Thought Catalog, 2018
A rage to injure what’s injured us.
I was, like, the top-ranking guy in terms of the military. That doesn’t mean I was able to get along with people, because the reason I went [to military school] in the first place was that I didn’t get along with a lot of people.
According to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, Fred’s decision to send Trump to military school was “a very severe response to a kid who hadn’t gotten arrested and wasn’t involved in drinking and drugging. This was a profound rejection of Donald.”
At New York Military Academy, he won a medal for “neatness.” His roommate, who nicknamed him “Mr. Meticulous,” said Trump folded his towels and underwear “so that every single one was perfectly squared—like, insanely neat.”
Steve Bannon reminds my friend David Gavan, who used to live in London, of “the homeless/alcoholic Irishmen I’d see in Camden Town. A man who describes himself as a ‘street fighter’ tends to have been called ‘sissy’ during his school days.”
In “Bush’s War,” Robert Hass writes, “The military is an engineering profession. / Look at boys playing: they love / To figure out the ways to blow things up. / But the rest of us have to go along. / Why do we do it? Certainly there’s a rage / To injure what’s injured us.”
Fred informed everyone at his dinner table that he was ordering steak; therefore, everyone else would order steak. When Donald’s first wife, Ivana, said she didn’t want steak, she was rebuffed.
Steve Hassan says that cult leaders tend to “have a feeling of insecure attachment to their mother and father. For their entire lives, they’re compensating for that lack of sense of self by getting praise and kudos from the outside world. In Trump’s case, he was raised in the church of Norman Vincent Peale, where doubt was considered evil.”
I used to zap negativity mentally, but now it just bounces off me within a moment of getting near me.
October 20, 2015, Fox News, off-air—
Hannity: Numbers keep going up, up, up.
Trump: Hey, buddy, how are you?
Hannity: How we doing on that other project?
Trump: We’re doing good. Always doing good, you and I.
Hannity: When can we get together on that?
Trump: In November. Listen, you might ask me if I’d vote for [Jeb] Bush. Ask me that and I’ll give you a positive answer.
Hannity: That’s good. We’re leading with that. That’s good.
Trump says that Democrats who didn’t clap during his State of the Union speech “would rather see Trump do badly than Trump do well, okay? It’s very selfish. And it got to a point where I really didn’t want to look too much during the speech over to that side, because honestly it was bad energy. They were like death.”
In the NOVA episode “Extreme Animal Weapons,” University of Montana evolutionary biologist Doug Emlen argues that animals’ “weapons” evolve generation by generation via violent duels; his father, Stephen (a neurobiologist who has an endowed chair at Cornell and who has a minor role in the episode), had earlier formulated a theory about animals and their weaponry, but without his son’s emphasis on evolutionary adaptation. Does the show know it’s about itself?
A family friend on Fred and Donald: “The two of them together in the same room was very strange. They were both talking, supposedly to each other, but I was sure neither heard what the other was saying. They talked right past each other.”
We had a relationship that was almost businesslike.
Trump’s ghostwriter Tony Schwartz: “To survive, Trump felt compelled to go to war with the world. It was a binary, zero-sum choice for him. You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear, or you succumbed to it, as he thought his older brother had. This narrow, defensive outlook took hold at a very early age, and it never evolved.”
Trump gave the NYT obit writer this quote for her obit of Fred: “It [his father not expanding his real estate business into Manhattan] was good for me. You know, being the son of somebody: it could have been competition. This way, I got Manhattan all to myself!”
The degree of Trump’s obsession with Putin’s interference illegitimating his presidency is in direct proportion to his knowledge that Fred’s business success renders his son’s “accomplishments” imaginary (he would have made far more money investing the money he inherited from Fred in the stock market).
“I wasn’t going to read it because I’m so tired of anti-Trump shit, but I love the book, agree with everything Shields nails about this moment. It’s the best summation of Trump I’ve come across. Such a relief to see someone get it. I was reading passages to my millennial Communist ‘Trump is going to kill us all’ bf, who didn’t say anything, just rolled away.” —Bret Easton Ellis
“Shields’s most ‘accessible’ book and probably his best. Impossible to put down—a polyphonic bricolage that is both absolutely of this moment and deserving of a burial in a time capsule to be opened at another age. The clinical depression of our current historical circumstances is never absent from these pages, but while reading them, one does so with exultation at seeing Trump and his era so exactly skewered.” —Jonathan Raban
“No other book approaches the man and the situation in quite this way: the problem isn’t out there; it’s in us. A book (deserving of a wide readership) for those who have a bit of trouble with the left and a ton of trouble with the right. I love the artfully and skillfully prismatic way it gets at the man and our collective arrival here.” —Whitney Otto
“Marvelously, maddeningly compelling.” —Bob Shacochis
“This is indeed the manual for beating bullies that we’ve all been waiting for.” —Amitava Kumar
“As a person on whom nothing is lost, who goes on seeing after he shuts his eyes and never stops thinking, Shields has experienced the age of Trump at a level that many folks couldn’t bear. Here we have a record so rich in insights, reflections, and found absurdities that it is a model for consciousness under siege in any period, not just our own.” —Walter Kirn