has become the level of thinking employed by large segments of the American people. Otherwise, he wouldn't rank so high in the polls. What has happened to the so-called well informed American populace?
 
 
+12 # Thomas0008 2015-12-14 00:54
he's trump a chumpin folks, and it isn't pretty...
 
 
+26 # RMDC 2015-12-14 08:41
What's being described here is the classic sociopath, a malignant narcissist as they say in the trade. Trump simply wants to dominate everything he contacts, even the polish on a bannister. These people are often hucksters, mega-church evangelists, corporate ceos and politicians.

I really believe he will implode but I'd feel a lot better if it happened this week.

Sooner or later Trump will end up like he always ends up -- in the toilet bowl like a dump someone just dropped and he will be flushed into oblivion. Henceforth his name will be Donald Dump.
 
 
+4 # bullslam 2015-12-16 03:20
Quoting RMDC:
What's being described here is the classic sociopath, a malignant narcissist as they say in the trade. Trump simply wants to dominate everything he contacts, even the polish on a bannister. These people are often hucksters, mega-church evangelists, corporate ceos and politicians.


Agreed. The classic sociopath, and malignant narcissist -- and so many photos of Trump's face contorted in rage as he snarls at some rival. Add to that an army of authoritarian supporters who will happily defend his every faux pas attacking anybody who dares to criticize their new god with undying fierceness. What we have here is the nascent arising of a brutal dictatorship: Authoritarian submissives can sniff a true dominant from across the street. They, the submissives, are generally conservative. The Doms, on the other hand, are disruptive, making up their own rules. Read the longitudinal study of Authoritarianis m, by Bob Altemeyer, University of Manitoba. In fact, I just looked Altemeyer up; and he's gone further. He quotes the noted psychiatrist Erich Fromm. In Fromm's study of the Nuremberg trials, he arrives at the analysis that the German people suffered from a sickness, namely Sado-masochism. That is also my diagnosis of the supporters of Trump; Sado-masochisti c submissives who are looking for a dominant man to oppress them. Nietzsche maintained that Christianity is the religion of slaves. This is the real danger of Trump.
 
 
+18 # Shades of gray matter 2015-12-14 10:49
The Trumpeter may not win the nomination, but he has let the Dawgs out, opened Pandora's box. He has legitimized Street Thug Dominance; the arson and shots at mosques are indicators of things to come. Not just for Muslims.
 
 
+14 # Ralph 2015-12-14 18:26
I keep trying to make this point and it falls on deaf ears. It's all Islamophobia and Godwin's law at this point. Forget the fact that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Forget the fact that 4 million Muslims have been slaughtered since 9/11. Forget the fact that pig heads are being tossed at Mosques. It's full steam ahead in the war of terror and if it isn't Trump, it will be Rubio, Cruz or whatever hatemongering schlep the 1% can recruit for some good ole fashioned right wing sock puppetry. First they came for...
 
 
+8 # RMDC 2015-12-15 09:54
Ralph -- I hear you loud and clear. Trump, Cruise, and the rest of the Republican candidates are just mirrors held up to American society. They are playing to the worst aspects of American populism which has always been filled with racism, scapegoating of foreigners, isolationism, pro-corporatism , and rank self-interest. All these horrific qualities are stoked up by the military industrial complex because it furthers their corrupt activities.

All nations including America have bad aspects to them and bad qualities in people. the republicans are playing to the worst of these in America and stoking them up into a frenzy of idiotic hate.

Cruise said he would carpet bomb ISIS, not thinking that ISIS is embedded in cities where innocent people are trying to live. Does Cruise give a fuck? Not at all -- kill them all and let got sort them out.

The republicans are destroying themselves. All of this insanity probably only means a democrat in the White House. Now it is really important to help Sanders beat Hillary (who should be a republican).
 
 
+2 # chapdrum 2015-12-16 17:07
"...Doesn't want to me to tell you this..."

That if he is elected president, he will decline the office.

He is presently having the time of his life, turning up his nose and Mussoliniesque jaw at one and all. The president earns
$500,000 a year; that's chump change to Don.

He could not care less about government, except to keep it out of his affairs.
 

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