ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In 1987, the book "The Art Of The Deal" elevated Donald Trump from Playboy developer to best-selling author. Here are the opening words of Trump's self-portrait as a shrewd and creative deal-maker.
(Reading) I don't do it for the money. I've got enough - much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That's how I get my kicks.
That's the first paragraph of "The Art Of The Deal." And there is another name on the cover of that book beneath the portrait and the big, golden letters spelling Trump - the name of Tony Schwartz. He was the ghostwriter. Schwartz didn't weigh in on the presidential campaign until this week in a lengthy interview with The New Yorker, and now he joins us from our studio in New York. Tony Schwartz, welcome to the program.
TONY SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Donald Trump speaks of having written "The Art Of The Deal." How much of the book was written by Trump? How much was written by you?
SCHWARTZ: Well, every word was written by me. I wrote the manuscript, handed it in to him. He made a few red marks on it, handed it back to me, and that was the form in which it was published virtually completely.
SIEGEL: The opening line that I read - I didn't do it for the money - and later - deals are my art form - did he say such a thing?
SCHWARTZ: He didn't, so it was a form of poetic license. You know, my job was to paint the most appealing portrait of him, which is what any ghostwriter's job is.
SIEGEL: Oh, but let's say you were the ghostwriter from hell and wrote a completely unflattering but utterly true line to begin the book. What would you have said?
SCHWARTZ: I do it for the money and the fame and in an attempt to fill the emptiness that I feel inside. And this is the true story of my life.
SIEGEL: You had a lot of access to Donald Trump during the writing of this book. How much time did you spend talking to him and listening to him?
SCHWARTZ: The whole process took about 18 months. But over about eight or nine months, I sat in his office virtually every morning from the time that office day started until late in the day, listening in on his phone calls because it turned out that was the best way to get the information I needed for the book.
So one of the reasons that I've stepped forward to speak about him is that I'm extremely concerned about what he would be like as a president. And one of the chief things I'm concerned about is the limits of his attention span, which are as severe as any person, I think, I've ever met.
And it turned out that when I tried to interview him directly, he just couldn't pay attention for more than a few minutes at a time. No matter what question I asked, he would become impatient with it pretty quickly. And literally, from the very first time I sat down to start interviewing him, after about 10 or 15 minutes, he said, you know, I don't really want to talk about this stuff. I'm not interested in it. I mean, it's over; it's the past; I'm done with it. What else have you got?
SIEGEL: In what way did the impression he made on you during those months - some years ago, we should add - I mean, in what ways does it carry over to concerns about him as a possible president?
SCHWARTZ: Well, I've already mentioned one, which is the idea of someone as president in an incredibly complex and threatening world who can't pay attention is itself frightening. Then there's the fact that he's so incredibly easily provoked, that his - I can only call it his insecurity makes him incredibly reactive whenever he feels threatened, which is very, very often.
So for example, this piece of Jane Mayer's in The New Yorker came out on Monday, and on Tuesday I received a long and threatening letter from his lawyer designed, I think, to muzzle me. And for 25 years, I think Trump has done a very, very effective job of muzzling anyone who has worked for him or with him by signing very, very strict non-disclosure agreements before they start working with him. It just turns out that I started with him so early that he hadn't thought of it yet. And the reason I'm stepping up is because no one else seems to be free or willing to do so. Believe me; it is not fun.
SIEGEL: Well, let me try to plead the candidate's case here for a moment.
SCHWARTZ: Go ahead.
SIEGEL: "Profiles In Courage" was I think a Pulitzer Prize winning book by John F. Kennedy before he became the presidential candidate. There were always claims that he hadn't written it, that it'd been ghostwritten for him by friends and aides to his father Joe Kennedy. There have been a lot of politicians who've had books ghostwritten for them.
SCHWARTZ: And they acknowledge that they've been ghostwritten if they're asked. They don't go around saying, I wrote that book. And more important than that, Robert, the portrait that I painted of Trump in that book is not today, by my lights, a fair or accurate one.
I helped to paint Trump as a vastly more appealing human being than he actually is. And I have no pride about that. I've said already, and I'll say it again to you that I did it for the money. It certainly is weighed on me over the years. Now since he, you know, announced for president - is in a position to potentially become president, it makes my decision back then look very different than it did at the time.
SIEGEL: You feel complicit in the making of the myth of Donald Trump, is what you're telling me.
SCHWARTZ: Well, I do feel complicit, but you know, I'm not the issue here. I mean, who cares that I feel complicit? That's my problem. The real issue is, is this guy the person who's in a position to actually lead our country forward in the most dangerous era probably any of us have ever been in? Most people have never been through World War II anymore. They're - you know, they've passed on. That's what I'm concerned about, not trying to expiate my sins. I mean I hope I do to some extent, but it's not the important part of this.
SIEGEL: Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Donald Trump's book "The Art Of The Deal" - the story about him in The New Yorker magazine is by Jane Mayer. Tony, thank you.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
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