Washington Monthly - September/October 2016 - 17

TILTING AT WINDMILLS the way to achieve an impossible task is to break every rule. Trump is that fictional British test pilot, only this time he's an American real estate developer. Dale Carnegie versus Norman Vincent Peale Trump thinks that he keeps himself out of trouble by never apologizing, or so the Boston radio host Howie Carr reported Trump telling him earlier this year. "Whatever you do, don't apologize," he said. "You never hear me apologize, do you? That's what killed Jimmy the Greek way back. Remember? He was doing okay 'til he said he was sorry." That might be good advice for David Brooks whenever he feels a St. Francis of Assisi impulse coming on. But is it good advice for everyone else? Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder was an oddsmaker who lost his job as a CBS sports commentator in 1988 after he told a reporter (on Martin Luther King's birthday!), "The black is a better athlete to begin with, because he's been bred to be that way," and a lot of other pseudoscientific racist nonsense. Snyder apologized, abjectly, the same day, then repeated the apology at least twice before CBS fired him. Trump apparently thinks Snyder might have brazened it out, but I don't remember harboring any doubt, even before Snyder apologized, that his muchreported remarks had finished his career in broadcasting. One can't deny, though, that the neverapologize thing seems to work for Trump. In this Trump shows himself to be a true follower of Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. I recently read Peale's 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking back to back with Dale Carnegie's 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I don't know that Trump has read either book, but Peale was his pastor for many years at New York's Marble Collegiate Church, and Trump's father, Fred, who paved the Donald's way in real estate, once took a Dale Carnegie course. I'd always thought of the Peale and Carnegie books as offering the same sort of advice, but on inspection they are very different books, as the titles ought to have alerted me. Carnegie is all about pleasing other people through various types of manipulation, and as such he's a big advocate for the strategic apology. Peale is all about pleasing yourself, and he demonstrates no interest at all in the topic of apology. (The words "apology" and "apologize" each appear only once, in passing reference to an apology that Peale deemed a distraction.) Immovability, a hubristic flaw to avoid at all costs in Carnegie, is a Churchillian virtue to strive for in Peale. The only real overlap between Carnegie's book and Peale's is that they both describe Jim Farley, Franklin Roosevelt's gregarious patronage chief and postmaster general (and later board chairman of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation), as representing the beau ideal of the temperament that guides you to success. Carnegie and Peale both knew Farley, and were utterly dazzled by him. But I digress. It surprised me to observe that Carnegie's book, written by a con man desperate to make a buck, struck a tone that seemed more elevated than Peale's, written by a man of God. But, of course, the two books were written for very different audiences. Carnegie's was a book for overenthusiastic extroverts who needed a bit of calming down; Peale's, for depressive introverts who needed a shot of self-confidence. Shakespeare made Peale's case better than anyone, including Peale, in a scene from Henry V in which the arrogant Dauphin is trying to shore up the tremulous king of France: "Self-love, my liege, is not so great a sin / As self-neglecting." According to Gwenda Blair's 2000 book The Trumps, Fred Trump took his Dale Carnegie course after he was already very successful, in an unsuccessful attempt to overcome shyness. His children teased him about it. Donald Trump quotes Carnegie from time to time, but who can doubt that he's a Peale man through and through? Never mind that he's exactly the wrong personality type to benefit from its homilies. No one will ever accuse Donald Trump of self-neglecting. Timothy Noah is the labor and employment editor at Politico and a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly. Washington Monthly 17 http://www.humaneeducation.org http://www.humaneeducation.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

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