The NY Times on Trump: That Was Then . . .

I recall seeing Larry Kudlow, whom I know a bit, on the Sunday morning network news shows a few weeks back and thinking that he looked terrible, like he’d aged 10 years in just the month he’d been working for Trump. A few hours later he was hospitalized for a heart attack. It was a minor heart attack (if there is such a thing), and he was out of the hospital and back in form in just a few days. But I asked a mutual friend how Larry was faring, and this person, who also talks often to Trump on the phone at all hours of the day and night, said—”Look, you have to understand that Trump is a force of nature. Even though he’s 71, he’s hard to keep up with.”

This is preface for noting how the New York Times thought of Trump in this largely positive feature about him from 1984. It’s a long read, but there are some interesting—and familiar-sounding—parts of this story:

Donald J. Trump is the man of the hour. Turn on the television or open a newspaper almost any day of the week and there he is, snatching some star from the National Football League, announcing some preposterously lavish project he wants to build. Public-relations firms call him, offering to handle his account for nothing, so that they might take credit for the torrential hoopla. . .

SPENDING A DAY WITH Donald Trump is like driving a Ferrari without the windshield. It’s exhilarating; he gets a few bugs in his teeth. . .

Just as the name Donald Trump is well-known to most New Yorkers, the name is now becoming recognized throughout the country. He is fast becoming one of the nation’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, able to buy practically anthing he wants. . .

While critics charge that Mr. Trump is a raving egomaniac, bent on putting his name on every inanimate object in the city, he claims that putting on the Trump name is value added.

‘These units are selling,’ says Blanche Sprague, who is in charge of sales at Trump Plaza, ‘because of the Trump name.’ A man holding a trowel says he is proud to be working on a Trump building and always tells his friends.

‘I don’t think you understand,’ Mrs. Sprague adds. ‘When I walk down the street with Donald, people come up and just touch him, hoping that his good fortune will rub off.’

The Trump touch. It has set some people in New York to outright Trump worship; they call him ‘a real-estate genius’ who has helped lead the city out of the darkness of the mid-1970’s into a new era of glamour and excitement. Mr. Trump does not take exception to that.

To others, the notion that Mr. Trump seems to be able to do just about anything he sets his mind to is terrifying. They see him as a rogue billionaire, loose in the city like some sort of movie monster, unrestrained by the bounds of good taste or by city officials to whom he makes campaign contributions . . .

‘Trump is mad and wonderful,’ says [famed architect Philip] Johnson. . .

‘He has the uncanny ability to smell blood in the water,’ a competitor says. . . ‘He is an almost unbelievable negotiator,’ says Irving Fischer of HRH Construction. ‘I don’t worship at the shrine of Donald Trump,’ he says, ‘but our company has given up trying to negotiate costs with him. We just say: ‘Tell us what you want, you’re going to get it anyway.” . . .

Preston Robert Tisch, a developer and chief operating officer of the Loews Corporation, who lost out to Mr. Trump in the battle over whose site would be chosen for the city’s convention center, concludes: ‘He captured the imagination of people to a greater degree than I could.’

Mr. Trump does not place patience on his list of virtues. . .  It is often pointed out that Mr. Trump is prone to exaggeration in describing his projects. Oh, he lies a great deal, says Philip Johnson with a laugh. But it’s sheer exuberance, exaggeration. It’s never about anything important. He’s straight as an arrow in his business dealings. . .

Mr. Trump has abandoned the flashy haberdashery he favored some years ago – a wardrobe that included a burgundy suit and matching shoes – and he now dresses conservatively if casually, often wearing dark suits, white shirts, subdued ties and loafers. He speaks slowly and softly and in the same casual manner to eminent architects an business moguls as to the coffee and sandwich vendor outside his casino-hotel. He is said, by acquaintances, to be generally even tempered and rarely seems ruffled. He is not given to unkind remarks and is nearly always in a positive frame of mind. I never think of the negative, he says. All obstacles can be overcome. . .

So was there any foreshadowing of his future political career? Yes:

Asked to explain, he adds: What does it all mean when some wacko over in Syria can end the world with nuclear weapons? He says that his concern for nuclear holocaust is not one that popped into his mind during any recent made-of-television movie. He says that it has been troubling him since his uncle, a nuclear physicist, began talking to him about it 15 years ago.

His greatest dream is to personally do something about the problem and, characteristially, Donald Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament: Let him negotiate arms agreements —he who can talk people into selling $100 million properties to him for $13 million. Negotiation is an art, he says, and I have a gift for it.

The idea that he would ever be allowed to get into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried. But he believes that through years of making his views known and through supporting candidates who share his views, it could someday happen.

He is constantly asked about his interest in running for elective office. Absolutely not, he answers. All of the false smiles and the red tape. It is too difficult to really do anything.

Read the whole thing if you have time. Everyone (me included) should have been paying closer attention.

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