I’m a lucky writer. When I approached Lamar about writing for Bayou Brief in 2017, he told me he’d publish anything I wrote. I’ve kept it Gret Stet based thus far but I’m pushing the boundaries of the artistic freedom my publisher has granted me by reviewing Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, in this space.
Here’s why I’m bending the rules: Hyper-localism during the pandemic has gotten us into the mess we’re in. New Orleanians are attacking Mayor Cantrell on social media for closing bars and banning to-go drinks. They claim that it’s safe to close them in the Quarter and allow bars in other parts of town to remain open. That’s madness.
The virus doesn’t respect human boundaries. It doesn’t care about neighborhoods, parishes, states, or countries. It’s an equal opportunity plague. This bizarre focus on localities has made America an international laughingstock and the center of the pandemic.
The reason for our pitiful state is the grotesque incompetence and focus on the hyper-local of Donald Trump. Mary Trump’s book helps explain how we got here: It’s mostly down to the man I alternately call the Impeached Insult Comedian, the Kaiser of Chaos, and President* Pennwyise. We can also call him a national disaster who’s responsible for the mess we’re in.
Now that I’ve explained the reasoning behind my Gret Stet deviationism, it’s time to quote the opening line of Tolstoi’s Anna Karenina:
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Tolstoi wasn’t writing about the Trumps of Jamaica Queens, New York but he could have been. The source of their power was also the source of their misery:
Mary Trump confirms our worst suspicions about who and what her Uncle Donald is. As a trained psychologist, she confirms the opinion of many shrinks about Donald’s narcissistic personality disorder and other mental maladies.
Too Much and Never Enough is unique in our history as a book by a presidential relative urging their defeat because of unfitness for office. LBJ’s brother Sam Houston Johnson wrote an unflattering book, My Brother Lyndon, but it was published in 1970 after his brother left office.
The central figure of Too Much and Never Enough is Fred Trump Sr. Donald’s father and Mary’s grandfather who she describes as a high-functioning sociopath. Fred was a rigid, humorless, and ruthless man who was an exceptionally competent businessman. He had a gift for making money as well as an uncanny knack for manipulating the levers of political power to line his pockets. Donald learned how to kiss up and kick down from his father.
Fred taught Donald that lying in business is not only expedient but imperative. Fred also taught Donald to prey on the weak including his own brother Fred Jr. (hereinafter Freddy) who was Mary’s father.
Freddy Trump was the oldest son. He was under pressure to work with and eventually succeed his father in the family business. Freddy wanted to blaze his own trail and become an airline pilot, which was a glamorous profession in the Swinging Sixties.
Another type of father would been disappointed but proud of his son’s plans. Fred Trump was made of sterner stuff and ridiculed Freddy as a “bus driver in the sky.” Opportunistic second son Donald piled on thereby showing why I call him the Impeached Insult Comedian. Donald used this father-son dispute to his advantage and became Fred’s heir apparent. I’ll skip the hair joke this time around.
Fathers are powerful figures in our imaginations and lives. Freddy Trump cared what his father thought to his own detriment. He developed such a severe drinking problem that he was forced out by TWA after only 10 months as a pilot. He returned to work in the family business, but his role had been usurped by his mouthy and obnoxious kid brother.
Freddy Trump served as a reverse role model for Donald. Since he was a thoughtful, kindly, and intelligent man, Donald became a selfish and boorish lout. Freddy was willing to admit mistakes and apologize for them, which only made things worse with his father. Donald never apologizes for anything. He’s his father’s son.
The saddest thing in Too Much and Never Enough is the story of Freddy Trump’s death in 1981. 16-year-old Mary dropped by The House to see her dad before going off to boarding school. Her grandmother, Mary Anne, who the author calls Gam, told her he was resting, and she should ring him later. Gam was lying like a Trump. Freddy was in the hospital at death’s door. He died alone. His parents stayed home, and Donald and his sister went to the movies. No wonder Donald doesn’t care about people who die of COVID-19. He didn’t care about his own dying brother.
The book is packed with stories of Donald’s incessant bragging and lying. He managed to impress his father by lying his way through life. Fred even backed up Donald’s claim that he’d built $1,000,000 from his father into a mighty real estate empire. In fact, Fred pumped millions into Donald’s ventures; losing everything invested in Atlantic City. It didn’t matter: as one of the biggest slumlords in Queens and Brooklyn, Fred remained filthy rich. Literally, in his case.
Fred’s funeral was a state occasion: politicians both retired and active came to pay tribute. Donald rewarded them by eulogizing himself, instead of his father. There’s said to be loyalty among thieves, not if they’re named Trump.
Mary Trump wisely addresses the elephant in the room and convinces us that she’s not merely a disgruntled relative writing to avenge mistreatment at the hands of her family. She states categorically that that’s why she didn’t speak out during the 2016 campaign. That changed in 2018. She had almost forgotten about the cache of documents left from the dispute over Fred Trump’s estate in which she and her brother were royally screwed. These documents became the source of the 2018 New York Times expose of the Trump family’s financial crimes.
It’s ironic to hear Trump’s allies call his niece vengeful. Revenge is one of the few things that Donald excels at. He has no known skills: when Mary spent some time at his Trump Tower office, he spent his days on the phone gossiping. He never read anything or did any work. Habits that he’s brought to the White House. He brought the lying too, much to the nation’s chagrin.
Fred Trump was an abusive parent. He was not physically violent, but he never praised his children until he fell under Donald’s sway in the early 1970’s. His response to hearing of his children’s problems was sneering sarcasm. Donald’s mother was a non-factor in this misogynistic family. That’s why Mary Trump believes her Uncle Donald is so needy: he’s still looking for the love he never received at home as a child.
Donald Trump is an abusive, sarcastic, stupid, and narcissistic man. He’s the center of his own universe so as president* everything is about him. It can be unintentionally funny, but the humor recedes as thousands of Americans die because of his malign neglect of the pandemic.
President* Pennywise thinks sick people are weak: he even mocked his own father when Fred had dementia. Empathy and fundamental human decency are alien to him. He will never change. He’s incapable of it and those in the mainstream media who think he can change should have their heads examined, then read Mary Trump’s book.
I’d like to thank Mary Trump for writing Too Much and Never Enough. It took gumption to stand up to her extended family. Better yet, it’s a lively, well-written, and entertaining book that richly deserves the sales and acclaim it has received.
Thanks to Mary Trump, I have a deeper understanding of the state of the nation with her uncle as president*. He’s a broken and abusive man. Unfortunately, we’ll all live in the house of this abuser until he leaves office. Make it so, America, make it so.
As I wrote about Freddy Trump and his abusive father, I had a song in my head. Genesis gets the last word: