The man who would be king—pardon, president—comes in for unsparing scrutiny and is found wanting.
“I don’t care if she’s sweet. Is she hot?” Thus Donald Trump, inspecting would-be Miss Universes as a general would an elite guard. Trump may have built an unknown fortune in hotels, casinos, and luxury apartments, but he is foremost both a media creation and a creator of media images. That self-creation has propelled him to the front ranks of the Republican Party in an odd trajectory whose launch dates back decades. The apex of that arc, though, may well have been The Apprentice, the TV show that made ever more fuzzy the “line between Trump the character and Trump the person,” a line that until recently allowed him to say whatever he wanted to, and always with the defense that “things he said on TV were intended just to provoke or entertain.” Things are more serious now. Washington Post journalists Kranish (Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War, 2010, etc.) and Fisher (Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation, 2007, etc.) are careful to number among the fortunes of that show its contribution to Trump’s blue-collar credibility and conquest of at least a segment of Middle America. This is a chronicle of successes and astonishingly shrewd manipulations but also of missteps; not much will be breaking news, but everything here reinforces David Cay Johnston’s newly released Making of Donald Trump. Because the authors are connected to a publication on whom Trump has lost no love and vice versa, partisans of the subject will almost certainly dismiss this as liberal media stunt. Yet those willing and brave enough to dare these pages will find the authors’ approach evenhanded, perhaps even overly so, in preference to allowing Trump plenty of rope—and suffice it to say that Trump unrolls miles of it.
A foregone conclusion: fans of Trump will want to turn to The Art of the Deal, while his detractors will find plenty of ammunition here for their cause.