By Michael D’Antonio
No one will ever fully explain Donald Trump: the cruelty, the vanity, the insecurity converted to massive overconfidence. However, in “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Cre- ated the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” his niece Mary L. Trump comes closer than anyone to describing the making of a seemingly heartless person who won his way to the White House.
On page after page of this book, to be pub- lished next Tuesday, the author relies on her perspective as an insider and her expertise as a psychologist to reveal the family dy- namic that produced a person capable of the kind of outrageous acts Trump has commit- ted. This is, after all, a man who used insult, racism, and lies to gain and maintain power. A president whose leadership contributed to lethal fiascos involving asylum-seeking children, hurricane victims and, now, a pandemic made far worse by his bungling. Through it, he has seemed immune to feelings of regret, grief and empathy.
The President’s brother unsuc- cessfully sought to block publication of the book, alleging that a legal agreement made to settle a dispute prohibited it. At the time, Robert Trump, calling his niece’s actions “a disgrace” said, “Her attempt to sensationalize and mischaracterize our family relationship after all of these years for her own financial gain is both a travesty and injustice to the memory of my late brother, Fred, and our beloved parents.”
Whatever the elder Trumps may feel, Mary Trump marshals enough memories and family lore to make a plausible case for her assessment of the presi- dent and his clan. I did not speak with her when I was researching the biography I wrote about Trump, but I find her account persuasive. Her description of her grandfather aligns with what others told me about his cold and demanding nature. Likewise, her description of how Fred Sr. backstopped Donald Trump during years when his son made a series of bad business decisions rings true to the public record and what many sources told me. All in all, it strikes me as an accurate report.
On a personal scale Mary Trump saw precedent for Donald Trump’s coldness in how her uncle treated her own father as he was dying. Donald Trump has always spoken of Fred Trump Jr., his older brother, as a man felled by addiction to alcohol. This is true. Mary Trump also alleges that Fred Jr. was mistreated by his father, whom Mary regards as a “high-functioning sociopath” and by Donald Trump, who was a chip off the old block. Together they made Fred Jr. miserable, she writes.
Trump pushed him aside to become heir apparent to the family business and Fred was marginalized, she says. All of this was consistent with the head of the family’s value system. In Mary Trump’s telling, the older Trump regarded human softness as shameful and weakness as unacceptable. He taught his sons “be tough at all costs, lying is okay, admitting you’re wrong or apologizing is weakness.” In life “there can only be one winner,” Fred Trump used to say, according to her account, “and ev- erybody else is a loser.” This attitude may