“I put lipstick on a pig,” Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter for Donald Trump’s bestselling book “The Art of the Deal,” told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.
It’s been nearly 30 years since the book was first released, and Schwartz has kept his mouth shut until now about the man that many see as a “charmingly brash entrepreneur with an unfailing knack for business.”
So what’s the big deal? Schwartz, Mayer explains, feels a sense of responsibility for this “mythical image” he helped create, and after watching Trump’s political ascendancy, “he’d never forgive himself” if the businessman were elected president.
In the lengthy tell-all, Schwartz details the man he got to know over an 18-month period—a man he describes as a liar, “sociopath,” and “one-dimensional blowhard” who has an ‘insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.”’
In other words, he feels Trump is wholly unfit to be president.
“I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is,” he told Mayer.
“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization,” he continued.
The ghostwriter claims that Trump’s image of fame and fortune was simply that—an image, and one made possible in part by Schwartz looking the other way.
Rhetorically, Schwartz’s aim in “The Art of the Deal” was to present Trump as the hero of every chapter, but, after looking into some of his supposedly brilliant deals, Schwartz concluded that there were cases in which there was no way to make Trump look good. So he sidestepped unflattering incidents and details. “I didn’t consider it my job to investigate,” he says.
And getting around the fact that he believes Trump to be a serial liar with a “complete lack of conscience about it”? Well, that’s what euphemisms are for.
When Schwartz began writing “The Art of the Deal,” he realized that he needed to put an acceptable face on Trump’s loose relationship with the truth. So he concocted an artful euphemism. Writing in Trump’s voice, he explained to the reader, “I play to people’s fantasies. . . . People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.” Schwartz now disavows the passage. “Deceit,” he told me, is never “innocent.” He added, “ ‘Truthful hyperbole’ is a contradiction in terms. It’s a way of saying, ‘It’s a lie, but who cares?’ ” Trump, he said, loved the phrase.
Among the troubling aspects of Trump’s character that Schwartz believes make the presumptive GOP nominee unfit to be president is the fact that he has the attention span of a gnat.
“[I]t’s impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes,” he told Mayer.
“If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.
As a result, Trump displays “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance,” Schwartz explains.
Trump has dismissed Schwartz’s account of the writing process, insisting he wrote “The Art of the Deal,” but Mayer followed up with Howard Kaminsky, the former head of Random House, which published the book, and he laughed, saying: “Trump didn’t write a postcard for us!”
Schwartz has said he will donate all the royalties from sales of the book in 2016 to charities that help “the people whose rights Trump seeks to abridge.”
Schwartz closed with a final word of caution: If Trump is elected, he said, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”