Donald Trump understandably avoids talking about his obvious failures, such as Trump Airlines, Trump Steaks, and Trump University, which collapsed a few years ago under the weight of its massive fraud. But Trump’s “achievements” seem to require an asterisk. For example, when Trump claims he won the 2016 election fair and square, an asterisk is needed to point out that his narrow Electoral College win came thanks to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” interference, as the Mueller report put it not long ago. When Trump proclaims, “The wall is being built!” an asterisk is needed to point out that it’s just a replacement, it’s actually a fence, Mexico isn’t paying for it, and it’s not the impenetrable fortress Trump promised it would be.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted: “Wow! Was just told that my son’s book, ‘Triggered,’ is Number One on The New York Times Bestseller List. Congratulations Don!” Wow, indeed. To the casual observer of politics, it might seem as if Don Jr. is a masterful writer who is continuing the literary success of his father, whose first book, The Art of the Deal, published by Random House in 1987, was also a New York Times #1 bestseller.
But an asterisk is also needed here, because Tony Schwartz, who was listed as a co-author, is actually the book’s one true author. As Random House’s former publisher Howard Kaminsky confirmed to The New Yorker in 2016, “Trump didn’t write a postcard for us.” On Wednesday night, Schwartz, who has regretted his role and donates his royalties to charities, appeared on CNN to tell Anderson Cooper that he believes Donald Trump “has Impostor Syndrome at a level probably previously unknown to man.”
Schwartz’ insightful remark speaks to the obscene level of deceit and moral depravity that lurks behind Trump’s so-called accomplishments. Trump is not interested in true achievement but is instead obsessed with appearances. What matters to Trump is simply that people believe he won — winning or attaining success in an authentic, ethical, and respectable manner is something that normal human beings find fulfilling but that stays off Trump’s radar.
This pathetic mentality appears to be a core requirement for bearing the Trump name. Like his father’s book, Don Jr.’s debut #1 New York Times bestseller also requires an asterisk. According to Times policy, if “[i]nstitutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases” are included in the calculations, a bestseller is flagged. This is because some authors try to rig the system by having organizations buy several copies at once. Don Jr.’s bestseller not only received this mark of suspicion, but it stands as the lone title on the list to have it. Because the Times has reserved the asterisk for another purpose, suspect books like Don Jr.’s get a dagger (†) next to the title. What a perfect symbol for cutting through the Trump family’s B.S.