An Interview with Tony Schwartz: Trump’s Ghost Writer

Getting comment from the inside.


Best known for writing Trump's The Art of the Deal back in the 80s, Tony Schwartz has recently been particularly outspoken about the current President. Focusing on issues such as climate change and the cracks in Trump's government he has a lot to say. This is what he told us when he talked to the Tab.

The Tab: So I just wanted to start with some word association, to start the interview off. Just tell me the first thing that comes into your head.

Tony Schwartz: I hope I don't.

Trump? Dangerous.

Cambridge? Awesome.

Democracy? Necessary.

Climate Change? Beyond Terrifying.

Government? Broken.

Student Journalism? Loveable.

Haha why thank you! To start properly, as an outsider how do you feel the UK, and to a larger extent Europe, is reacting to Trump?

I think Europeans have responded with more discernment and accuracy than many in the US. They do understand his gravity, all of the NATO countries understand this is an extremely volatile and dangerous man. It's been revealing, especially as an American, to see how much power the US actually has; you see it more clearly when it's being abused. To see that he can just blow up NATO and bump up what were traditionally the West's enemies is sobering and frightening.

Do you think the actions of European government's reflect this? In the UK Theresa May is often criticised, especially in the wake of Brexit, for not making enough effort to stand up to Trump. Do you see that?

I do see that she's a deeply weakened leader who has overseen a pretty catastrophic decision in Brexit, which from the perspective of an American is not going well. It's consistent with the general direction of nationalistic, emotionally driven and primitive politics that the world seems to have moved in.

Definitely interesting, thinking about how similar the ideologies behind Trump and Brexit were.

Yes definitely, and we could find it repeated in a lot of other countries.

I remember especially being worried about Le Pen and thinking if she gets in something really has gone wrong.

Le Pen (he sighs), they even thought in the Netherlands they could have been in a similar situation. Thank God there are some places where it hasn't happened.

Regarding the power of Trump and the US, do you think there's anything the world can really do about him?

I think it's a very tricky balance the Western leaders have. The reason Trump can have so much power is because he instils fear and is prepared to act in capricious ways. I'm sympathetic to the leaders in Europe who feel like they have to walk on eggshells. On the other hand if I think there was a unified move to take specific actions it would be valuable and would have an impact. In short my answer is yes, they could do more. Certainly Theresa May could, but she is a seriously weakened leader, and has lots of other things on her mind.

Moving on but keeping in a global context, as I'm sure you're aware the UN recently made a statement saying that we have 12 years to act on climate change.

I mean well effectively they said 12 minutes. They said if the world does not make radical changes from a policy perspective now, there's no chance we can change the outcome.

Considering statements like this why do you think Trump is so dismissive of Climate Change?

It's complex – why is any republican against it? Because in order to act on global warming the wide spread perception is that you hurt the economy. I think its a wilful ignorance and an incredibly short term perspective. It very much reminds me of Cabaret – yeah you can dance but Hitler is coming. And in fact there is something worse than Hitler coming – the destruction of the planet. Or as people like to correct me, the destruction of the humans on this planet.

Do you think Trump's views on climate change reflect those of the average American?

I do not. I think many are quite unwilling to do anything about it and including myself try to avoid thinking about it because you feel so helpless. But I think the vast majority of Americans think climate change is happening. And if they don't they can just look down to Florida in the last 48 hours and know that the consequences of Global Warming are showing up with undeniable significance. They're increasing in intensity each passing year, perhaps each passing month.

To finish it off, reading the article you wrote for the Guardian I love the optimism that you presented at the end, it made me feel quite good about the world. How do you keep this level of optimism?

I think you hold opposites. You can use the S/cottdale paradox. He was a prisoner of war, like John McCain was and he said that to be optimistic in a situation that seem hopeless you have to be fiercely realistic about what was happening in every moment. You also have to hold on to some optimism that it ultimately could, note could not would, work out. This means you have to act as if everything is possible because otherwise why would you go on living in that circumstance. Neither extreme works. Pessimism does't work because it deflates you. And simple optimism in a world like we live in today is pan-gloss, its candide and unrealistic. To be able to hold that tension is the drama of our time.

Cover Image – Chris Williamson, Interview held at the Cambridge Union.