Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Make a gift to NHPR and have a Valentine's message to a loved one read on air!

Donald Trump And The Art Of His Presidential Campaign


Donald Trump has written 15 books. But one stands out, his 1987 bestseller, "The Art Of The Deal."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing) The art of the deal.

SHAPIRO: "The Art Of The Deal" is so prominent that earlier this year, the website Funny Or Die made a satirical movie about it, complete with its own theme song, as you just heard there. NPR's Scott Detrow reports that Trump seems to be applying many of the themes from the book to his presidential campaign.


DONALD TRUMP: Oh, look, "The Art Of The Deal." Come here, give me that book. I love that book.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: "The Art Of The Deal" comes up a lot on the campaign trail, like at this rally in Alabama.


TRUMP: They're begging their politicians - please, please read "The Art Of The Deal" when you negotiate with China.

DETROW: Mixed in with stories about his life, the book offers readers 11 different negotiating tips, advice like use your leverage and know your market.

GEORGE WU: They make a lot of sense. They're not necessarily new ideas. I think you see these ideas in just about every business book - every book about negotiation.

DETROW: George Wu teaches negotiation at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Wu says negotiating is a lot different than campaigning. One is all about conversation and the other, kind of by definition, is more of a one-way street. Still, there's a lot of "The Art Of The Deal" in Trump's campaign. Let's just listen to the audiobook, where Trump writes that he likes to play to people's fantasies.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Reading) That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

DETROW: Of course, that's not Trump. It's an actor reading the book. But here's Trump himself during his very first speech as a presidential candidate.


TRUMP: I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, I tell you that.

DETROW: Trump also writes that the key to getting media attention is to be sensational.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Reading) The point is that if you were a little different or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.

DETROW: So much to choose from - but let's go with one example that combines that advice with another pointer - to fight back when people attack you. When Mitt Romney said Trump was unfit for office, it could have done damage. But Trump stole back the headlines right away by insulting Romney in a way that no other presidential candidate would ever dream of.


TRUMP: I backed Mitt Romney. I backed him. You can see how loyal he is. He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, Mitt, drop to your knees. He would have dropped to his knees.

DETROW: And suddenly, that's what everyone was talking about instead. Lara Brown teaches negotiation courses at George Washington University's School of Political Management. She says picking fights has worked well for Trump.

LARA BROWN: People, at least in this moment, feel that they would rather have a confrontational fighter, somebody who isn't to going back down, than someone who is going to sort of reserve dignity and walk from the insults.

DETROW: But Brown says another piece of Trump advice clearly hasn't translated to the political realm. In the book, Trump writes he doesn't really need staff - that he just knows what people want.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Reading) That's why I don't hire a lot of number crunchers. And I don't trust fancy marketing surveys. I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions.

DETROW: But politics has become data-heavy in recent years. You need experts to analyze where to run ads, where to turn out voters and what states to campaign in.

BROWN: And that is where Donald Trump's decision, you know, not to higher a pollster, not to rely on data scientists - all of that is troublesome, I think, for his campaign. And it will be problematic for the Republican Party going forward.

DETROW: Republican leaders are hoping Trump will back away from the bombast and become a more traditional candidate. It hasn't happened so far. But if it does, Trump would be embracing another pointer from "The Art Of The Deal." He writes, I always protect myself by being flexible. I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.