Monday, July 20, 2020


By Dominique Paul Noth

Partly his own foot-in-mouth, but also much to our national shame, there has been a flourishing publishing industry built around Donald Trump’s endless prattle and tabloid sordidness.

Mary Trump 
Now some old and shopworn gossip has gotten new enthusiasm in the public sphere because it comes from the inside, the tales from her childhood into her 50s by his only niece, Mary Trump, who is cannily introduced as a “trained clinical psychologist” to apparently give some depth to what are largely retreaded digs into the family dirt in “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Never forget this book, while leading national sales, is largely a rehash to veteran New Yorkers.  Three and a half years into his presidency, they remain amazed at how Trump ever fooled a sizable portion of the nation with the same behavior they had long grown tired of. How Trump talks about blacks and other minorities, how he treats workers and business partners, how he preens with self-aggrandizement – all that is old stuff on his home turf. 

That’s been much overlooked in the media coverage -- that the details in Mary Trump's book are already familiar fodder.  Virtually everyone in NY knew what a racist and PR tool Trump was and real thinkers had grown sick of it over decades.  The nation’s foolishness, encouraged by NBC’s pursuit toward the top of ratings by wallowing in the bottom of reality TV, turned Trump and his “Celebrity Apprentice” clown show into an elevation for much of the nation, while folks in Manhattan have known his blather inside out for generations.

Trump’s penchant for tabloid fame and plated fool’s gold had so long been a laughingstock in New York society that you can find published examples going back 40 years. He was only tolerated for his family’s money and the savagery with which he attacked those who attacked him. Savagery always delights the Manhattan press and public. He was long the media’s poster child for how arrogant belligerency can lead to tabloid reputation if you flash enough money on your way to bankruptcies and TV ratings.

While NYC residents thought they had his number, there was a whole misshapen mass of voters in the United States who could still fool themselves into seeing freshness in his tired tropes.

Waterston in 1975's "The Killing Fields"
While researching a story on actor Sam Waterston – long the famous prosecutor on the “Law and Order” series but with a longer reputation for stellar stage and film work, I stumbled on essays by a famous Pulitzer winning journalist, now deceased, the feisty stubborn Sydney Schanberg, central figure in the movie “The Killing Fields” (Waterston won an Oscar nomination for portraying him) and long known for speaking truth to power.  In fact, he cut his own close ties to the New York Times because his editors didn’t like it when he criticized their own coverage.

But before then, in 1983!, he had written a sarcastic piece for the New York Times about a Trump proposal to move the homeless into one of his buildings scheduled for demolition.

And then, on September 14th, 1987, now writing for Newsday, Schanberg provided an editorial anticipating by 30 plus years (!) the likelihood that the Trump brand, so scoffed in New York, might work for a while in national politics.  

Sydney Schanberg in 1980s
Entitled "Donald Trump -- Public-relations master" his prominent editorial  called Trump a "public-relations virtuoso," described an ongoing feud with then NY Mayor Ed Koch who Trump called a "moron" and "a jerk" (sound familiar?), provided numerous instances of Trump's claims of superior intellect ("It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. I think I know most of it anyway."), and Schanberg then bluntly  warned,  "He can deny all he wants any designs on the White House, but Trump has the kind of instincts that are perfect for the age we live in -- the age of stage smoke and magic mirrors and imagery. In short, he sees the kind of men we admire and elect these days and he naturally asks: Why not me?"

 Schanberg ended the piece with, "In an age where smoke is everything, Donald Trump can blow it with the best of them."

I always thought “Celebrity Apprentice” was a ridiculous concept designed for morons and fully believed back in 2011 that most of America was laughing along with Barack Obama at the presidential press dinner where he poked fun at Donald deciding between Meatloaf and Gary Busey about who to better run a company.

Yet behold, the obnoxious high ratings crap that TV brought home to America seemed to make just enough people believe in an egotistical moron to elect him!

Today it is clear the public mood is finally done with Trump --  and yet … and yet. There still seem enough jerks around during the pandemic who think wearing a mask while shopping is some sort of attack on their constitutional rights, not some effort at saving the people around them.  Finally, now that children as well as adults are being put in harm’s way because of Trump’s egotistical behavior, the dawn is coming to people who once envisioned him as a salvation and are finally joining New  York City’s upper echelons in rejecting him. 

Yet the fear remains.  Maybe there are not enough people around still fascinated by his branding games but fear is powering voters this year who are ready to defy the virus if that’s what it takes to vote him out.  They are seriously worried about the damage Trump wants to do to mail-in voting and his attacks on the US Postal Service.

They are scared that he may send federal officers in camouflage to every city that doesn’t obey him (and most are hardly in a mood to obey) and believe he won’t follow normal democratic procedures once he loses. His mere existence at the top has done so much damage to our normal sense of human behavior and decency that the entire country is out of balance in how ferociously to put him down.  It’s turning us all  into mini-Trumps in how viciously we want him gone.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.  

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