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I spent hundreds of hours with Donald Trump to ghost-write ‘The Art of the Deal.’ I now see a deeper meaning behind his behavior.
By: Tony Schwartz
“Imagine — if you can — not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken … You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered. How will you live your life? What will you do with your huge and secret advantage?”
— Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door
Among the accomplishments Donald Trump parades most proudly is that he has won 18 golf club championships. Like so many of his claims, this one is pure fiction. When the sportswriter Rick Reilly investigated for his book Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, he found that 16 of the claims were transparently false, and no evidence existed to support the other two. In one instance, Trump said he had won a championship at the Bedminster, New Jersey, club he owns, even though he was in Philadelphia on the day the event was held.
When Trump does play, Reilly reported, he takes “mulligans” (extra strokes that aren’t counted in one’s score ), throws opponent’s balls off the greens and into the bunkers, and kicks his own errant shots back onto the fairway so often that one of his caddies nicknamed him Pele, after the soccer star. “Trump doesn’t just cheat at golf,” Reilly concluded. “He cheats like a three-card Monty dealer. He throws it, boots it and moves it. He lies about his lies. He fudges and foozles and fluffs.”
How do we deal with a person whose core impulse in every part of his life is to deny, deceive, deflect, disparage, and double-down every time he is challenged? And what precisely is the danger such a person poses if he also happens to be the leader of the free world, during a crisis in which thousands of people are dying every day, with no letup in sight?
The first answer is that we must understand exactly who we’re dealing with, and we have not, because what motivates Trump’s behavior is so far from our own inner experience that it leaves us feeling forever flummoxed.
The trait that most distinguishes psychopaths is the utter absence of conscience — the capacity to lie, cheat, steal, and inflict pain to achieve their ends without a scintilla of guilt or shame, as Trump so demonstrably does.
In July 2016, shortly before Trump became the Republican nominee for president, I was interviewed by Jane Mayer for an article in The New Yorker that was eventually titled “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All.” Mayer described my experience with Trump over the 18 months it took me to write The Art of the Deal. During that time, I spent hundreds of hours with him. Continue reading
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Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, West Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans. He is host of the Emmy Award–winning RT America show On Contact. Chris Hedges is the author of several bestseller books such as American Fascists, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. His latest is America: The Farewell Tour.
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Letters & Politics seeks to explore the history behind today’s major global and national news stories.