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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tycooniest - Deborah Friedell reviews Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by Michael D’Antonio

Tom Sawyer cheats to win a Bible that he doesn’t want. He pretends to have memorised two thousand verses of the New Testament so that he can appear ‘great and conspicuous’. He’s undone when he’s asked to name the first two disciples. When Donald Trump said that the Bible was his favourite book, and then was asked by a reporter to name his favourite verse, he couldn’t lose because he refused to play: ‘I wouldn’t want to get into it because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal. So I don’t want to get into verses, I don’t want to get into – the Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.’ At the moment, Trump claims more support among Evangelical Christians than any other potential candidate for president. Evangelicals like what he has said about abortion (‘I’m very, very pro-life’) and Obamacare (he’s promised to replace it with ‘something terrific’). And they like his assurance that when he’s elected president, God willing, he’ll compel shop assistants to go back to saying ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays’. But ask Trump’s supporters what they like most about him, and they say it’s the man himself. Like the gossips of St Petersburg, Missouri who think that Tom Sawyer ‘would be president, yet, if he escaped hanging’, they admire his chutzpah.
In 1885, Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Friedrich Drumpf, apprentice barber, arrived in New York Harbor from the village of Kallstadt in south-west Germany (Donald, who has a lot of Jewish business associates, claims in his memoir that his grandfather was Swedish). Friedrich did well selling horsemeat in the Klondike during the gold rush, running saloons and, very probably, brothels. But he was an alcoholic and died young. His oldest son, Frederick, Donald’s father, went to work as a builder while he was still a teenager. He built his first house in Queens for a little less than $5000, then sold it for $7500. He used the profits to build another house, then another. The buildings were solid enough, but his real genius lay in sussing out tax breaks and abatements, in availing himself of federal programmes that would pay him to keep building houses during the Depression...

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