Understanding Trump: The Commander in Cheat

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As Donald Trump continues with his defiance, the whole transition thing has been reduced to just another ‘celebrity feud’ by POTUS. There is something striking about this gazillionaire ‘who jets around on a 737 with his name on it’–excessive self-love, penchant for suing and the art of lying.

‘For decades now the world of golf has known something about Trump that the rest of the world is just finding now’, writes Rick Reilly in his latest book The Commander in Cheat: How Golf explains Trump. Someone earlier defined Trump as ‘a crimson stain on American decency’. The way he is riding roughshod over established political conventions is what he has been doing in golf all his life. Ben Crenshaw says, ‘golf is a game of conscience’, but Trump is known for driving his golf cart on greens–which is considered a sacrilege, unholiest of unholies. He treats golf as ‘it is some sort of reward for being rich’. He probably doesn’t know that golf was invented in Scotland by shepherds.

This book introduces us to the swanky world of golf–mulligans, quick rake, birdie and tee. Trump boasts of having won 18 Super Bowls, which sounds preposterous. According to Rick what Trump actually does is this: he inaugurates a new golf course, plays a round all by himself and calls that a championship. He then gets his name engraved on a plaque. Rules are meant for other people. This is what he has been doing to his presidency as well. Woodrow Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Bush, Clinton and Obama, all have played golf. But ‘no president has been as up to his clavicles in golf as Donald Trump’. He has spent one-third of his time since 2016 on the turf (His each far-flung golf trip costs American exchequer about $3.5 million).

What is interesting is that Trump cheats and lies profusely throughout the game. He himself puts it, ‘lying sounds better’. He even lies about lies. He puts his handicap at 2.8–which may give a complex even to Tiger Woods–while in reality it may be 12 to 13. Facts and truth are malleable for him. Rick says Trump has learnt early on that it is not cheating if you don’t get caught and that if you trash talk enough, your opponent might choke. Life is not about hugs, picnics and bedtime readings for Trump. It is about winning and winning, as Jack o’ Donnel puts it. According to Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Lance Dodes, Trump exhibits all traits of a narcissistic personality disorder. He simply cannot stand not winning. Win or flatten the honour of the game. Reminding us of election results??!!

For Rick, ‘Trump could charm an elephant into doing an arabesque’. His mantra is Buy, Lie and Cry. He is a master in overvaluing and spin. All scores get a ‘Trump Bump’ in front of him–his net worth, crowd sizes and his own height. He may seek $50 million for his $1 million worth golf course. The Trump Tower in New York has 58 stories, Trump says it has 68. The Fire and Emergency Department had  to bear its consequences once. ‘Good thing’, writes Rick, ‘ he doesn’t drink, can you imagine all that on booze?’. Adrian Benepe, the former NYC Parks Commissioner mentions, ‘I realised the whole Trump family was pathological lairs’. Even his children seem to have graduated from the ‘Trump School of Fabulousness’. Would you believe: even the toilet paper in Trump empire has his name on it!

Lawsuits have followed Trump like his shadow. Where he cannot punch, he sues (the way he is doing right now). ‘He loves suing like he loves red ties’. He has sued flagpoles, trees, schools and even dead people. Till 2016 he had around 3500 lawsuits in his name (that is 50 per year for his life). Thus ‘usual small tactics, paper threats and time wasting motions’ have been an intrinsic part of Trump’s script. Yet, his arguments are ‘very short on details and understanding’, kind of ‘7000 yards long and one inch deep’.

Rick also writes about Trump’s image as a ‘ladies man’. ‘He looks at women in same way he looks at golf trophies’. They are like French fries for him. Forget the Access Hollywood Tape incident, this man, at the age of 60, had an affair with three different women–including two adult film actresses–at a single golf tournament. He had fathered a child with his third legal wife just six months earlier! Rick calls this ‘entering into a kind of infidelity Inception‘. ‘You cheat on your tests, you are gonna cheat on your wife. How you do one thing is how you do everything’. On other occasions Trump has been heard telling his managers that the restaurant hostesses were not pretty enough (fat!) and that they should be fired and replaced with attractive ones.

Another important issue Rick writes about is the connection between Trump’s Muslim Travel ban and golf. Why only seven Muslim countries? UAE has been harboring Taliban, Saudi Arabia has nurtured Al Qaeda, Indonesians have been involved in twice as many ISIS terror acts as say Iraqis. Why not ban these countries? Golf is the reason. Trump has his golf courses spread from Dubai to Jakarta. Take another example: Cuba, where Trump was involved in some shady golf business and ran a risk of being investigated. He altogether banned the country, saving himself from anticipated  trouble. He turned his back on America’s own Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria unleashed devastation there killing around 3000 people. Why? Because this city reminded him of a $32 million bankruptcy which Trump’s golf course fiasco had foisted on it. To put a crown on stupidity, he played a golf tournament and dedicated the trophy to ‘the great people of Puerto Rico’.

According to Rick, Trump is like a weathervane, neither patient with kids nor bills. He is known for breaking his commitments–having gobbled millions of dollars he owes to people. He has broken tradition with every modern president, for every decision he took as POTUS affected his own wallet (as per reports he paid a trashy $750 as income tax last year!). He buys paintings with charity money. He calls White House ‘a f****** dump’. He keeps eight goats on his golf course in order to get a farmland tax break (saves $80000 each year). On one hand he says that climate change is a canard while on the other hand he wants to build a wall in Ireland to keep the rising Atlantic waters off his Irish course, Doonteg. As the Republican Senator Bob Corker rightly quipped, Trump really needs an ‘adult daycare’!

For his followers, Trump may have Einstein’s brain, Lincoln’s wit and Nightingale’s heart. But if you have a person, running a superpower, ‘who is never revolted by the immorality of the cheating, rather impressed by the genius of it’, you are in a sour pickle. This is what the 70 million Americans who voted for him this year need to mull over. Rick may never forgive Trump ‘for peeing all over the game he loves’, but there is something more dangerous about the man who Tom Fazio (Trump’s Architect pal) wants world not to take seriously. He doesn’t own all the courses. And he has his fingers on the nukes.