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There appear to be two Donald Trumps

Posted by John Reed on

I reviewed Trump’s book Art of the Deal back when it was on the best-seller list in December 1987. The review is so old that I did not have an electronic copy of it. I hd to manually transcribe it. Here it is.

My review of The Art of the Deal

As you know, Donald Trump is full of himself. And your buying his book will make him even more full of himself. It can’t be helped. The book has too many useful insights for real estate investors to pass it up. Read it.

Theses days, when I pick up a new real estate book in a store I usually read a few passages and put it back on the shelf. If you could read my mind during the perusal, the word “Bull” would come up a lot. It didn’t come up much when I read Trump’s book. The man generally knows what he’s talking about when he’s on the subject of real estate.

But before I get too far into recommending Trump’s book, I must denounce some of its negotiating techniques. The hero of Trump’s book is not Trump...although not for lack of trying on his part. The hero of the book is Walter Hoving, the man who sold Turmp the air rights over the Tiffany Building on Fifth Avenue. Hoving, simply, is a man whose word is his bond.

After telling you about Hoving, Trump contrasts Hoving’s integrity with “the lowlifes, the horror shows with whom nothing counts but a signed contract,” In his description of the Grand Hyatt deal, Trump says he tried to get Hyatt’s Jay Pritzker to agree not to open any other Hyatts in New York. Pritzker refused. Then, just before sitting down at closing, Trump privately urged an executive of the bank to demand such an agreement. The bank did and got it because Pritzker was mountain climbing in Nepal during closing and couldn’t be reached. 

The Walter Hoving Trump describes wouldn’t have done that.

Trump’s blindness to some of his other inconsistencies borders on the comical. At the top of page 172, he denounces “bad guys” who get rid of rent-controlled tenants by, among other things, “importing truckloads of junkies, prostitutes, and thieves...” But at the bottom of page 172, Trump tells how his approach to getting rid of rent-controlled tenants at posh 100 Central Park South included: eliminating the doorman’s uniforms, putting in low-wattage light bulbs, “tinning up” the windows of vacant apartments, and offering to let the homeless live there.

Trump said he “...genuinely felt it was a shame not to make use of a few vacant apartments when the streets were filled with homeless people.” Right, Don. This from a man who “employs some very large security people who make absolutely sure that the street in front of Trump Tower is kept clean, pristine and free of peddlers.

Trump’s real estate expertise, while undeniable and spectacular, is fairly narrow. There are only a handful of opportunities in the whole world for the likes of Trump Tower. So many of the books avoiding white spots in rare Breccia Perniche marble for your atrium...or getting the New York Times architecture critic to praise your design so as to overcome the objections of the New York City Planning Commission...are hard to apply to a duplex in Dubuque or even an office building in Mission Viejo.

When it comes to negotiating ethics, follow Walter Hoving, not Donald Trump. But do read Trump’a book for the true flavor of successful real estate investing. In that, the book is a refreshing departure from the many get-rich-quick books. In fact, Trump cites those books and the once ubiquitous cable tv gurus as one of the reasons he wrote his book. He felt the get-rich-quick guys were misleading the public as to how easy it is to succeed in real estate and on how to do it.

I also reviewed a book written by his lawyer.

I also reviewed Trump’s original Apprentice TV program:

A vulgarian?

While I was quite critical of Trump’s lack of integrity and ethics in each of these reviews, I did not say he was a “vulgarian” as The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren famously did. Warren is correct, but he is describing Trump the presidential candidate, not Trump the real estate developer or Trump The Apprentice star. Like I said, there are two Trumps.

Trump himself recently said he can be whomever he wants to be and that he would become more moderate in his tone as the field of candidates shrank. Indeed, he already has. The problem is figuring out which of his disqualifying behaviors he is only kidding about, like his promise to slap a 45% tariff on Chinese imports, which would likely start another Great Depression.

Is Donald Trump a vulgarian? It is clearly one of the personas in his repertoire, one that he will use to get publicity when he wants. 

Senator Harry Reid, the former Democratic majority leader, apologized for once predicting that Barack Obama could become the country's first black president because he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Donald Trump has no vulgarian dialect—unless he wants one. His vulgarianism is akin to the only villain Ronald Reagan played in the 1964 movie The Killers. Reagan was no villain; just an actor. So is Trump, albeit less skilled.

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