Friday, October 13, 2017


Over at Politico, Michael Kruse writes about the profound influence self-help preacher Norman Vincent Peale had on Donald Trump's thinking:
Trump and his father were Peale acolytes—the minister married Trump at the first of his three weddings—and Peale’s overarching philosophy has been a lodestar for Trump over the course of his decades of triumphs as well as the crises and chaos. “Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale urged his millions of followers. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.”

... In 1983, shortly after the opening of Trump Tower, Trump credited Peale for instilling in him a can-do ethos. “The mind can overcome any obstacle,” he told the New York Times. “I never think of the negative.” ... “If you’re going to be thinking anyway,” he wrote in 1987 in The Art of the Deal, “you might as well think big.”

That year, Jack O’Donnell saw it firsthand. He started work for Trump as a marketing executive at one of his casinos in Atlantic City.

“This is the best place in the world to work, and I’m the best guy in the world to work for,” Trump told O’Donnell in their first meeting, according to O’Donnell’s 1991 book, Trumped! The onslaught of Peale-preached superlatives kept coming. “I’m America’s most successful businessman,” Trump said. “I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner.”
I'm grateful to Kruse for reminding us of the connection, but while he weighs the question of whether Trump is too self-deluded for his own good, he also suggests that you can't argue with Trump's success:
This, though, is just it: Nobody, ever, has had more success convincing himself, and others, that he is a success even when he is not—and thus turning that stated sentiment into actual, tangible, considerable accomplishment. And if he could do that, it seems fair to ask whether gravity or accepted laws of politics apply to him at all. What, exactly, is “unrealistic” about Trump’s optimism?
Trump had success on Daddy's money, and his initial breakthroughs came at a time when bust was turning to boom in New York City, a financial capital at a moment when finance became America's most important product. Trump bought just before Manhattan real estate took off, and his early success, weighed against his frequent subsequent failures as he overvalued most of the assets he purchased, suggests that at the beginning of his career he just got lucky buying a commodity that actually was worth more than he paid for it. Peale might have put him in the frame of mind to be arrogant about his prospects, but plenty of other people made money -- often much more money -- in the same market, without spouting the prosperity gospel to every tabloid reporter within earshot.

Kruse also ignores the obvious reason why it's dangerous to have a delusional Pealeite in the Oval Office: Presidents who tell lies aren't just lying to themselves -- they're lying to the country, and they're lying about the country. When Trump says a healthcare plan he's supporting is going to give millions of people health security at a low price, he's blatantly deceiving millions of people, not just himself. When he says the Puerto Rico recovery effort is going swimmingly and doesn't need to be improved, he's literally killing people.

Maybe Norman Vincent Peale helped Trump become rich and famous. But Trump is president now. His delusions can hurt a lot of people.

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