Donald Trump was at a dinner party when he felt someone touching him inappropriately.
On the dance floor later that evening, the woman tried again. “Look, we have a problem,” Trump told her, pointing out that his wife was also present. “Donald, I don’t care. I just don’t care,” the woman replied, according to his account. “I have to have you, and I have to have you now.”
In his book “The Art of the Comeback,” Trump writes that this sort of thing was just the price of being the Donald. “The level of aggression was unbelievable,” he remarked. “This is not infrequent, it happens all the time.”
Donald Trump: a victim of unceasing sexual harassment and assault.
Since the second presidential debate, on Oct. 9, when the Republican nominee denied ever attacking women in the manner he had described to Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” 11 years ago, multiple women have alleged that Trump sexually assaulted them, whether in hotels or planes or nightclubs. Trump’s denials have come with harsh retaliations, calling his accusers liars, publicity hounds, ugly.
Trump’s various books and memoirs, spanning three decades, describe his actions, beliefs and feelings toward women. This is a sanitized Trump, expunged of any lewd comments or predatory behavior. Yet even if you don’t buy this persona — and ghostwritten books are less genuine than hot-mic recordings or Howard Stern interviews — these pages still reveal plenty about Trump’s dismissive, sexist attitudes.
In his books, Trump regards women as either too weak or too manipulative, too ambitious or too homebound. His notions of respect for women are based on their attractiveness, aggressiveness or ability to be as conniving as men. And he seems to believe that virtually all women — colleagues or strangers, single or married — are drawn to him. Even if they don’t realize it right away.
‘I was always of the opinion that aggression, sex drive, and everything that goes along with it was on the man’s part of the table, not the woman’s,” Trump writes in “The Art of the Comeback,” the book in which he ruminates most extensively on women. “As I grew older and witnessed life firsthand from a front-row seat at the great clubs, social events, and parties of the world — I have seen just about everything — I began to realize that women are far stronger than men. Their sex drive makes us look like babies.”
More than seeing women as victimized or submissive, Trump views them as the world’s sexual aggressors. “I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye — or perhaps another body part,” he writes.
Little surprise, Trump boasts about his early exploits. Dubbed the class “Ladies’ Man” at his military prep school, the young Trump went on to date gorgeous Manhattanites in the 1970s, and an exclusive nightclub — concerned that he was so “young and good looking,” Trump writes in “The Art of the Deal” (1987) — made his membership contingent on his promising not to steal away other members’ wives. Even so, he didn’t think much of the women he met then. “I never got involved with any of them very seriously,” Trump recalls. “These were beautiful women, but many of them couldn’t carry on a normal conversation. Some were vain, some were crazy, some were wild, and many of them were phonies.”
Ivana, whom he married in 1977, was the exception, he assured his friends. “Ivana was gorgeous, but she was also ambitious and intelligent,” he writes in “Surviving at the Top” (1990), as though shocked at finding those qualities together in one woman. “When I introduced her to friends and associates, I said, ‘Believe me. This one’s different.’ ”
It was not a combination he’d long appreciate. “My big mistake with Ivana was taking her out of the role of wife and allowing her to run one of my casinos in Atlantic City, then the Plaza Hotel,” Trump recalls. “The problem was, work was all she wanted to talk about. When I got home at night, rather than talking about the softer subjects of life, she wanted to tell me how well the Plaza was doing, or what a great day the casino had. I really appreciated all her efforts, but it was just too much. . . . I will never again give a wife responsibility within my business.”
He considered approaching Ivana with the idea of an open marriage, he admits, but decided against it, worrying that she was “too much of a lady” for such an arrangement.
In Trump’s world, the wife can’t win. His second spouse, Marla Maples, suffered a problem opposite from Ivana’s — too much enthusiasm for family dinners. “Marla was content when it was just her, [their daughter] Tiffany, and me,” Trump writes. “Marla was always wanting me to spend more time with her. ‘Why can’t you be home at five o’clock like other husbands?’ she would ask.”
Trump’s answer to Maples was brutal and materialistic, and highlighted how he viewed their relationship. “You don’t mind traveling around in beautiful helicopters and airplanes, and you don’t mind living at the top of Trump Tower, or at Mar-a-Lago, or traveling to the best hotels, or shopping in the best stores and never having to worry about money, do you?” he retorted. “If you want me to be home at five o’clock, maybe these other things wouldn’t happen and you’d be complaining about that, too.”
For wanting to see more of him, Trump regarded wife No. 2 as “very selfish.” Indeed, any marital expectations are onerous, a needless imposition. “There is high maintenance. There is low maintenance. I want no maintenance,” Trump writes. In his later books, Trump’s references to Melania, spouse No. 3, are often prefaced with “my beautiful wife,” clarifying not just her appearance but her role.
One woman Trump frequently praises is his eldest daughter, Ivanka, whom he holds up as the future of the family — a “natural-born dealmaker,” he has called her — and his greatest character witness. “I couldn’t be more proud of my record with women,” Trump writes in “Crippled America,” his 2015 campaign book. “Maybe my spokesperson on this subject should be my daughter Ivanka.” And though his bizarre comments about her over the years (telling “The View” that “if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her” and agreeing with Howard Stern’s comment that she was “a piece of ass”) seem to contradict this high regard, they actually flow quite logically.
Of course Trump publicly raves about his daughter’s sexual appeal. It’s one of the highest compliments he knows to offer a woman.
Near the end of the first presidential debate, in September, Hillary Clinton baited Trump with the story of Alicia Machado, the 1996 Miss Universe winner whom he had denigrated for gaining weight. “Where did you find this?” Trump asked repeatedly as Clinton told the story.
It was hardly a feat of opposition research. Trump shares the tale in “The Art of the Comeback” as he recalls the subsequent Miss Universe competition in Miami Beach. “I could just see Alicia Machado, the current Miss Universe, sitting there plumply. God, what problems I had with this woman. First, she wins. Second, she gains fifty pounds. Third, I urge the committee not to fire her. Fourth, I go to the gym with her, in a show of support. Final act: She trashes me in The Washington Post — after I stood by her the entire time. What’s wrong with this picture?”
No matter how often Trump congratulates himself for his supposedly egalitarian workplace policies (“I’ve hired a lot of women for top jobs, and they’ve been among my best people,” he writes in “The Art of the Deal”), he can’t help but reveal his preoccupation with interoffice sex. “All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously,” he wrote in “How to Get Rich” (2004). “That’s to be expected. A sexual dynamic is always present between people, unless you are asexual.”
Consider the self-deceiving egotism in Trump’s caveats. If a woman seems uninterested or non-flirtatious, her true attraction to Trump still exists at a subconscious level, or it is thwarted by some biological impediment. Either way, his self-image is unscathed. Such delusions may seem harmless until we recall that one of Trump’s accusers, Summer Zervos, is a former “Apprentice” contestant. When she met with him to discuss a job, only to have him allegedly kiss and grope her, she must have been flirting with him.
Unconsciously, of course.
‘If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller (which it will be anyway!),” Trump writes in “The Art of the Comeback.” “I’d love to tell all, using names and places, but I just don’t think it’s right.”
Well, now some women are coming forward, using names and places, because they just don’t think it’s right. And their actions may reinforce Trump’s long-held perceptions about women. “The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers,” he wrote. “The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding.”
If even some of the accusations against Trump are true, if there is a pattern of behavior, then these books have an air of psychological projection, and Trump’s assumption that women are fixated on sex and on him says more about his appetites than theirs.
And what of the wealthy socialite who he says accosted him at that dinner long ago? Trump tells us how the incident ended, and it evokes the follow-up phone calls he reportedly has made after his alleged transgressions. “I told her that I’d call her, but she had to stop the behavior immediately,” he wrote. “She made me promise, and I did. When I called I just called to say hello, and that was the end of that.”
If only his accusers had been so fortunate.
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