Donald Trump has done it again. As one who has spent a lifetime violating laws and flouting rules, breaking norms is child’s play for this man-child. While Trump is happy to break norms just for sport, the covetous bully can’t resist breaking a norm if he smells gold at the end of what should be someone else’s beautiful rainbow.
If you haven’t heard, Trump has spent the past few months peddling an “original” book called Our Journey Together. He didn’t need a ghost writer for this one because it’s basically a compilation of photos from his failed presidency. Trump didn’t take any of the photos—he simply had to frown for the camera as White House photographers went about chronicling this wildly destructive era in American history.
On Thursday, The New York Times revealed that Trump’s lame publishing venture comes with a dark, unsettling back story. As the Trump administration wrapped up its failed political experiment, the chief White House photographer, Shealah Craighead, announced her plan to publish a book of her best images from Trump’s tenure. This “bipartisan norm” has been followed without incident after every presidency since Reagan’s—until now.
Sensing an opportunity to snatch money before someone more deserving can take it, Trump first asked Craighead for a quid pro quo—a share of the proceeds in return for writing a foreword to help promote her book. As the Times points out, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both wrote forewords to their photographers’ books out of admiration, with no strings attached.
Trump then moved the goal posts all the way off the field, telling Craighead not to proceed with her book (and forego her six-digit advance). Instead, Trump’s new plan was to publish his own book using her photos as well as ones taken by other White House photographers. Trump wished to do his own deal that would bring a multimillion-dollar advance. After all, according to Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich, “President Trump has always had an eye for beautiful and engaging curation, which came alive through the pages of his book.”
The Times also revealed that Trump insulted Craighead and criticized her photography skills in front of others on multiple occasions. Now that Trump’s book (which only mentions the photographers’ names once at the end) has earned at least $20 million, according to estimates, and after questioning from the Times, Trump decided to call Craighead this week to pretend they will work together on a new book. Knowing the Times would publish what he said, Trump told Craighead, “It would be fun to do so.”
Of course, Trump has already had his fun, having broken a norm for personal gain at another’s financial and reputational expense. As Trump (or was it Tony Schwartz?) wrote in The Art of the Deal, “The real excitement is playing the game.” Sadly, that is the only excitement this depraved narcissist is capable of feeling, and one of the many reasons why Trump remains a danger to all who deal with him.