Donald Trump described his education, business life, marriages and childhood in extensive interviews with Michael D’Antonio for a biography, “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success.” It will be published Sept. 22.
Donald Trump, who received draft deferments through much of the Vietnam War, told the author of a forthcoming biography that he nevertheless “always felt that I was in the military” because of his education at a military-themed boarding school.
Trump said that his experience at the New York Military Academy, an expensive prep school where his parents had sent him to correct poor behavior, gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”
That claim may raise eyebrows given that Trump, now a Republican presidential candidate, never served in the military and mocked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a decorated naval aviator, for his yearslong captivity during the Vietnam War.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in July. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Trump described his education, business life, marriages and childhood in extensive interviews with Michael D’Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter at Newsday. D’Antonio’s biography of Trump, “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success,” will be published Sept. 22.
In the book, Trump emerges as a man largely unchanged from his childhood in the wealthy Queens neighborhood of Jamaica Estates, where an exacting father, Fred Trump, schooled him in the ways of self-promotion and encouraged a lifetime of fighting. The senior Trump, a major real-estate developer, counseled his son to “be a killer” and told him, “You are a king.”
Donald Trump memorably told D’Antonio that “when I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.”
Trump’s preoccupation with winning — at anything and everything, big or small — dominated his youth. His mentor at the New York Military Academy, Theodore Dobias, called Trump “a conniver, even then.”
When Trump’s high-school classmates showed up for a Columbus Day parade in New York City, expecting to lead the procession, they were dismayed to find a group of Catholic girls arranged ahead of them. Trump announced that he would take care of the problem. When he returned a few minutes later, having negotiated a Trump-like deal, the cadets were put at the front of the parade, ahead of the girls, Dobias recalled.
Trump, he said, “just wanted to be first, in everything, and he wanted people to know he was first.”
St. Martin’s Press provided an advance copy of the book to The New York Times, and D’Antonio provided excerpts from his interviews with Trump. (The author interviewed Trump for more than six hours. The sessions abruptly ended, he writes, after Trump learned that D’Antonio had spoken with a longtime Trump enemy.)
The biography offers candid and sometimes-unflattering assessments of Trump by co-workers, friends, enemies and, most entertainingly, by his ex-wives.
“The little boy that still wants attention,” said Marla Maples, his second wife.
“He wants to be noticed,” said Ivana Trump, wife No. 1, who recalled sending him into a fit of rage by skiing past him on a hill in Aspen, Colo. Trump stopped, took off his skis and walked off the trail.
“He could not take it, that I could do something better than he did,” she recalled.
Asked if she had ever figured out her ex-husband, Ivana Trump said, “Yeah, I figured it out.” But then she added, “Well, I really don’t know.”
But as Trump seeks to become commander in chief, with a slogan promising to “Make America Great Again,” it is his statements about the military that are likely to draw the most attention.
According to the book, Trump attended the New York Military Academy after years of rowdy and rebellious behavior at Kew-Forest, a more traditional prep school in Queens. Trump once recalled giving a teacher at Kew-Forest a black eye “because I didn’t think he knew anything about music.”
He arrived at the military academy — where tuition now reaches $31,000 a year — for eighth grade in 1959 and remained for high school. Like all students at the Cornwall-on-Hudson campus, he wore a uniform, participated in marching drills and was expected to conform to a hierarchy imposed by instructors, some of whom had served in the military.
Despite sitting out Vietnam because of deferments followed by a high draft lottery number of 356 out of 366, Trump said that he endured the rigors of real military life.
“My number was so incredible and it was a very high draft number. Anyway so I never had to do that, but I felt that I was in the military in the true sense because I dealt with those people,” he told D’Antonio.
The author seemed taken aback by this claim. Not many of the academy’s alumni “would compare military school with actual military service,” D’Antonio wrote. “But the assertion was consistent with the self-image Trump often expressed.”
During an interview for the book, Trump removed a shoe to show the author the cause of his medical deferment. “Heel spurs,” he said. “On both feet.”
As for the Vietnam conflict, he called the war “a mistake.”
Trump relished his five years at the military academy and bemoaned the dwindling enrollment at such schools.
“After the Vietnam War, all those military academies lost ground because people really disrespected the military,” Trump said. “They weren’t sending their kids to military school. It was a whole different thing, but in those days — 1964 I graduated — that was a very good thing or tough thing, and it was a real way of life at military academy.”
Trump’s reputation for self-indulgence is well known (the helicopters, the planes, the penthouses). But at times, his biographer found, he has displayed unexpected generosity.
When the wife of his chauffeur had a baby, Trump surprised them with a car seat delivered to the hospital. When a 10-year-old fan of “The Apprentice” asked the developer to utter the catchphrase “you’re fired” to him on the set of the show, Trump took the boy’s hand, gave him a check for several thousand dollars and said, “Go have the time of your life.”
Trump is a veritable factory of boorish put-downs, laugh-out-loud exaggerations and self-aggrandizing declarations. But “Never Enough” unearths decades-old gems that might otherwise be lost to history.
On his publicity seeking: “The show is Trump and it’s sold-out performances everywhere,” he told Playboy.
On his feelings of superiority: “For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect,” he told D’Antonio.
Perhaps his most revealing statement applies to the time-honored virtue of self-reflection. Trump is not in favor of it.
“When you start studying yourself too deeply, you start seeing things that maybe you don’t want to see,” Trump once told Time.
“And if there’s a rhyme and a reason,” he continued, “people can figure you out, and once they can figure you out, you’re in big trouble.”