Tony Schwartz is a man who has nothing to gain and everything to lose by publicly criticizing Donald Trump. However, now that Trump is on a very real and plausible path to becoming President of the United States, he is doing just that. Schwartz is largely responsible for Trump’s becoming a public figure beyond New York tabloids and real estate gurus because of a fateful decision he made in the 1980s: to be the ghostwriter for the New York Times bestseller that Trump is always bragging about, The Art of the Deal. The book is largely touted as a great business book and the life story of a man who is better at business than anyone the world has ever seen. According to Schwartz, though, the book is also largely a lie.
For one thing, Trump didn’t write one word of The Art of the Deal. Schwartz wrote the book, and this is confirmed by Random House, the book’s publisher. In fact, according to Schwartz, he doesn’t think Trump has so much as read a single book cover to cover in his adult life, and he certainly hasn’t written one. Schwartz has stayed silent on Trump’s shortcomings for decades, because to him, despite what he calls Trump’s “if not reprehensible, at least morally questionable” behavior, there was no real, urgent reason to speak out. However, now that Trump is running for president, the world’s fate could very well depend upon as many people as possible knowing just who Donald Trump is.
To that end, Schwartz, seeking to save America and the world from a Donald Trump presidency, has decided to give an in-depth portrait of the Donald Trump he knows – and believes the world should know – to The New Yorker. In the interview, Schwartz says that The Art of the Deal almost never was, for one reason: Trump himself. According to Schwartz, he tried repeatedly, week after week, to interview Trump for the book. However, Trump seemed to have an attention span that isn’t even on par with that of a small child, and the interviews rendered little to no information. After the talks in Trump Tower in New York City got Schwartz nowhere on the manuscript, he finally decided that, in a last ditch effort, he would spend time at Trump’s Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago compound. The results were the same, and Schwartz wound up on a plane back to New York, frustrated and ready to scrap the idea of working with Trump altogether. Then, he had a stroke of brilliance: if talking to Trump didn’t work, he’d give Trump what he constantly craved – his undivided attention.
That is how Tony Schwartz got to know the real Donald Trump. He literally glued himself to Trump’s side for a year and a half, even listening in on Trump’s business calls. During this time, Schwartz became increasingly disturbed by Trump’s behavior. He kept a journal in which he chronicled his time at Trump’s side, and his findings are most alarming. He described Trump as attention-seeking to the extreme, a wild, uncontrollable force who constantly spent more money than he had, went deep into debt on dead end projects, and bulldozed his way past anyone who got in his way. Most alarming, though, was the fact that the only thing Trump was interested in was, well, himself. As long as you heaped unwavering loyalty and praise upon him, Trump was happy. If you crossed him, you had better run for the hills. Most disturbing was Trump’s constant stream of lies. Schwartz told the New Yorker:
He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.
He went on to say:
Lying is second nature to him. More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.
When Schwartz realized that there was no separating Trump’s lies from the man himself for the sake of the book, he put a line in -speaking as Trump would- that makes Trump’s behavior seem almost okay:
I play to people’s fantasies. . . . People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.
Perhaps the most concise description of what Schwartz observed during his time with Trump comes from the aforementioned journal:
Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money. I created a character far more winning than Trump actually is. One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’
Now, Schwartz deeply regrets doing what he did. It is worth it to read the entire piece, though lengthy, here, in The New Yorker.
In addition to this interview, Schwartz spoke to Fortune, and did a number of television interviews, including Good Morning America and MSNBC Live in recent days and weeks, in an effort to get his message out to as many people as possible.
First, an interview from July 18, 2016 with Good Morning America:
And secondly, his appearance on MSNBC Live:
And a short clip of an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher:
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) July 21, 2016
This is a man who has nothing to gain by doing this. Trump is already threatening him and harassing him, and has sicced his lawyers on Schwartz. Trump’s notoriously hateful fans are sending him horrific letters. He’s even being sued. Luckily, Schwartz worked with Trump in the days before Trump had the sense to force people to keep quiet via non-disclosure agreements, so he can continue to speak out. However, this man’s life is being turned upside down. He could have kept quiet. He could have turned a blind eye. But he knows what is at stake, and is willing to take the risks.
Listen to Tony Schwartz, America. Our very civilization may depend on it.
You can follow him on Twitter as well, where he tweets about all things Trump.
Featured image via John Moore/Getty Images