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Elbert: Mary Trump’s book


Reasonable people who read Mary Trump’s book about her uncle Donald may come away with a strong sense of dread. 

Her up-close and personal view of our 45th president paints a much darker picture than any of the previous tell-all books by Trump insiders.  

“Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” is a devastating account of the Trump family that shatters myths surrounding Donald Trump’s storied career as a real estate developer and media superstar. 

“He was neither self-made nor a good dealmaker,” Mary Trump asserts. Her grandfather, Fred Trump, “surrounded Donald with people who knew what they were doing while giving him the credit.”

“By continuing to enable Donald, my grandfather kept making him worse: more needy for media attention and free money, more self-aggrandizing and delusional about his ‘greatness,’ ” Mary Trump writes.

“Nobody has failed upwards as consistently and spectacularly,” she argues, noting that Trump’s six business bankruptcies don’t begin to tell the story.

The president’s niece is not the first to challenge Trump’s claims of uber wealth, but she was the one who supplied the New York Times with family financial records that resulted in a nearly 14,000-word exposé in 2018. That article, she writes, revealed “the long litany of potentially fraudulent and criminal activities my grandfather, aunts and uncles had engaged in.”  

Trump’s father, she explains, was the business brain who put together a comfortable real estate fortune based on his ownership of dozens of apartment complexes. 

Donald, she avows, never increased the family’s wealth; all he did was live off his father’s successes and, at times, diminish the family holdings.

Examples include Donald’s casinos, which Fred Trump attempted to bail out before they were forced to file for bankruptcy court protection. 

Trump’s casino problems were common knowledge during the 1990s, but few people outside the family knew what a really bad deal-maker Donald Trump was.

His niece writes that in 2004, five years after Fred Trump had died at the age of 93, the majority of his estate was sold to a single buyer for $705.6 million. Banks financing the buyer “assigned a value of almost $1 billion to the properties. So, in one fell swoop my uncle Donald, the master dealmaker, left almost $300 million on the table.”

Many people voted for Trump in 2016 believing he was a smart businessman, but his real talent was never business or deal-making; it was his ability for self-promotion and deception.  

The president is a master of distraction, Mary Trump writes. “If he can keep forty-seven thousand spinning plates in the air, nobody can focus on any one of them.”

Trump does that by working the media. Even when his businesses were failing, Donald Trump was a success, Mary contends, simply because he said so and the tabloid-heavy New York media rarely questioned him. 

Mary Trump is uniquely positioned to tell her uncle’s story. Not only was she an eyewitness  most of her life, she also holds a Ph.D. in psychology and developmental psychology. 

She uses her professional credentials to analyze family neuroses, which she traces to her grandparents and their lack of emotional involvement in the rearing of their most famous child. 

As a child, Donald “was essentially motherless, … [and] suffered deprivations that would scar him for life,” Mary writes

She describes Fred Trump as “a high functioning sociopath” who “seemed to have no emotional needs at all.” His symptoms included “a lack of empathy, a facility for lying, an indifference to right and wrong, abusive behavior and a lack of interest in the rights of others.” 

The father-son relationship, she adds, helps explain Trump’s unquestioning admiration for powerful dictators Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jung-un.

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