Donald Trump tried to wine and dine Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins into a flattering profile. What he got instead was a 6,000-word examination of his insecurities and pathologies.
But don’t blame The Donald for believing his strategy would pay off. He probably thinks it worked before. Just take a look at the report Newsmax’s chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler filed in 2011.
Like Coppins, Kessler too was given the 5-star treatment at Mar-a-Lago (though Coppins’ trip South was largely the product of accident.) But Kessler had a different take on The Donald.
“Donald Trump can be outrageous and boastful. But when it comes to a successful run at the presidency, don’t underestimate him,” Kessler wrote after spending Martin Luther King Day weekend at Trump’s Palm Beach country club estate.
Kessler’s Trump is mostly decent. He’s a “master negotiator” and a family man.
“Every morning, Trump reads the papers with Barron, commenting on developments,” Kessler writes of Trump’s relationship with his youngest son.
Kessler also notes that, unlike the other clubs on Palm Beach that discriminate against Jews and blacks, Trump’s club is open to anyone who can fork up the dough.
“Trump is proud of the fact that unlike Palm Beach’s Bath and Tennis and Everglades clubs, Mar-a-Lago accepts Jews as members,” writes Kessler. “He loves to make fun of the town’s Old Guard who belong to those clubs.”
The point is not to slam Kessler for writing an overly fawning piece on Trump. Yes, Kessler probably gave too much credence to the idea that Trump was actually going to run for president in 2012. But his story was valuable as well — perhaps, in a way, even more valuable than Buzzfeed’s piece.
We learn in Buzzfeed’s piece about a deeply insecure billionaire who needs affirmation at every turn. Coppins’ story is highly entertaining and very well written, but did we actually learn anything new? Very few people who read Buzzfeed’s piece probably thought of Trump in any other way.
Kessler’s piece shows another side to Trump — a side fewer people are probably aware of. Is it not interesting that his Palm Beach country club allows people of any race or creed, when other clubs on the island don’t? Is it not interesting that all of his children, so far, seem to have grown up to be relatively upstanding citizens? Not all children of billionaires turn out that way. Maybe Trump is actually a pretty good father.
In his book “Losers,” Michael Lewis spoke of New Yorker writer Sydney Blumenthal’s close relationship with the Clintons in the 1990s as a positive, even if many of his journalistic colleagues thought otherwise:
Blumenthal’s access and ability meant that The New Yorker, for a brief, shining moment, gave you some sense of just how weirdly uncomfortable was our new first couple. It was true that the articles he wrote were wildly partial to his subjects. They didn’t dish the dirt. But they had real value: they gave you some idea of what life was like inside the skin of our new president.
In short, there is much value in the type of profile Buzzfeed published. But there is also value in profiles that aren’t quite as damning. We need more of both.