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Opinion | For Trump, Past Is Prologue

As The Atlantic reported in 2017:

“In 1990, with Trump Taj Mahal in trouble, Trump’s father Fred strolled in and bought 700 chips worth a total of $3.5 million. The purchase helped the casino pay debt that was due, but because Fred Trump had no plans to gamble, the New Jersey gaming commission ruled that it was a loan that violated operating rules. Trump paid a $30,000 fine; in the end, the loan didn’t prevent a bankruptcy the following year. As noted above, New Jersey also fined Trump $200,000 for arranging to keep Black employees away from mafioso Robert LiButti’s gambling table.”

And The New York Times reported on Aug 16, 1990, that Trump’s supposed wealth was underwater. According to The Times: “Donald J. Trump’s accountants and bankers have concluded that his empire is worth far less than he contended late last year — and that if he had been forced to sell his assets this spring he might not have realized enough money to get out of debt.”

Still, that August, Trump sits with Barbara Walters for a “20/20” interview for his new book, “Trump: Surviving at the Top.” In the interview, Trump begins by attacking the press:

“Whether it’s a marriage, by the way, or whether it’s financial, I’ve never seen press reporting as I have with regard to me. And, I hope the general public understands how inherently dishonest the press in this country is.”

Trump then goes on to try to spin Walters — who would not be spun — on how his teetering on the edge of bankruptcy should actually be seen as success.

In the middle of the interview, Walters put this to Trump: “In your book you say, ‘Success is so often a matter of perception.’ What do you think the perception of you is today?”

Trump responds: “I really don’t know what the perception is. I think people see me as a fighter. I think people have always seen me as a fighter. They know that I don’t take a lot of crap from people, and from others.”

That is what it’s always about for Trump, then as now: perception, not reality. He doesn’t want to be perceived as a loser, even if he is. He doesn’t want to be perceived as a racist, even if he is. He will bend heaven and earth to create an amenable reality when the real reality is counter to his conception of self.

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