Journalist went for the gold: Long ago and far away, former journalist Tony Schwartz wrote The Art of the Deal.
On the cover of the book, Schwartz is cited as Donald J. Trump's co-author. Schwartz says he actually wrote the whole thing—that he even came up with the title, and thus with the book's basic framework.
We know of no reason to doubt those claims. Recently, Schwartz spoke with The New Yorker's Jane Mayer about his experiences writing the book.
Schwartz's conversations with Mayer has produced a fascinating profile of Trump, a man Schwartz regards as a sociopath. We strongly recommend Mayer's piece for its possible insights into Trump—but she has also produced a fascinating portrait of Schwartz, the journalist who agreed to reinvent Trump as a swashbuckling hero.
What does Schwartz think about Trump today? What did he think about Trump at the time? Mayer's essay is full of fascinating anecdotes from Schwartz, who recorded his actual thoughts about Trump even as he was writing Trump's famous book.
In her fascinating piece, Mayer quotes from Schwartz's real-time journal from the 1980s. This is the way the former journalist thinks of Trump today:
MAYER (7/18/16): Schwartz thought about publishing an article describing his reservations about Trump, but he hesitated, knowing that, since he’d cashed in on the flattering “Art of the Deal,” his credibility and his motives would be seen as suspect. Yet watching the campaign was excruciating. Schwartz decided that if he kept mum and Trump was elected he’d never forgive himself. In June, he agreed to break his silence and give his first candid interview about the Trump he got to know while acting as his Boswell.Schwartz thinks very bad things about Trump, and did so in real time. That said, what should we the people possibly think about Schwartz?
“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”
As you read the Mayer piece, you should think about Candidate Trump—but you might want to consider Schwartz's conduct as well. You see, he did the book for giant money against his own better judgment.
Quite explicitly, Schwartz says he did the book for the very large money. Below, you see Mayer's nugget passage about Schwartz's decision to put that lipstick on that particular pig:
MAYER: “If I were you,” Schwartz recalls telling him, “I’d write a book called ‘The Art of the Deal.’ That’s something people would be interested in.”Schwartz had attended elite private schools, but unlike many of his classmates, he didn't have a trust fund! Beyond that, he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to afford the type of Manhattan apartment to which he'd become accustomed.
“You’re right,” Trump agreed. “Do you want to write it?”
Schwartz thought it over for several weeks. He knew that he would be making a Faustian bargain. A lifelong liberal, he was hardly an admirer of Trump’s ruthless and single-minded pursuit of profit. “It was one of a number of times in my life when I was divided between the Devil and the higher side,” he told me. He had grown up in a bourgeois, intellectual family in Manhattan, and had attended élite private schools, but he was not as wealthy as some of his classmates—and, unlike many of them, he had no trust fund. “I grew up privileged,” he said. “But my parents made it clear: ‘You’re on your own.’ ” Around the time Trump made his offer, Schwartz’s wife, Deborah Pines, became pregnant with their second daughter, and he worried that the family wouldn’t fit into their Manhattan apartment, whose mortgage was already too high. “I was overly worried about money,” Schwartz said. “I thought money would keep me safe and secure—or that was my rationalization.” At the same time, he knew that if he took Trump’s money and adopted Trump’s voice his journalism career would be badly damaged. His heroes were such literary nonfiction writers as Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, and David Halberstam. Being a ghostwriter was hackwork. In the end, though, Schwartz had his price. He told Trump that if he would give him half the advance and half the book’s royalties he’d take the job.
Such terms are unusually generous for a ghostwriter. Trump, despite having a reputation as a tough negotiator, agreed on the spot. “It was a huge windfall,” Schwartz recalls. “But I knew I was selling out. Literally, the term was invented to describe what I did.” Soon Spy was calling him “former journalist Tony Schwartz.”
On that basis, he decided to take the deal. We'll suggest that many of your favorite journalists do and say the things they say and do as a result of similar considerations.
Especially in "TV news," tremendous amounts of money are sloshing, destined for a handful of lucky-ducky recipients. Very few people will walk away from such lucrative payouts.
In the late 1990s, conservative CEO Jack Welch made Chris Matthews very rich. Bizarre journalistic behavior followed, and George Bush went to the White House.
Today, cable stars may be confronted with similar types of deals.
A few years back, we showed you some of the fancy homes found in Journalist County. Before the week is done, we'll remind you of one of the ways Rachel Maddow has spent her mountains of corporate cash.
Today, she serves us low-IQ tribal porridge; she persistently fails to fight the power. Ignore the glare off her big orange shoes! Are you sure she hasn't succumbed to the art of the deal?