Rick Perlstein On Donald (The Insult Comedian) Trump

Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge, applies his deep dish historical approach to the shallow topic of the Insult Comedian at the Washington Spectator. The piece is called Donald Trump and the F-Word. I’d use an H word instead: Hustler or Huckster.

There’s something about Trump that inspires people to write about the movies and, like Frank Rich a few weeks back, Perlstein mentions some good ones, Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg’s A Face In The Crowd and Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole:

Ordinary people can become monsters. Everyone who experienced World War II knew that. How does it happen? Any attentive cinema-goer or TV-watcher of the 1950s would have a decent grasp of an answer. In Ace in the Hole, from 1951, a little-remembered Billy Wilder masterpiece, the effort to rescue a man trapped in a cave collapse in New Mexico turns into a lurid carnival as folks flock from miles around, with rides, concerts, and gambling. The party ends when the rescue fails, the man dies, and the revelers slink away in shame at how thin the veneer of civilization truly was.

I wish the Insult Comedian was actually as interesting as the better articles written about him. He’s fundamentally a con artist selling dreams, nightmares, and bullshit much like Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry. There’s my movie analogy.

One of the most interesting parts of Perlstein’s opus is the bit about a documentary Trump managed to suppress:

If you doubt that Donald Trump notches perfectly with this tradition, I recommend the documentary Trump, What’s the Deal? It was completed in 1990 but never released because of threats from its litigious subject­ but now, it’s available online. It’s the source of the quote, regarding Trump and the truth: “divide by two, then divide by four, and you’re closer to the answer.” In the film, you see Donald promising the most luxurious appointments available in his Trump Tower.

“We decided to go absolutely first class all the way,” Trump said, which was why Sofia Loren and the Prince of Wales were buying in (both lies). An interior decorator explains that the apartments, unlike the pink marble lobby, are anything but first class: “I’ve never seen more sloppily installed and more cheaply built kitchen cabinets.” (The installers were illegal Polish immigrants, whom Donald Trump did not pay.)

That’s the reason Trump is such a skilled liar on the campaign trail: he’s had decades of practice. Here’s the aforementioned documentary:

I’ve only watched the first 20 minutes of the film but it’s well-worth checking out. There’s a silent patch at around the 3 minute mark but the sound returns by the 4 minute mark. I used the word mark on purpose: the electorate are Trump’s latest marks.

A personal note. I’m battling the flu, so blogging from me will be on the light side this week. Hey, stop celebrating.

I’ll give the last word to the good old Grateful Dead with two Garcia-Hunter songs that feature the Donald’s favorite words, Deal and Loser:

I changed my mind and decided to post Dave Alvin’s cover of Loser:


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