It was “ceviche night” in the cavernous lobby. There was a red-snapper option and a scallop option. A four-story American flag hung over the bar on the north side of the lobby. Toward the lobby entrance, Don Jr. was taking photos with fans against a backdrop of logos for his new book, titled “TRIGGERED: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” It is dedicated “to the DEPLORABLES.”
About 75th in line was a woman named Jill Hines, up from north Louisiana. She clutched a note on lined paper, handwritten in purple ink. She was going to give it to the man of the hour.
Mr. Donald Trump Jr., it began. We have a lot in common — we too are trying to stand up against the left, we too are being censored, our rights and freedoms are being taken from us one blue state after another.
Next paragraph: We are families of the vaccine injured.
Hines, a “home-school mom,” says she’s neither Republican nor Democrat. She bought a $32 book to get a message to the president through his son. As co-director of Health Freedom Louisiana, an advocacy group she says endured censoring by Facebook, Hines wants to see the creation of the vaccine safety commission that Donald Trump discussed early in his presidency.
“It doesn’t garner me friends,” Hines said of her advocacy, “but at the same time, I have a wonderful support community of people who are just like me.” She could’ve been describing Trump fandom in general: devout, controversial, moved by the idea of solidarity against a vast threat.
When Hines and her fellow advocates reached the backdrop, they crowded around Don Jr. for the photo. Hines was told to pass her note to a staffer, but Don Jr. asked for it himself.
“All these ladies,” said Don Jr., dressed business casual. “I’m going to enjoy this. Although I’m not allowed to say that anymore.”
As a straight, white, conservative male, Don Jr. writes in his book, he is not allowed to have an opinion (although his book has 284 pages of opinions). Radical leftists and the complicit media, he writes, are trying to turn America into a socialist dystopia of gender-bending, “unlimited abortions” and the smearing of men who are not “lining up to date women with beards and penises.” It’s the type of book that William F. Buckley Jr. might’ve written if his vocabulary and rhetorical skills were halved.
Don Jr. politely declined to answer a question when it was this reporter’s turn for a photo — “The author of this book seems like an aggrieved and vindictive man; do you ever wish your family had never entered politics?” — so we are left to look for answers in the text itself. “Triggered” is a memoir, a tirade, a stab at policy prescription, a love letter to dad — sometimes all on the same page.
The Trump presidency is “a gold mine for brand building,” he writes about his father’s critics, but this book seems like the culmination of Don Jr.’s own mythmaking. He once espoused an approach to life that differed from his father — genteel, reserved, moderate, more at home in nature than in public combat — but that has changed since 2016. Now, he feels his father’s “unstoppable” energy flowing through him.
“I’m much more like my father than I’d ever thought,” he writes. “It took getting backed into a corner for those traits to manifest.”
He is the only Trump child who performs frequently at rallies, where he’s auditioned many of the lines that are in the book. His “sole focus” right now is his father’s reelection. He used to demur when asked about running for office some day, but the book jacket promotes him as “the voice of our political future.”
What does that voice sound like? It sounds shrill. Ranty. It sounds like it’s fueled by vengeance and a half dozen Red Bulls, an energy drink that Don Jr. mentions multiple times in the book. In public appearances, he works himself into the type of lather that his father generally avoids. In writing, well —
“I consider myself a s--t-talker par excellence,” he writes on page 9.
Barack Obama’s name is spelled incorrectly on p. 170.
In a chapter titled “Not Exactly the Statue of Liberty,” he cites data from the Center for Immigration Studies, which has repudiated its designation as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“For far too long the Left hammered away at our values and we did nothing,” writes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — once “Lyin’ Ted,” according to Don Jr.’s father — in a blurb of praise on the back cover. “Donald Trump Jr.’s new book is a roadmap on how we fight back.”
The book has ranked in Amazon’s Top 10 sellers, although Don Jr. has had some help from his father’s campaign. Last week, the Republican National Committee promised signed copies of the book to anyone who contributed $50 or more to Trump’s reelection.
“As long as it paid the publisher the fair market value for the books, the RNC can do this and Don Jr. gets paid,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Another way the Republican political apparatus is lining the pockets of the Trump family.”
The rollout of “Triggered” began smoothly Oct. 30 with “Fox and Friends,” where Don Jr. claimed that he basically grew up in the Rust Belt because the elite boarding school he attended is located in a former steel town in Pennsylvania. (Students there wear blazers and ties; classes are referred to as “forms” in the tradition of British nomenclature.) On “CBS This Morning” on Nov. 5, he made an oblique reference to “what I’ve been through for the last few years.” Later that afternoon, he was more explicit on Dana Loesch’s talk-radio show.
“You back me into a corner, and threaten my life and my family for two and a half years, and guess what, boys and girls?” he told the former spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. “I’m gonna fight back.”
The fighting back is contagious. On Thursday, “The View” co-host Meghan McCain told him that he and his family have “put a lot of people through a lot of pain.” On Sunday, nationalist trolls disrupted Don Jr.’s book event at UCLA, as part of a turf war launched by the extreme wing of the pro-Trump right.
But on Tuesday, at the Trump International Hotel, the reception was warm. The book event started a half-hour late, and by then a couple hundred people were lined up for a photo. Some of them felt abused for their Trump support, just as Don Jr. writes about in “TRIGGERED.”
Fashion designer Andre Soriano was mingling in the lobby and holding a copy of the book. He created the “MAGA” gown that musician Joy Villa wore at the 2017 Grammy Awards, and says he has lost friends and job opportunities because of his politics. He thinks Don Jr. and his family represent compassion and class.
“I think they have a very good message,” said Soriano, wearing a black peacoat and a cascade of pearls. “You know, it’s so hard for me to really see what’s happening in our great nation, because there’s so much divisiveness and hatred that’s going on.”
On the way out of the hotel, this reporter attempted to engage a well-dressed woman who had three copies of “TRIGGERED” wedged into her purse. She responded with a look of disgust. “No, you’re fake news,” she said. “We love President Trump and we love Don Junior.”
The reporter turned to leave and nearly ran into Jacob Wohl, the right-wing agitator who has tried to defame various Democrats through “investigations” that generate nothing but weird stunts and empty promises. Wohl, wearing a sharp suit, swaggered into the president’s lobby like he belonged among the wounded wealthy, the “vaccine injured,” and the s--- talkers par excellence.