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Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man
by Mary L. Trump, PhD
Simon & Schuster, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9821-4146-2
$28.00, 225 pp

E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one," is a Latin phrase America's forefathers chose to describe their vision for the nascent nation. Out of many states, people and beliefs, rises one unified Republic. That single phrase possesses our forefathers' dreams, intellect, and higher mind toward governance. It puts no one person ahead of another, seeking as close to perfection as one can hope for in a union as diverse as ours. Then along came Donald.

Out of Many
2020 saw several court battles over books featuring the Trump administration's missteps, and personal battles. One such title was The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $32.50) by former national security adviser John Bolton. Releasing it to a public hungry for insight into a president whose actions left many perplexed, it sold upwards of 750,000 copies its first week alone. Mary L. Trump, PhD, the president's niece, blew those numbers away in July with the release of her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, selling over a million copies its first day. Love him or hate him, the American public, it seemed, couldn't get enough of Trump.

Born the fourth child of five to Fred and Mary Trump in 1945, Donald Jonathan Trump did not have a normal start to life. When he was still a toddler, his mother fell ill and was never able to provide the nurturing child psychologists say is crucial for healthy development at that age. His father, already a baron of sorts through his company Trump Management, didn't see the need - or have the time - to fill the void left by Mary. From a very early age, the author claims, Donald was left to figure out life on his own.

Mary L. Trump holds a PhD in psychology. She writes from the perspective of: 1) a member of the Trump inner circle; and 2) a trained psychologist. She writes that as Donald grew, he figured out through observation how to manipulate situations. His father ran the household on the principles laid down by Norman Vincent Peale in The Power of Positive Thinking (Simon & Schuster, $8.00), the international bestseller and precursor to the so-called prosperity gospel. It states, "[O]bstacles are simply not permitted to destroy your happiness and well-being. You need be defeated only when you are willing to be." Positivity is all well and good, but applying Peale's philosophy as a foundation of child-rearing? A philosophy that places blame squarely on the shoulders of the struggling; well, that's just messed up. As a result, Fred created an atmosphere of "learned helplessness," in which his children are dependent on the Master (in this case, Fred) for their most basic needs, contingent on his approval. The metrics of learned helplessness run in exact opposition to those of unconditional love.

"Fred kept propping up Donald's false sense

of accomplishment until the only asset Donald

had was the ease with which he could be

duped by more powerful men."

The majority of events in Too Much take place at the family home in Queens, New York. The House, as Mary refers to it, is a character in itself. Within its walls are all the Trump secrets held. The House is where everything that matters to the Trump clan occurs. It's where Fred makes decisions about his children that either punish or reward them. The House is where Trump fortunes are won or lost, determined by Fred's critical eye for winners. Losers are not tolerated, as the author learned all too well when her father, Freddy Jr., sought his parents help in overcoming alcoholism, and was told by Fred he just needed to get his head straight. It was the same disregard of medical science Fred exhibited when his wife fell ill so many years before. Illness and disease in Fred's thinking were challenges to be overcome with the right frame of mind. Three weeks after returning home for his parents' help, Freddy was dead.

So Much Winning
Mary paints a picture of her grandfather void of affection. His approach to life seems to mirror what we know about President Trump: winning is everything, and winner takes all. A lousy public speaker, the senior Trump admired his son Donald's sense of ease in the public eye. He was also taken with his sons killer instincts. Like himself, Donald wasn't content to just beat the competition; he wanted to obliterate it. And, unlike Fred Sr., Donald wasn't content to limit his ambition to Long Island. He wanted to take Manhattan and beyond, and his father recognized he had the flash and personality - two things Fred lacked - to be of use. Fred jumped on the Donald bandwagon, and never looked back. Mary explains:

    Fred didn't groom Donald to succeed him; when he was in his right mind, he wouldn't trust Trump Management to anybody. Instead, he used Donald, despite his failures and poor judgment, as the public face of his own thwarted ambition. Fred kept propping up Donald's false sense of accomplishment until the only asset Donald had was the ease with which he could be duped by more powerful men.
As a family history, Too Much is a tragedy. It portrays a family which values wealth above each other. A family based on transactions, requiring proof of value from one another, endlessly pitted against each other by the family patriarch. In that environment, it's understandable that Donald Trump is the human being he is. Mary, being a professional in the field of mental health, gives her uncle a pass with Too Much whether meaning to or not. How else was he supposed to turn out, considering his dysfunctional upbringing? Donald Trump's petulance is a learned condition, developed through imitation, cemented by positive reinforcement. Poor Uncle Donald.

As a political expose, Too Much is a provocative warning. It reminds us some people are damaged goods - regardless of wealth and fame - and drives home the importance of looking beneath the hood. The American people were sold a folio of lies. Donald Trump was portrayed as a successful deal broker, even as he stiffed contractors, threw good money after bad, cheated his own blood out of inheritance, promoted phony online education, pursued a false philanthropic narrative of himself, and filed for multiple bankruptcies. I wish I could see him as a harmless victim of circumstance, but the clown show I've been watching since his election won't allow that. He seems incapable of grasping the most basic concept of public service. Even worse at humility. His presidency has been an exercise of turning norms on their heads, and inflating himself with grandiose claims. ("Stable genius." Who says that?) Our forefathers adopted the Latin phrase, E pluribus unum. Through it, their dream for America is elegantly expressed: Out of many, one. I can only imagine what Donald Trump thinks that means.

posted 09/07/20


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