‘Loser’: How a Lifelong Fear Bookended Trump’s Presidency


In the now-distant Republican presidential springtimes of 2016, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas handily won the Iowa caucuses. This was definite by a method that has lately come under attack but at the time was ruminate oned standard: elementary math.

One of the losers in Iowa, the developer and television character Donald J. Trump, soon accused Mr. Cruz of electoral theft. He fired off dissimilar inflammatory tweets, including this foreshadowing of our current democracy-testing half a second: “Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new vote should take place or Cruz results nullified.”

The episode vanished in the tsunami of public vitriol to come during the Trump presidency. Still, it reflects what those who be experiencing worked with Mr. Trump say is his modus operandi when trying to permission the humiliating epithet he has so readily applied to others.


“The first feeling he calls someone who has wronged him is a loser,” said Jack O’Donnell, who ran an Atlantic Urban district casino for Mr. Trump in the 1980s. “That’s his main attack word. The base thing in his world would be to be a loser. To avoid being called a shlimazel, he will do or say anything.”

Across his long career, he has spun, cajoled and attacked — in the compress, in lawsuits and lately, of course, on Twitter — whenever faced with performing as anything less than the superlative of the moment: the greatest, the smartest, the healthiest, the worst. This has at times required audacious attempts to twist a negative into a yes, often by saying something over and over until it either dislocates the truth or exhausts the audience into surrender.

It is a matter of record that Mr. Trump has been a sad sack in many business ventures (Trump Steaks, anyone?). In the gen, his greatest success flowed not from real estate but from the inception of a popular alternate-reality television persona — Donald Trump, master of the boardroom — that he in the end rode to the White House.

But his famous aversion to the label of loser has now reached its apotheosis.

Since Joseph R. Biden Jr. was broadcast the winner of the Nov. 3 election — and Mr. Trump therefore declared the loser — the president has recurrently trafficked in baseless allegations of a fraudulent and corrupt electoral process. What was at any time a immediately considered the quirky trait of a self-involved New York developer has become an ecumenical embarrassment, nearly upending the sacred transition of power and leaving the everyone’s leading democracy — grappling with a deadly pandemic and a teetering thrift — with a leader who refuses to concede despite the basic math.

“AND I WON THE Choosing,” Mr. Trump tweeted last week. “VOTER FRAUD ALL OVER THE Mother country.”

On Monday, the Trump administration finally authorized a weeks-delayed transition transform after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner. Still, Mr. Trump pick up to press quixotic lawsuits and tweet of fraud and defiant resolve.

“Our example STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight.”

“This was a LANDSLIDE!”

And for Thanksgiving: “Impartial saw the vote tabulations. There is NO WAY Biden got 80,000,000 votes!!! This was a 100% RIGGED Choice.”

The president’s tweets have succeeded in sowing doubt about the foundational underpinnings of the republic magnitude his many millions of followers. In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, close by half the Republicans questioned believed that Mr. Trump had “rightfully won” re-election, and 68 percent indicated concern that the election was “rigged.”

Such behavior by the president exhibits a binary-code approach to life that spares no room for nuance or predicament. If a person isn’t a one, then that person is a zero.

“You are either a winner or a nebbish,” Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, said in an assessment last week. “Reality is secondary. It is all about perception.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Cohen, who was convicted in 2018 of tax chicanery and campaign finance violations and who has since become a vocal critic of the president, fix up with provisioned several examples in his recent book, “Disloyal: A Memoir.”

Mr. Cohen related how, in 2014, CNBC was preparing a poll of the 25 most influential people in the age. Mr. Trump, who initially ranked 187th out of 200, ordered Mr. Cohen to recover his standing.

“Just make sure I make it to the top 10,” Mr. Trump guessed, according to Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Cohen hired someone to assess the options. After that mortal physically determined that the poll could be manipulated, $15,000 was spent to buy heedful I.P. addresses through which votes for Mr. Trump could be cast. The plot worked, with Mr. Trump elevated to ninth place when all the certifies were counted.

“Before long, Trump believed he really was evaluation in any case in the top 10 and was regarded as a profoundly important business figure,” Mr. Cohen belittle deleted.

But CNBC removed Mr. Trump from the list without offering an justification. The infuriated future president ordered Mr. Cohen to get the network to change conduct. This failed. He then ordered him to plant a story in the media beside “the terrible treatment Trump had received at the hands of CNBC.” This also broke.

Still, Mr. Trump managed to exploit the fake ranking before he was dropped from the catalogue. “He had hundreds of copies made, and he added the poll to the pile of newspaper clippings and ammunition profiles of himself that he would give to visitors,” Mr. Cohen detracted.

This fear of being seen as somehow less than the terribly best is a recurring theme in the mountains of books and articles written with respect to Mr. Trump. Many observers of Trump family history have over on the influence of the patriarch, the developer Fred C. Trump, who had his own version of the binary taxonomy of the public: the strong and the weak.

Mr. Trump flicked at this in his book “Trump: The Art of the Great amount,” in which he recalled gluing together the blocks of his younger brother, Robert, effectively insuring that he would not be outdone in any competition involving — blocks.

“That was the end of Robert’s cubes,” he wrote.


Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Organizes

A grown-up iteration of that episode came at a seminal moment in the man’s career: the look-in of his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City in 1990.

According to Mr. O’Donnell, who was deeply tortuous in the venture, Mr. Trump pushed to have the casino open prematurely because he feared the cast into the shade a delay would bring after promising the world a glitzy, celebrity-packed chink.

The casino wasn’t ready; among other issues, only a barracks of the slot machines were open, leaving the cavernous space quietude and empty. “It was just horrible,” recalled Mr. O’Donnell, who wrote a book connected with his experiences with the future president. “It didn’t look like a common casino.”

Privately, Mr. Trump was furious, and blamed his brother Robert for some of the puzzlers. (The younger Trump quit and did not speak to his brother for years.) Publicly, despite the fact that, Mr. Trump boasted of the wonder that was the Taj Mahal.

Appearing on CNN’s “Larry Sovereign Live” in April 1990, Mr. Trump said the only problem with the Taj Mahal’s presentation day was too much success. Gamblers were playing the slots with such ferocity that the autos almost burst into flames.

“We had machines that — they were more on fire,” Mr. Trump said. “Nobody’s ever seen anything go for this.”

The Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy the following year, which Heraldry sinister Mr. Trump’s many lenders and bondholders in the lurch.

Mr. Trump expounded on his worldview in a 2014 vet with the author Michael D’Antonio. “You can be tough and ruthless and all that crowd, and if you lose a lot, nobody’s going to follow you, because you’re looked at as a loser,” he suggested. “Winning is a very important thing. The most important aspect of initiative is winning. If you have a record of winning, people are going to follow you.”

Mr. Trump has regularly used the courts to try to crush anyone who might cast doubt on his Olympian still in wealth and success. A standout in this category is the $5 billion lawsuit he paraded against the journalist Timothy L. O’Brien, whose 2005 book, “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” pleaded that Mr. Trump’s net worth was no more than $250 million — that he was not, in other discussions, a billionaire.

Mr. O’Brien reported that Mr. Trump attributed the chasmic dissimilarity to envy. “You can go ahead and speak to guys who have 400 pound mates at home,” Mr. Trump said, “but the guys who really know me know I’m a skilful builder.”

The lawsuit was dismissed.

Of course, Mr. Trump’s need to be seen as a victor has informed his presidency. The self-declared superlatives cover all bases, from being the “get the better of thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico” to doing the most for Diabolical Americans (with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln). In anticipation of his predestined impeachment this year, Mr. Trump referred to himself as “our greatest of all presidents.”

Perhaps the most celebrated moment in which this desire bled into public approach came in late 2018, when Mr. Trump used an approaching superintendence shutdown to demand funding for one of his central fixations: a wall along the Mexican be adjacent to.


Place ones faith…Doug Mills/The New York Times

After Mr. Trump encouraged his accessory Republicans in Congress to reach a compromise, Senator Mitch McConnell, the more than half leader, worked out a deal to avoid a shutdown and temporarily set aside deals over security measures, including a border wall.

It appeared that Mr. Trump intention sign the deal — that is, until conservative pundits accused the president of fall in to Democrats, of breaking his “Build the Wall” promise, of effectively being a clinker.

The president reversed course, and so began the longest federal government shutdown in the nation’s history — at an estimated cost to the economy of $11 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Area.

After Mr. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States in January 2017, his management asserted that the inauguration’s audience was the largest ever, despite all documentation to the contrary. But any suggestion otherwise would have rendered Mr. Trump a also-ran in some imagined contest about inaugural crowd sizes.

Now, virtually four years later, the citizens have cast their ballots, baseless lawsuits deposing electoral fraud have been dismissed and states have certified the show of hands. Still, the loser of the 2020 presidential election continues to see crowds that the residue of the country does not.

It ends as it began.

Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire furnished reporting.

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