Too Much and Never Enough review: Mary Trump's exposé of Donald Trump
I read Mary Trump's 'Too Much and Never Enough'. Here are some of my thoughts about this book, its portrayal of Donald Trump and the Trump family, and why I hope this book does what it set out to do, which is to hopefully prevent a Trump second term.
About ten days ago, my boss handed me Mary Trump’s book ‘Too Much And Never Enough’ and asked me to read it and review it. It’s impossible to have not heard about this book; everyone is talking about it. It sold a staggering 950,000 copies on its first day on the shelves and has broken all sorts of records. So I was excited to get my hands on it, even though I had no idea what to expect.
One of the first things I noticed as I started to read the book is how well it’s written; Mary Trump is an observant writer who sets her scenes with great skill and brings the characters (whom we know from their public personas) to life in a more private way, giving us a glimpse into a family that seems to be deeply dysfunctional, and despite all the appearances at making themselves look like a cohesive family unit, a family that doesn’t really know how to interact with one another. The book starts with a scene that made me chortle right off the bat as it describes a visit to the White House in Washington in honour of the birthdays of two of her aunts. She passes a man selling ‘Dump Trump’ pins on the sidewalk and checks into the Trump International Hotel where everything she uses and looks at is emblazoned with the Trump name. “My name was plastered everywhere, on everything: TRUMP shampoo, TRUMP conditioner…TRUMP shower cap, TRUMP shoe polish….I opened the refrigerator, grabbed the split of TRUMP white wine, and poured it down my Trump throat so it could course through my Trump bloodstream and hit the pleasure center of my Trump brain." The gathering is presided over by the man himself, whose desk in the Oval Office carried the picture of his raspy bullying cruel father, but no picture of his mother. Eric Trump is rude to his cousin and ushers his wife away without introducing her, and Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know or recognise his own daughter-in-law, bizarrely. Jared Kushner briefly joins them in the White House dining room, and his wife's reaction, drawing attention to his presence, made me roll my eyes. “‘Oh, look,’ Ivanka said, clapping her hands, ‘Jared’s back from his trip to the Middle East,’ as if we hadn’t just seen him in the Oval Office.”
One of the most striking things for me about the book was the examination of Fred Trump Sr, Donald Trump’s father, whom she calls the “patriarch of my malignantly dysfunctional family”. It’s no secret that Fred Trump was a horrible human being; he was so notorious as a slum lord that folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote a song about him called ‘Old Man Trump’ which highlighted Fred Trump’s racist housing practices and discriminatory rental policies. The Federal Housing Administration, which fronted the bill for some of Trump’s housing projects, had a set of guidelines for avoiding integration which Trump enthusiastically embraced. "He (Guthrie) thought that Fred Trump was one who stirs up racial hate, and implicitly profits from it," the scholar, Will Kaufman, said. In Guthrie's notebooks he wrote about wanting to put an end to the segregation with "a face of every bright color laffing and joshing in these old darkly weeperish empty shadowed windows."
Fred Trump Sr, who rubbished and dismissed his older son Fred Trump Jr (and Mary Trump’s father) raised his second son Donald to be just like him - cruel, boastful, never apologetic, lying, cheating, and money-grubbing. It makes you wonder about the childhood of the Trump children when you consider their upbringing; for all their fabulous wealth, they clearly had a lot to contend with at home. Mary Trump Sr (Donald Trump’s mother) was “unstable and needy”, never quite the same after having been hospitalized for post-partum complications. She “used her children to comfort herself rather than comforting them”. All five of the Trump children must have felt the effects of the actions of both their parents, although according to Mary Trump, it was her father Freddy and Donald who suffered the most. It is this human portrayal of Donald Trump that stands out for me the most; you hear about and read about the ‘terrible childhoods’ of all the master criminals who become narcissistic and psychotic criminals, but you don’t expect that to be one of the underlying things you come to learn about someone who is so eminently unlikeable. According to the book, Fred Trump “validated, encouraged, and championed the things about Donald that rendered him essentially unlovable.” Donald followed “the rules in the House,” when it came to the boys: “be tough at all costs, lying is okay, admitting you were wrong or apologizing is weakness.” Decades later, whilst the family worked to extricate Trump out of his first bankruptcies and first divorce, his mother told Mary that “he was always” a self-pitying brat, and that ”when he went to the Military Academy, I was so relieved.… He never listened to me. And your grandfather didn’t care.”
The book also makes a mention of Donald Trump’s crude misogynistic behaviour when it comes to women. As we know from his multiple comments objectifying his own daughter, Ivanka Trump, the women in his family are not safe from his commentary. Mary Trump was not spared her uncle’s inappropriateness either. When she showed up to lunch in a bathing suit at her uncle’s Mar-a-Lago resort, he immediately took notice of her breasts, exclaiming, “Holy shit, Mary! You’re stacked!” in the presence of his then wife, Marla Maples, who reprimanded him with a “slap on the wrist”. Trump has also referred to his daughter Ivanka’s breasts on multiple occasions, particularly when he told Howard Stern that it was perfectly okay to refer to his daughter as “a piece of ass” whilst commenting that his daughter had “always been very voluptuous”. Stern then asks Trump if Ivanka had gotten breast implants to which Trump responds, “No, she didn’t. I mean, I would know if she did. The answer is no. Why, did she look a little more stacked?”
Overall, the book does a great job at explaining why Donald Trump is a narcissist, and Mary Trump is uniquely qualified to do so, as a clinical psychologist. “Donald’s pathologies are so complex” that “I have no problem calling Donald a narcissist — he meets all nine criteria” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, adding that she would also throw in antisocial personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and some “undiagnosed learning disability that … has interfered with his ability to process information.” The Goldwater Rule, which is Section 7 in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics, states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements. It is named after former US Senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The issue arose in 1964 when Fact published "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater". The magazine polled psychiatrists about US Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president. Goldwater sued magazine editor Ralph Ginzburg and managing editor Warren Boroson, and in Goldwater v. Ginzburg (July 1969) received damages totaling $75,000 ($523,000 today). But this doesn’t apply to Mary Trump, who has observed her uncle at close quarters for decades.
The book was a gripping study about someone who is eminently unlikeable, but fascinating. Personally, I think that Donald Trump has done with the American Presidency what he did with his own business, but with no father still alive to bail him out, he’s on his own. I hope this book does what it intended to do when Mary Trump wrote it, and that is to prevent Donald Trump from earning a second term in the White House. If he were to do so, it would truly be the death knell for democracy in the United States.