On Wednesday, writing for The Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty examined the way presidents have been influenced by their fathers — and how the “father-son psychodrama” that President Donald Trump experienced, according to Mary Trump’s tell-all book, is no exception.
“In her telling, Donald Trump’s character was warped by a desperate desire to win the nearly unattainable approval of his father, Fred Trump Sr. Nothing, including lying or cheating, was considered out of bounds. Mary Trump claims Donald Trump even enlisted a smarter kid to take his SATs for him,” wrote Tumulty. “All of which Mary Trump lays at the feet of her grandfather. ‘By limiting Donald’s access to his own feelings and rendering many of them unacceptable, Fred perverted his son’s perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it,’ she wrote.”
Presidents, she wrote, can often be understood through the prism of how their fathers treated them.
George W. Bush, for example, revered his father and did everything in his power to make him proud — to the point that some wondered whether the Iraq war was motivated by revenge for Saddam Hussein’s threat against his father. Bill Clinton’s ambition and reckless personal behavior, she argued, can be explained by losing his father in a car accident three months before he was born, and understanding he needed to seize life opportunities as they came. Barack Obama, in “Dreams from my Father,” explained how the absence of his father fueled his self-discovery. And Ronald Reagan was influenced by how his father’s alcoholism forced him to take responsibility from a young age.
“What Mary Trump offers in her book, which is a bestseller even before its release, is not so much a revelation about Trump as an explanation,” concluded Tumulty. “The heartlessness she claims was drilled into him as a young man by his father is consistent with what we see every day. So no matter how hard the president tries to deny what she has written (White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany characterized it as ‘a book of falsehoods’), readers will likely see its fundamental truth.”