Donald Trump, Playboy Interview, 1990
Rich men are less likely to like me, but the working man likes me because he knows I worked hard and didn’t inherit what I’ve built. Hey, I made it myself; I have a right to do what I want with it.
There has always been a display of wealth and always will be, until the depression comes, which it always does. And let me tell you, a display is a good thing. It shows people that you can be successful. It can show you a way of life. Dynasty did it on TV. It’s very important that people aspire to be successful. The only way you can do it is if you look at somebody who is.
I mean it; the houses, the planes and the boat are just investments. I paid twenty-nine million dollars for the Khashoggi yacht; two years later, I’ll be selling it for more than one hundred million dollars and getting a bigger one.
I don’t. But the Khashoggi boat is worth more only if I sell it. This new one will–believe it or not–be even more spectacular and bring tremendous acclaim to Trump properties in Atlantic City.
I have glitzy casinos because people expect it; I’m not going to build the lobby of the IBM office building in Trump Castle. Glitz works in Atlantic City, and yet the Plaza Hotel has been brought back to its original elegance of 1907. So I don’t use glitz in all cases. And in my residential buildings, I sometimes use flash, which is a level below glitz.
Props for the show.
The show is “Trump” and it is sold-out performances everywhere. I’ve had fun doing it and will continue to have fun, and I think most people enjoy it.
I love the creative process. I do what I do out of pure enjoyment. Hopefully, nobody does it better. There’s a beauty to making a great deal. It’s my canvas. And I like painting it.
I believe in positive thinking, but I also believe in the power of negative thinking. You should prepare for the worst. If I’m doing a deal, I want to know how bad it’s going to be if everything doesn’t work rather than how good it’s going to be. I have a positive outlook, but I’m unfortunately also quite cynical. So if all the negatives happened, what would my strategy be? Would I want to be in that position? If I don’t, I don’t do the deal. My attitude is to focus on the down side because the up side will always take care of itself. If a deal is going to be great, it’s just a question of, How much am I going to make?
Then I pushed him too far. I would have made a mistake. But I don’t. I push to the maximum of what he can stand and I get a better deal than he gets.
Total victory, yes. But I don’t want to dwell on triumph or defeat.
I think I’m fair, not tough, in business. But if somebody is trying to do an injustice to me, I fight back harder than anybody I know. When somebody tries to harm you or your family, you have an absolute right to fight back.
I’ve seen great deal makers go down the tubes because they haven’t known how to manage what they’ve had. Take [Saudi financier indicted for a felony] Adnan Khashoggi: He was a great deal maker but a bad businessman. Time will tell if Merv is a good manager. He is going to have to be.
That’s one hundred percent wrong. I was always very much accepted by my father. He adored Donald Trump and I’ve always known that. But I did want to prove to my father and other people that I had the ability to be successful on my own.
My father never made me work. I liked to work during summers. I don’t understand these teenagers who sit home watching television all day. Where’s their appetite for competition? Working was in my genes.
He was a strong, strict father, a no-nonsense kind of guy, but he didn’t hit me. It wasn’t what he’d ever say to us, either. He ruled by demeanor, not the sword. And he never scared or intimidated me.
Take one environment and it will work completely differently on different children. Our family environment, the competitiveness, was a negative for Fred. It wasn’t easy for him being cast in a very tough environment, and I think it played havoc on him.
[Pauses] Nobody has ever asked me that. But his death affected everything that has come after it…. I think constantly that I never really gave him thanks for it. He was the first Trump boy out there, and I subconsciously watched his moves.
I saw people really taking advantage of Fred and the lesson I learned was always to keep up my guard one hundred percent, whereas he didn’t. He didn’t feel that there was really reason for that, which is a fatal mistake in life. People are too trusting. I’m a veryuntrusting guy. I study people all the time, automatically; it’s my way of life, for better or worse.
I am very skeptical about people; that’s self-preservation at work. I believe that, unfortunately, people are out for themselves. At this point, it’s to many people’s advantage to like me. Would the phone stop ringing, would these people kissing ass disappear if things were not going well?
Japan gets almost seventy percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf, relies on ships led back home by our destroyers, battleships, helicopters, frog men. Then the Japanese sail home, where they give the oil to fuel their factories so that they can knock the hell out of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. Their openly screwing us is a disgrace. Why aren’t theypaying us? The Japanese cajole us, they bow to us, they tell us how great we are and then they pick our pockets. We’re losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year while they laugh at our stupidity.
I have great respect for the Japanese people and list many of them as great friends. But, hey, if you want to open up a business in Japan, good luck. It’s virtually impossible. But the Japanese can buy our buildings, our Wall Street firms, and there’s virtually nothing to stop them. In fact, bidding on a building in New York is an act of futility, because the Japanese will pay more than it’s worth just to screw us. They want to own Manhattan.
When a man or woman cold-bloodedly murders, he or she should pay. It sets an example. Nobody can make the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent. Either it will be brought back swiftly or our society will rot away. It is rotting away.
It was not long after the Korean plane was shot down over Russia. There I am up in my plane when my pilot announces, “We are now flying over the Soviet Union,” and I’m thinking to myself, What the hell am I doing here?
I told them, “Guys, you have a basic problem. Far as real estate is concerned, it’s impossible to get title to Russian land, since the government owns it all. What kind of financing are you gonna get on a building where the land is owned by the goddamned motherland?”
I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.
When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world—
I predict he will be overthrown, because he has shown extraordinary weakness. Suddenly, for the first time ever, there are coal-miner strikes and brush fires everywhere–which will all ultimately lead to a violent revolution. Yet Gorbachev is getting credit for being a wonderful leader–and we should continue giving him credit, because he’s destroying the Soviet Union. But his giving an inch is going to end up costing him and all his friends what they most cherish–their jobs.
Generally, these guys are much tougher and smarter than our representatives. We have people in this country just as smart, but unfortunately, they’re not elected officials. We’re still suffering from a loss of respect that goes back to the Carter Administration, when helicopters were crashing into one another in Iran.
Tough is being mentally capable of winning battles against an opponent and doing it with a smile. Tough is winning systematically.
I don’t want the Presidency. I’m going to help a lot of people with my foundation–and for me, the grass isn’t always greener.
Well, if I ever ran for office, I’d do better as a Democrat than as a Republican–and that’s not because I’d be more liberal, because I’m conservative. But the working guy would elect me. He likes me. When I walk down the street, those cabbies start yelling out their windows.
Many things. A toughness of attitude would prevail. I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.
I think of the future, but I refuse to paint it. Anything can happen. But I often think of nuclear war.
I’ve always thought about the issue of nuclear war; it’s a very important element in my thought process. It’s the ultimate, the ultimate catastrophe, the biggest problem this world has, and nobody’s focusing on the nuts and bolts of it. It’s a little like sickness. People don’t believe they’re going to get sick until they do. Nobody wants to talk about it. I believe the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing it will never happen, because everybody knows how destructive it will be, so nobody uses weapons. What bullshit.
On a much lower level, I would never hire anybody who thinks that way, because he has absolutely no common sense. He’s living in a world of make-believe. It’s like thinking the Titantic can’t sink. Too many countries have nuclear weapons; nobody knows where they’re all pointed, what button it takes to launch them.
He would believe very strongly in extreme military strength. He wouldn’t trust anyone. He wouldn’t trust the Russians; he wouldn’t trust our allies; he’d have a huge military arsenal, perfect it, understand it. Part of the problem is that we’re defending some of the wealthiest countries in the world for nothing…. We’re being laughed at around the world, defending Japan—
I’d do the job as well as or better than anyone else. It’s my hope that George Bush can do a great job.
I don’t want to be President. I’m one hundred percent sure. I’d change my mind only if I saw this country continue to go down the tubes.