Of course, you’ve heard of Donald Trump, presidential candidate and self-described genius businessman. However, you may not know the name Tony Schwartz, but in the pages of Trump’s best-selling 1987 memoir, The Art Of the Deal, ghostwriter Schwartz was Donald Trump.
In the July 25 issue of The New Yorker, writer Jane Mayer relates her conversation with Schwartz, who in the years since the publication of The Art Of the Deal has come to regret his part in making the GOP candidate look like a smart and savvy businessman. Schwartz says that as much as anything Trump is a self-aggrandizing pathological liar.
Mayer’s article describes how The Art Of the Deal came into being, and how Tony Schwartz came to be involved. In 1985 Schwartz had written a piece critical of Trump for New York magazine, but he was surprised to learn that Trump loved it. Schwartz told Mayer,
Trump didn’t fit any model of human being I’d ever met. He was obsessed with publicity, and he didn’t care what you wrote. Trump only takes two positions. Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest. I became the greatest.
When Schwartz arrived at Trump Tower to conduct an interview with Trump for Playboy, he found the real estate mogul rather tight-lipped about answering his questions. After a short time Trump revealed that he had just signed a book deal and didn’t want to give away too much new information about himself. Schwartz says he told Trump he should write a book called The Art Of the Deal. The Donald liked the idea so much he offered Schwartz the job of ghostwriting it on the spot.
Donald Trump, described by Schwartz, is a man who is anything but qualified to be president. The characteristics he saw Trump exhibit during the writing of The Art Of the Deal were impatience and a remarkably short attention span. Schwartz says Trump looked like “a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom” as he sat for questions from the writer.
Schwartz says that Trump’s inability to focus on something for more than a short time has given him “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” According to the author that this is why Trump prefers to get his information from tv — it comes in short sound bites that he can process quickly. He speculates that the Republican nominee has never read a book straight through in his life, and notes that during the entire time he spent with Trump he never saw a book on his desk, in his office or apartment.
Eventually, Schwartz came up with a better idea than doing a traditional interview, which Trump was obviously ill-suited for. Rather than asking Trump questions, he proposed listening in on phone calls and following him around as he went about his daily routine. Trump loved the idea.
During this time Schwartz kept a diary in which he observed that Trump’s biggest need is for the public’s attention. In that diary he wrote in 1986, “All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular.”
But Tony Schwartz’s biggest contribution to our knowledge about Trump is to burst the bubble of those who claim they support his candidacy because he “tells it like it is.” Far from it, Schwartz says. Donald Trump is a pathological liar. He told Mayer,
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.
Schwartz even created a term for Trump’s lies. He called them “truthful hyperbole.” Writing as Trump, this is how he described the term in The Art Of the Deal:
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.
Now Schwartz says that “truthful hyperbole” is a contradiction in terms. It’s a way of saying “It’s a lie, but who cares?”
As the project continued, Schwartz says he became less and less enthusiastic, and had to remind himself that he was writing Trump’s story not his own, and that he was getting paid to do so. He had wanted to make Trump out to be the hero throughout, but he soon found that in some of the mogul’s dealings there was no way to portray him as anything but a villain, so he left out unflattering events.
One of the biggest myths about Trump that came out of The Art Of the Deal is the notion that he is some sort of brilliant, infallible businessman. But almost simultaneously with the book came a series of failures that almost cost Trump his fortune. Schwartz says that as he was writing, Trump’s assets were largely in casinos. Of course he claimed that they were raking in millions, but in fact, every one of them was failing.
Mayer, who spoke to Trump on the phone, says Trump insists that he, not Schwartz, wrote The Art Of the Deal. But that is disputed by Howard Kaminsky, former head of Random House, who said, “Trump didn’t write a postcard for us!”
As expected, thanks to his revelations, Schwartz is no longer “the greatest” in Trump’s eyes. Mayer says that minutes after she talked to Trump about Schwartz, he called his ghostwriter to complain. “I hear you’re not voting for me,” he grumbled. “I just talked to The New Yorker—which, by the way, is a failing magazine that no one reads—and I heard you were critical of me.”
Schwartz responds that he disagrees with many of the policies Trump is running on, which brings this reply:
That’s your right, but then you should have just remained silent. I just want to tell you that I think you’re very disloyal. Without me, you wouldn’t be where you are now. I had a lot of choice of who to have write the book, and I chose you, and I was very generous with you. I know that you gave a lot of speeches and lectures using ‘The Art of the Deal.’ I could have sued you, but I didn’t.
After a couple more terse exchanges, Trump told Schwartz to “have a nice life” and hung up on him.
This is the man who would be president. A man who bears little resemblance to the portrait of him painted by The Art Of the Deal. A man who can’t focus on details, who lies seemingly every time his mouth opens, and whose only use for people it to get what he can out of them, then discard them when he is finished. It is in many ways the Donald Trump we’ve been seeing on the campaign trail, but who GOP voters seem to have inexplicably fallen in love with.
You can read all of Jane Mayer’s article here.
Featured image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images