July 27, 2015
Should President Obama and the Iran negotiators have read Trump: The Art of the Deal?
by Mark Krotov
Donald Trump, the large ego-filled balloon currently outpolling his fellow 2016 Republican presidential candidates, is a big fan of books. Specifically, books coauthored by Donald Trump. Specifically, one particular book coauthored by Donald Trump: Trump: The Art of the Deal.
While Trump has coauthored a number of books—including Trump: How to Get Rich, Trump Never Give Up (sic), and Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received—Trump: The Art of the Deal clearly looms largest in his imagination. It was his first book, and surely his most successful. (Though, as PolitiFact points out, not nearly as successful as Trump says it was, which makes sense, because he’s Donald Trump, and why would you ever believe anything he says in the first place?)
In his recent public appearances, Trump has discussed Trump: The Art of the Deal not merely as one item on the long list of his accomplishments (like his Wharton degree, and his bankruptcies, and his participation in The Apprentice, a show about the fickleness and devastating cruelty of American capitalism), but as something close to scripture. It’s a book that, per Trump, everyone has read, and whose wisdom our leaders ignore at their peril. I first noticed this tic in a speech Trump gave in South Carolina last week:
I wrote The Art of the Deal. Right? We need the Art of the Deal. We need the Art. They never read it in this administration. They’re the only people that didn’t read it.
It turns out that Trump has been sharing this insight with Americans for months. Here’s what he told the inexplicably British-accented Iowa radio host Simon Conway back in April:
I wrote The Art of the Deal, which is the bus—I guess the biggest—I think the biggest—the biggest-selling business book of all time, and [the Iran nuclear agreement] is not the art of the deal, this is the art of a person that has no idea what he’s doing.
Again, not the biggest-selling business book of all time. Not even close. Indeed, the book doesn’t seem to appear on any of those lists of top business books—the lists one would have absolutely no reason to read unless one were trying to confirm that Trump: The Art of the Deal hasn’t appeared on said lists.
But never mind. Trump: The Art of the Deal keeps coming up. As it did in a recent interview with Sean Hannity, “Fox News’s resident meathead” (h/t Charlie Pierce):
Well, as you know, I did read—and oftentimes, everybody else is telling me, you know, it’s the best book—but I did write The Art of the Deal. And they didn’t write and they didn’t read it. And I will tell you, it’s—it’s to me amazing, Sean, because you look at the basics of what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.
And from Breitbart News, last week:
Trump said the negotiators for Obama didn’t read his book, The Art of the Deal, which walks readers through how to effectively negotiate.
“We have people that did not read The Art of the Deal negotiating,” Trump said.
It’s a fair enough question: why didn’t the president of the United States and his top diplomats prepare for the most consequential international negotiation of the last few years by reading a book whose chapters include “Ice Capades: Rebuilding Wollman Rink” and “Trump Tower: The Tiffany Location”? A Middle East expert told Vox that the Iran deal “exceeds in all areas” and is a huge win for the United States, but if the coauthor of Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life disagrees, then we must take the critique seriously.
So I decided to look through Trump: The Art of the Deal and track down the book’s most geopolitically salient passages and turn them into Trump-style lessons. I did not actually buy the book—because I’m not an idiot—so this is a selection based only on what’s available for free on Google Books.
Lesson 1: Quid pro quo (from Chapter 1)
12:00 noon Gerry Schoenfeld, head of the Shubert Organization, the biggest Broadway theater owners, calls to recommend a woman for a job as an office administrator. He tells me the woman specifically wants to work for Donald Trump, and I say she’s crazy but I’ll be happy to see her.
We talk about the theater business, and I tell Gerry I’m about to take my kids to see Cats, one of his shows, for a second time. He asks if I’m getting my tickets through his office. I tell him that I don’t like to do that sort of thing. “Don’t be silly,” he says. “We have a woman here whose job it is to handle tickets for our friends. Here’s her number. Don’t hesitate to call.”
It’s a nice gesture from a very nice guy.
Lesson 2: Transparency (from Chapter 6)
So I met with Pat, and he said, “I’ve decided what to do. I’m going to change managers. I’m going to put in one of my best guys. He’s Eastern European, like your wife. He’s also very flexible, and they’ll get along great. That way, she can come in and talk to anyone she wants, and everyone will be happy.”
Sure enough, Pat made the switch, and then his new manager did something brilliant. He began to bombard us with trivia. He’d call up several times a week, and he’d say, “Donald, we want your approval to change the wallpaper on the fourteenth floor” or “We want to introduce a new menu in one of the restaurants” or “We are thinking of switching to a new laundry service.” They’d also invite us to all of their management meetings. The guy went so far out of his way to solicit our opinions and involve us in the hotel that finally I said, “Leave me alone, do whatever you want, just don’t bother me.” What he did was the perfect ploy, because he got what he wanted not by fighting but by being positive and friendly and delicious.
Lesson 3: Keep it in the family (from Chapter 9)
Rather than hire an outside general manager, I decided to put my wife, Ivana, in charge. I’d studied Atlantic City long enough to be convinced that when it comes to running a casino, good management skills are as important as specific gaming experience. She proved me right.
Lesson 4: Your team is only as strong as its weakest link (from Chapter 11)
If there was a single key miscalculation I made with the USFL [United States Football League], it was evaluating the strength of my fellow owners. In any partnership, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Several of my fellow USFL owners were strong as hell financially and psychologically . . .
Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that a number of USFL owners lacked the financial resources and the competitive vision to build the sort of top-quality league necessary to defeat the NFL. They shuddered at the prospect of any direct confrontation with the NFL, they were quite content to play in obscurity in the spring, and they spent much more time thinking about ways to keep their costs down than about how to build the league up.
Lesson 5: Remain skeptical (from Chapter 1)
3:15 p.m. I put in a call to Sir Charles Goldstein; he’s out, and I leave a message. He’s a successful real estate attorney, but not one of my favorites.
I’m pretty sure Charlie Goldstein is from the Bronx, but he’s a very pompous guy and has a tendency to act like royalty, so I call him Sir Charles. Over the weekend, I heard that Lee Iacocca had hired Sir Charles to represent him on a deal in Palm Beach where Lee and I intend to be partners. Lee had no way of knowing about my past experience with Sir Charles. A while back, I was in the middle of making a deal with a guy who needed an attorney, and I recommended Sir Charles. The next thing I knew, Sir Charles was recommending to his client that he not make the deal with me. I couldn’t believe it!
Lesson 6: Settle (Chapter 2)
My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases I still end up with what I want.
Based on these six lessons, it’s clear that Donald Trump knows what he’s talking about and should continue to be consulted on all issues of international importance, just as it’s clear that we should not “stop pretending Republicans have a serious critique of the Iran deal.”
Trump: The Art of the Deal is available at a Trump Store location near you. (There is only one Trump Store location.)
Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.