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Meet young Donald Trump, a ‘pioneer of self-promotion’

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  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Let's go all the way back to his childhood, which I think might be one of the least talked about items.

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    Well, you know, the defining moment of Donald's childhood was when he was sent off to military school at age 13. But here's a kid who's been raised in luxury, attended by servants. He even had a chauffeur take him on his paper route when it rained. But he was a kind of wild little boy and his father got tired of answering calls from the school. So in August Of his 13th year, Donald is packed up. And his four siblings get to stay home. And this place, New York Military Academy, was a pretty rough place for a little boy to be ensconced. So I think this moment of being essentially banished and then placed in this very disciplined, very hierarchical environment taught him, you know, life is tough. It's always a fight. And you're supposed to win at everything. And he did thrive there. I think you see even in his posture, when you see how sort of straight he stands, that's New York Military Academy visible in a man who's now 70-years-old.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    He and his brothers also as boys were trained by dad in the business. So they would sweep out basements, collect coins from the coin-operated laundry machines in the apartment buildings. Sometimes do little repairs. And when they got a little older, dad would have them collect rents. Because he expected them to all go into the business with him.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Fred Trump, as you're saying, he was a real estate developer. He's the one who really built that initial business. When you look at Fred Trump, the father, how much of a role did he have in this idea Donald Trump has that he must win at all costs? And that he must have an incredible drive, a work ethic?

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    I think what's really fascinating is to see the drive that Fred implanted in Donald in part by rejecting him. You know, I actually think a lot of what Donald is doing today is still seeking his father's love.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    How much of a role did his father play in funding Trump's business and in establishing him?

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    So when Donald was still in diapers, he had an annual trust fund income of $12,000, which was about four times what the typical American family with a full-time worker made back then. When he stand out, his father put him into deals. His father's lifelong friend Abe Beame became mayor of New York. So Donald got all sorts of deals from the city, including 40 years of no property taxes on the Grand Hyatt Hotel that– Donald had rebuilt from the wreck of the old Commodore.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Sort of how he made his first mark was that–

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    That's right.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Grand Hyatt project.

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    What's really kind of laughable is he says, "I borrowed $1 million from my father." Well, he got access to $40 million in financing for that Commodore Hotel renovation. So if you can walk into a bank, and they'll say, "You're Fred Trump's son. Here's $40 million in construction funds." That's a pretty big advantage.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    No question. But what was he able to do? How creative was he, and how good of a deal maker was the young and middle-aged Donald Trump?

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    The Trump Tower deal was impressive. Donald went to Tiffany's and made an arrangement with them where he got their air rights. Then he got the Bonwit Teller building. You can't take that deal away from him. Now, it was aided by his dad and it stands as, I think, the singular achievement of his career. But that was a long time ago.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    He owns the Chicago Trump Tower. He owns an apartment building a couple blocks from Trump Tower New York. He owns 19 golf courses, which are his. Where he's gotten into trouble is he has issued things saying, "A Donald Trump development." Or "I'm a builder. People follow me." And then when you find out later that a) he's only licensed the use of his name. And here's the really bad part, Lisa, you decide to put your money into a building because the Trump name, it'll be a more valuable apartment. And what you don't know is that, well, he's not only, only licensed his name. There's renewal clauses and he can take his name off the building. He could build one right next door and nobody told you that. And that's what's led to a lot of litigation against Donald accusing him of civil fraud.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Mr. Trump has also said that the Trump name, his brand itself is worth a billion dollars. How big of an asset is that for him?

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    I think it's a substantial part of his wealth. He is a pioneer of self-promotion. And, and our culture has changed radically in his lifetime. I write about how in the '60s when kids were asked what they wanted when they grew up, they said, "I'd like to have a nice marriage and some kids and be well-known in my community." By the '70s, it was, "I want to be rich and famous." And that rich and famous response has become more intense as time has passed. Donald led the way in this. He was doing selfies before anybody else knew what a selfie was.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    What in his past do you think informs his decision to make statements on the campaign trail that are very controversial? Statements about Muslims, for example, or about Mexicans?

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    I think he understands who Archie Bunker is. Donald's from Queens. He knows the anxieties of people facing change and how they resent that change. I don't think that he is in his heart– a superficially racist guy. But I think he knows what will reverberate with people.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    That's where I would disagree with you, Michael. I mean, the, the, the Trump family has a long history of findings of racial discrimination in the rental of housing. The federal government got an agreement with them. As soon as the supervision was over, they went right back to coding so that Blacks were not in the buildings. And Donald tried to describe this as [not] wanting people on welfare, when these were people who had jobs and incomes. But they were Black. They didn't want them in the buildings.

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    David is right that in the early '70s, the first thing, the first chance he got, he, he cried reverse racism when the Trump Organization was accused of not renting to minorities. And his lawyer called the feds Gestapo and Storm Troopers.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The Trump campaign, of course, has said, and Donald Trump himself has insisted that he's not racism; he's just fighting a culture of political correctness. But I want to talk to something else that gets a lot of attention in Donald Trump's business career. Let's talk about Atlantic City.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    Donald never had a dollar invested in Atlantic City. He borrowed every dollar he had. And in his own book The Art of the Deal he boasts about how he deceived his partners, the Harrah's Company, Holiday Inns, in the building of the first casino.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Some of his casinos filed for bankruptcy in Atlantic City. Most of them. But who lost in that deal, Michael?

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    Oh, bond holders. People who bought Trump stock. There was a Trump stock. There, people who worked in these facilities, contractors who didn't get paid. There were a lot of victims in this.

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    I don't think he lost a penny.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    Oh, he made money.

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    With Donald, there have been real victims. You know, this Trump University thing is a terrible scandal. You know, I interviewed the people who invested up to $35,000 to be educated by Donald Trump. And many of them were pressured to put the money on their credit card. So it's a really slippery slope, I think, from– being tricky and crafty and sucking money out of Atlantic City and profiting on gambling and truly exploiting people who are vulnerable.[2]

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    One overall theme that I cannot miss in this whole conversation is Donald Trump's ability to adapt. I think Trump and some of his supporters say, "Maybe we don't need to know exactly what he's going to do, because we know that he's able to adapt. Maybe it's okay that he's changed his position on abortion, because he's adapted to what the voters wanted."

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    He is so adaptable that there's not really a core there.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    But he's making the argument that it is not about proposals but instead about his own skills and abilities.

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    Yes. And, he thinks that he is supremely gifted at decision making and leadership. I think people do admire his flexibility, his adaptive qualities. He's gone through the tabloid press era, the television era, the internet era, the social media era. He's mastered all of this. This brand building promotional skill is breathtaking to behold. But whether that really tells us anything at all about how he'd act as President, I think, is uncertain.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    Well, Lisa, as a businessman and as a TV host, he can say, "You're fired," and get rid of you. And say, "I don't want to deal with you." The President of the United States doesn't have that luxury. He has to deal with foreign dictators, with democratically elected foreign governments that he has no control over. He has to deal with Congress, which may not want to do what he wants to do. He doesn't have the unilateral power to impose tariffs, which are a kind of tax, to build a wall, to do almost any of the things he says he's going to do, because our Constitution doesn't provide for that.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    What in his past has prepared him for this complicated moment in world and national politics?

  • MICHAEL D’ANTONIO:

    He is pretty resilient. He's a very buoyant person. So I think he's learned that the moment of defeat is not necessarily permanent. And in fact, he's very good at turning what the rest of us would see as a defeat into a victory.

  • DAVID CAY JOHNSTON:

    Donald's very good at bouncing back. And when things don't work out the way he wanted, moving somewhere else. And you've got give him credit for that. So he's made himself a household name. I don't know how that helps you as President, but bouncing back and, and shifting when it's going to make him look bad, Donald's real good at that.

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