The president’s large adult son thought a book would be an easy rollout to a political career, but it turns out that even for a Trump, the road to literary greatness is fraught.
One of the great contradictions in American life is the politician-authored book, for it is neither written by nor (often) read by that politician. It largely serves as a book tour delivery mechanism—a way for said politician to do the media circuit, the morning shows, the late-night shows, and everything in between. But Donald Trump Jr. isn’t a politician. In fact, he’s never held any elected office. But not having anything substantive to say has never prevented anyone from writing a book ever (I know this from firsthand experience).
Junior obviously wants to be the heir to his father’s virulent fan base. A book was the next logical step down that lamentable road. He needed something to sell besides his father, his last name, and his bedbug-infested hotels, and so a book was born. After all, everyone else in Trumpworld has done a book, from dancing king Sean Spicer to presidential footnote Anthony Scaramucci to reality television villain Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Those were money hustles. But Junior’s book was written with real political intent: It was to be his springboard to greatness, his moment to start to lay claim to the MAGA movement his father has been priming for the last four years. Junior is arguably his father’s heir apparent, a gun-toting, cheetah-killing, wife-leaving, lib-hating firebrand who is always offended by some wrong done to him by either the left or the mainstream media. Junior is senior without the charm and grooming.
And since Junior had logged hours and hours on Fox News, there was the assumption that he’d be fine on a book tour. After all he’d handled many questions from Fox News pundits over the years. The problem for Junior was that this book tour meant that he would have to engage with the non-Fox News media, and this immediately presented a problem, despite the fact that he did many of his appearances with a skilled media handler—his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle.
His appearance on The View was unsurprisingly a disaster. A tearful Meghan McCain stared down Junior and said, “Mr. Trump, a lot of Americans in politics miss character, and a lot of people miss the soul of this country. You and your family have hurt a lot of people and put a lot of people through a lot of pain, including the Khan family, who is a Gold Star family that I think should be respected for the loss of their son. Does all of this make you feel good?”
Junior tried his best to stick to his talking points but the optics of it were impossible to ignore: a weeping, mourning daughter of Mr. Hanoi Hilton confronting a brattish son of Mr. Bone Spurs. It went downhill from there, with Junior accusing one of the hosts of wearing blackface and another of being a Roman Polanski rape apologist. Yes, Junior brought oppo research to his daytime talk show appearance.
He even got in trouble when he tried to answer the “easy” question about whether he’d marry Kimberly or not. Junior answered: “But no, Kimberly’s, Kimberly’s been amazing, she understands this world in a, unfortunately, you know, my world has drastically changed from what I was used to before politics and everything.” Not exactly the answer the daytime talk show audience was longing for.
But what really made Junior’s appearance on The View so terrible was that he couldn’t get over it. Four days later, he was still tweeting about it and complaining about it to anyone who would listen. He told John Catsimatidis on his AM radio show five days later: “You could see very quickly they went aggressive fast. They tried to smear me, to try to besmirch my father and my family.”
But perhaps the most damaging thing to happen to Junior so far on his not-so-magical mystery book tour was his appearance at UCLA on Sunday. By appearing on a liberal campus, perhaps Junior was hoping to “trigger the libs” and thus by his own weird Trumpian calculus “own them.” But what happened was completely unexpected. A splinter group of America First called Groyper Army, “who believe the Trump administration has been taken captive by a cabal of internationalists, free-traders, and apologists for mass immigration” booed the president’s large adult son. Yes, it turns out that there’s a rift in Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, and it’s being accused of being “too pro-Israel.”
In response to the booing and the chanting, a visibly irritated Guilfoyle said, “Let me tell you something, I bet you engage and go on online dating because you’re impressing no one here to get a date in person.” Perhaps not the wittiest comeback.
Junior came to UCLA to “own the libs” but ended up being owned by the enraged crowds he originally helped gin up. It was as if the MAGA-world Junior helped create had grown more powerful than Junior and now he was unable to control it.
This weekend an internet prankster changed the cover of Junior’s book to read “Daddy please love me.” It was meant to be funny, but the larger tragedy of Junior looms large. Behind all his rage one senses an emptiness. Junior thinks that if he can just be like his dad, he’ll win his dad’s love. But I’m continually struck by this quote from McKay Coppins: “Everybody who works for Trump learns sooner or later that imitating him will only draw his contempt. The tragedy of Don Jr. is that he seems never to have learned this lesson.”
The president’s large adult son thought a foray into publishing could change that truth; it only confirmed it.