Monday, March 20, 2017.
Photo of Donald Trump Jr. by George Etheredge courtesy of the New York Times.
The historian Kevin M. Kruse won the internet the other day by captioning this photo accompanying Sunday’s New York Times Style section profile of Donald Trump Jr.:
The article’s portrayal of Trump Jr. as a kind of not all that prodigal Prodigal Son who’s returned from his wanderings to take his place as his father’s heir and favorite but, you know, on his own terms reminded me of Stewart Buntline, a character in Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater:
[Stewart’s] father had left him fourteen million dollars, tobacco money mostly. That money, churned and fertilized and hybridized and transmogrified in the hydroponic money farm of the Trust Department of the New England Seafarer’s Bank and Trust Company of Boston, had increased by about eight hundred thousand dollars a year since it had been put in Stewart’s name. Business seemed to be pretty good. Other than that Stewart didn’t know much about business…
Some twenty years before, Stewart had come into [his lawyer’s office] a wild-eyed young man, [and] announced that the free enterprise system was wrong, and that he wanted to give all his money to the poor. [The lawyer] had talked him out of it but he continued to worry about Stewart’s having a relapse…
He needn’t have bothered...Stewart was irrevocably committed to free enterprise now.
Actually, Stewart’s irrevocably committed to others being enterprising on his behalf. He’s not at all enterprising himself. His thirteen year old daughter Lila is. She makes good money for herself selling pornography and black market fireworks to her classmates. Stewart spends his days drinking and napping and obsessively reading about the Civil War and studying old railroad timetables and ignoring his daughter’s business dealings and his lesbian wife’s quasi-affair with a married neighbor.
Thing to note before I get rolling here is that that picture of Donald the Son trying his best to look like Thoreau’s marcher to a different drum was taken on Donald the Father’s estate in Bedford, New York. It’s worth nothing because of the headline, which like all headlines, gives only a partial indication of the article’s point.
Donald Trump Jr. Is His Own Kind of Trump
Implies he’s an independent spirit who’s broken away from his father’s sway and set out to forge his own path in life, don’t you think? In actuality, it’s not that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. It’s still clinging fairly tightly to the branch.
Once upon a time, though, he gave independence the old post-college try:
Donald Trump Jr. is the Trump who has not always seemed at ease with being a Trump. He grew up in the penthouse of Trump Tower but was happy to escape the gilded trappings of his Manhattan childhood to spend parts of the summers hunting and fishing with his maternal grandfather in the woods of what was then Czechoslovakia.
After graduating from his father’s alma mater, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he tended bar in Aspen, Colo., rather than immediately join the family business. Several months later, on Feb. 25, 2001, during a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, he was arrested on charges of public drunkenness and spent 11 hours in jail.
“I think, like anyone else, I made my mistakes,” Mr. Trump said of his arrest. “We have to be honest with ourselves. I’m not good at it, moderation. You have to have the conversation, be a realist, and say, ‘I guess I’m not doing myself any favors.’”
What a rebel.
I don’t know how it was for you when you were in your early twenties, but the trials and tribulations of Young Man Trump sound like one typical bad weekend for my friends and me.
At any rate, he survived his prodigal youth and since returning to the family fold has somehow become his own kind of Trump by trading lucratively on his father’s name:
In 2001, Mr. Trump, the eldest of the five children from Donald J. Trump’s three marriages, went to work for the Trump Organization in the same building where he had grown up. He rose to executive vice president, and his status as a family member in good standing was on display when he appeared as a boardroom adviser on “The Apprentice,” the NBC reality show that re-established his father as a celebrity mogul nearly two decades after he had captured the public’s attention with his first best seller, “The Art of the Deal.”
Now Donald Jr., 39, has completed his own apprenticeship.
Since his father was sworn in as president, he and his brother Eric, 33, have taken over management of the Trump Organization, with Donald Jr. overseeing commercial licensing and much of the international business and Eric managing the golf courses, among other duties. Donald Jr. is also a rising figure in Republican politics and a robust defender of the family name. As a public speaker who brings in an estimated $50,000 per speech, he has impressed conservatives with a rough, straightforward manner that belies his cushy upbringing.
Ok. It’s the Style section, a part of the Paper of Record that exists only to wrap “content” around ads aimed at the likes of Donald Trump Jr., entitled young people who aren’t as young as they think they are anymore with too much money that they probably didn’t earn on their own looking to be told how to assuage their boredom by shopping and dining and with nights out on the town and expensive weekend getaways. So I shouldn’t have expected it to be more than what is what it is, the profile of a not at all original type of spoiled rich kid, the type who finances his or her usually very short period of youthful rebellion on their parents’ credit card before settling down to a life very much like their parents’ of piling up money on top of the piles of money they were handed at birth presented as if the walking cliché is a unique and fascinating personality of the like never seen ordering another sunrise at brunch at the trendiest bistro on the Upper West Side or West Side or in Midtown or in the Village or…
There’s nothing about Trump in and of himself that justifies the Times’ attention any more than there is about nine out of ten such types you can find behind behind a desk in every office on Wall Street. He hasn’t started his own business. He doesn’t have any outsized or unusual ambitions. He doesn’t support any notable causes or charities. He doesn’t have any interesting hobbies, unless you find it fascinating that he’s a gun nut. It is (mildly) interesting that he’s different from his father in liking the outdoors (and in being more of a traditional family guy). Donald the Father seems only to go outside for fun to play golf and golf courses are about as natural a natural environment as a movie set. Donald the Son likes to hunt and fish. How many rich men does that make him like? And like many hunters and fishermen he can be a bore about it.
The only out of the ordinary rich guy thing about him is he’s the middle-aged son of the old man who happens to be President of the United States. Donald the Son is thirty-nine years old. Not an age when most people are still defined by their role as somebody’s child. And that’s the thing about him that’s newsworthy: he is defined by his role as Donald Trump’s son.
Donald Trump Jr is only like Stewart Buntline in that at one time he seemed not to appreciate his own good fortune in having been born rich and set out to live as if he hadn’t been before coming to his senses and settling down to a life greased by family money.
But unlike Stewart Buntline, he is an active participant in the free enterprise system and not just a beneficiary. Donald Junior has a job. And he knows about business or at least he knows what his business is which is to make more money for his father’s business. He hasn’t taken over the business, however. It’s not even the case that he works for his dad. His job is to be his dad. And his dad is a cheat and a fraud and scoundrel who thinks the only thing that matters in life is making money for himself in any way he can, including leveraging his position as President of the United States. In short, Donald Jr is a tool in his father’s burglar’s bag, a human picklock.
And that’s it, that’s the story, the only story about him or any of them that matters. Anyone who works for our Mr President Trump is doing his work and it’s all dirty work. Never mind Neil Gorsuch’s warmth or how cute it is that KellyAnne Conway’s Secret Service Code Name is “Blueberry” or Donald the Son’s becoming his own kind of Trump which seems not much different from being any other kind of money-hungry Trump. They’re all conduits for President Trump’s self-expression, and President Trump is expressing himself as a venal, cruel, irresponsible, divisive and destructive tyrant.
That makes them minions serving the venality, irresponsibility, destruction and divisiveness, and with a stake in advancing the tyranny.
The Times doesn’t leave that aspect of Donald the Son's life out entirely. It just treats it as one thing among all the others that make him a personality worth a lazy read over brunch:
At the Republican convention in Cleveland last summer, he made use of a trope that served his father well: targeting the elite, despite his own privilege. “We’ve produced the thickest network of patronage and influence of any country at any time in world history,” he said from the stage. “It’s composed of a self-satisfied people at the top, our new aristocrats.”
Critics said his views were influenced by white nationalists. After an interview with a Philadelphia radio station, he was accused of making a Holocaust reference when he warned that the media would be “warming up the gas chamber” for Republicans who behaved like Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign later said he had been talking about “capital punishment.”
Mr. Trump was also interviewed on a radio show hosted by James Edwards, who has described himself as a “European-American advocate” and whom some have called a white supremacist. Mr. Trump was criticized, too, for earning an estimated $50,000 for delivering a speech at an October event at the Ritz Paris hosted by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, a French think tank whose organizers have promoted Russian interests in Syria and elsewhere. He declined to comment on his speech.
On Twitter he has reposted false reports and passed along memes favored by white nationalists. An example of this occurred during the campaign, when he compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles candies sprinkled with a few that “would kill you.” He also retweeted a post by @voxday, who claimed that a woman making a Nazi salute at a Trump rally was a supporter of Bernie Sanders. The claim was false. (Further, @voxday is a pseudonym for the writer Theodore Beale, an advocate for the alt-right movement.)
Mr. Trump said he did not know who Mr. Beale was. “It just popped up in my timeline when someone retweeted it,” he said.
Recently he reposted a Twitter message that said CNN tried to silence guests who went against its supposed liberal agenda. It was also untrue and was later deleted.
Which naturally leads in to this bit of news:
While he mainly uses Twitter to defend the president, with frequent attacks on liberals thrown in, Mr. Trump also uses it for posts about his family, with many including photos of his wife and children. There is Vanessa Trump, bowling in the basement bowling alley at the White House on inaugural weekend. There is his son Tristan, snuggling with his parents in bed.
I'll bet he makes really great dad jokes.
To read the whole profile by Lauren M. Holson, follow the link to Donald Trump Jr. Is His Own Kind of Trump at the New York Times.
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