Michael Kruse: Anyone surprised Trump 'has not done the reading'

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From an anonymous senior official's Op-Ed in the New York Times, to Bob Woodward's upcoming tell-all book "Fear," Donald Trump has much to worry about.

But in his 1990 book "Trump: Surviving at the Top," readers are presented with a man who is actually drawn to the prospect of dangling from the precipice.

"You read through that book, and it is clear... that being kind of on the edge and being in a state of real crisis -- a place where it's not a foregone conclusion that he will slip out successfully onto the other side -- is not something that he is just sort of skillful at, potentially, but something he actually sort of likes," says Michael Kruse, senior staff writer at Politico and Politico Magazine.

Journalists have attempted to explain why Donald Trump thinks and acts the way he does. But Kruse has found that nothing holds the answer quite like Trump's own texts.

Kruse has read every book authored or co-authored by Trump, long before he was president, as well as numerous books and articles about Trump authored by other writers. Kruse has built up a "Trump library" that takes up what he calls "a frightening amount of shelf space in my home office." And he's found that over the years, Trump is nothing but consistent in his approach to policy, business, and everyday life.

"This is not a man who operates in subtext, and this is not a presidency that deals in subtext," Kruse told CNN's Brian Stelter. "Everything he does, everything he is, every way he thinks, he has said out loud, often repeatedly, over and over and over in many, many places. I sort of feel like anybody who is remotely surprised by almost anything that happens every day under President Trump has not done the reading."

Kruse, author of a new piece on Trump, spoke to Stelter for this week's Reliable Sources podcast about the power of biographies and the importance of revisiting Trump's works.

Listen to the podcast here:

There's been an explosion of books in the last few years about Trump and the effects of the Trump presidency, with Woodward's "Fear" serving as the latest example. But, Kruse said, "what is being lost is the fact that books about Trump existed before Trump started running for president."

He listed Wayne Barrett's 1992 book "Trump: The Deals and the Downfall" as the "seminal text" for anyone who wants to understand Trump on a fundamental level. Barrett published his book two years after "Trump: Surviving at the Top," which Trump co-wrote while facing billions in debt and confronting the aftermath of his affair with Marla Maples.

Barrett, Kruse said, treated Trump in a way that was deemed unusual at the time. He didn't portray Trump as a New York character or celebrity, but rather as a political operator and businessperson.

One sentence in Barrett's 1979 Village Voice profile on Trump particularly stays with Kruse: "Donald Trump is a user of other users."

"On an almost daily basis, I feel like that sentence can help us understand what we are seeing with him, with him in his White House, with him and his relationships with certain members of Congress," Kruse told Stelter.

Other sentences in Trump's books are particularly revealing when it comes to his character. Stelter pointed out that Trump's book "Think Big" includes the lines, "You are what you think you are. Oftentimes, perception is more important than fact." In "The Art of the Deal," Trump talks about "truthful hyberbole."

Considering this history, Trump's penchant for lying and exaggerating isn't shocking. "The surprise is not that he is who he is and that he is acting these ways and for these reasons," Kruse said. "The surprise is that he is doing it in the context of the presidency."


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