The New York Times offered yet another attempt to understand the “real” Donald Trump Thursday morning, when it published a selection of quotations from and reactions to the handwritten notes and cards written by Trump. The letters were gathered by Times reporters.
Michael Barbaro (the reporter) argues that while Trump is seen as a “master of modern media,” that it’s the letters that reveal more about the presumptive Republican nominee. “But perhaps his most powerful and memorable form of communication is the old-fashioned ritual of a personal letter, written on embossed paper or scrawled across a newspaper clipping, signed by hand and sent from the 26th floor of Trump Tower.” The letters are described as ranging from “florid to juvenile, pleading to poisonous.”
Trump sends letters to teenagers who have written to him, politicians whom he is attempting to sway, and foes, such as Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host who had called Trump a “whiny, thin-skinned bully.” Trump wrote to Sykes to tell him, “I hope you can change your mind.” Sykes says that he was “impressed by the gesture.”
“The 2009 letter that Mr. Trump sent to Mike Tollin, a movie director, makes for painful reading: It denounced Mr. Tollin’s film about the collapse of the United States Football League, and about Mr. Trump’s role in the demise, as “third rate” and “extremely dishonest.” In a final, fulminating fluorish, Mr. Trump wrote: “P.S. You are a loser.” Nevertheless, Mr. Tollin had the letter framed and he keeps it on a shelf in his office, next to photographs of his family.”
Receiving a letter from Trump is treated in similar ways by a number of people, as chronicled in the article: a letter from Trump gets turned into a fetish object to be hung on a wall and viewed again and again.
Trump’s style of speech is mirrored in the letters, in which he addresses people on the page in much the same ways that he addresses them from the podium. An attempt to humanize Trump is offered when one of his letters to first wife, Ivana, is quoted from. “I adore and love my little darling,” he once wrote to her.
But not everyone who receives a letter from Trump is compelled to hold on to it as treasured keepsake. After Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball legend, had published an op-ed in the Washington Post that was critical of Trump’s running for president, Trump sent Abdul-Jabbar a poison pen letter.
“Now I know why the press has always treated you so badly–they couldn’t stand you. The fact is that you don’t have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again!” Trump wrote.
Abdul-Jabbar sky-hooked the crumpled-up letter into a nearby wastebasket.
Mr. Abdul-Jabbar said he was flabbergasted. “It was such a petty and childish reaction, like a teenage boy responding to being turned down for a date by whining, ‘Well, nobody likes you!’ ” he said. He likened Mr. Trump’s decision to write his reply on the original article to “a dog urinating on a tree to mark its territory.”