Image is everything – and there’s no such thing as bad publicity. For most people, these are well-worn clichés. For Donald Trump, they form a life philosophy that has helped him to build his eponymous brand.
Regardless of your thoughts on Trump, the bellicose billionaire has led a curious and colourful life, and his often-calamitous journey has been detailed in the captivating Trump Revealed: An American Journey Of Ambition, Ego, Money And Power.
The book is compiled by two dozen Washington Post reporters, led by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, and takes a no-holds-barred look at the journey thus far of a man who, despite appearances, has led a solitary life peppered with bizarre and controversial circumstances that have kept people interested in him for decades.
Of course, the world at large has come to know Trump after he managed to secure the Republican nomination for the US presidential election (which takes place on Tuesday, Nov 8). There’s something mildly impressive about Trump’s efforts to get so far, given that he started as an outsider in a field of 17 politically experienced Republican candidates.
In the run-up to the election, Trump hasn’t been shy about tearing heavily into his Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton. But to give a flavour of his opportunism, Trump wasn’t always so hostile. Over the course of a decade, he made six campaign contributions to Clinton and once hosted a lavish penthouse fundraiser for his current White House rival.
As ever, Trump was able to explain away the apparent contradiction by insisting that he felt he had an obligation to get along with the Clintons. Image is everything, and Trump has never been one to shy away from the “any means necessary” approach.
In Trump Revealed, we gain further insight into the businessman’s penchant for manipulation when Jim Dowd, an executive at TV station NBC, reveals that Trump had said his appearances on The Apprentice reality TV show provided the perfect platform to begin building a campaign for the White House, as it gave him an opportunity to endear himself to middle class voters.
Kranish and Fisher’s scintillating book manages to shine a light on Trump in a way that hasn’t been achieved before – which is no mean feat, considering The Donald has made a living off blowing his own trumpet at every opportunity.
While Trump Revealed is an entertaining collection of insights into the businessman’s life, it also includes some uncomfortable and disturbing revelations that left me wondering if any other White House candidate could have withstood the kind of publicity that would be seen as unwelcome by most people outside Trumpland.
For example, there is the sad tale of some victims who had sued following a collapsed Florida property scheme, for which Trump had sold the use of his name. In the end, one of the project’s developers pleaded guilty in a separate fraud case, with Trump insisting that he “barely knew the man”.
Then there are those who vent their frustrations at the housing projects started by Trump, describing how the contractors and workers miss out on being paid after Trump files for yet another bankruptcy.
Behind the brand, there’s an uneasy and constant sense that a trail of disruption and disaster have been left in the wake of one man’s pursuit of success and excess at the expense of many others.
Despite the controversies, Trump is a man who has made a dent in the discourse of American politics. His rhetoric resonates with many who feel disenfranchised and isolated and, irrespective of his motive, Trump has represented a shift in narrative within American political discourse.
In turn, he has also succeeded in strengthening his Trump brand on a stage that has afforded him far greater publicity than any other stage could.
Trump Revealed is one in a long line of books that will come to be written on Trump whether he wins or not on Tuesday, but the challenge for those others to come will be to offer such in-depth and intriguing insights into the life of a man who (sometimes literally) leaves his mark wherever he goes.
The Washington Post has done a remarkable job in piecing together the enigmatic puzzle that is Donald Trump, providing an extraordinary book that captures perfectly the life of a man absolutely obsessed with money, power, and himself. This is a book well worth reading.
Trump Revealed: An American Journey Of Ambition, Ego, Money And Power
Authors: Michael Kranish & Marc Fisher
Publisher: Scribner, nonfiction