THE WASHINGTON POST – Donald Trump Jr’s best-selling new book, Triggered, fails as memoir and as polemic: Its analysis is facile, its hypocrisy relentless, its self-awareness marginal. (The writing is wretched, even by the standards of political vanity projects.)
But the point of Triggered is not autobiographical, literary or analytic, and it should not be read or evaluated on such grounds. Rather, the book is most useful as a preview of a possible Donald Trump Jr 2024 presidential campaign, the contours of which grow clearer the deeper one wades through these pages.
“There’s been a fair amount of speculation as to where my own political career might take me,” Don Jr noted with satisfaction. This book provides an answer, presenting its author as the natural heir to the MAGA movement: a troller of lefties, warrior of culture and self-described “s— -talker par excellence.” Just like Dad! Yet Don Jr. also attempts to establish some differences, even if stylistic. His positions on immigration are no less hard-line than his father’s, for instance, yet he invokes his own immigrant roots and friendships with immigrants – legal ones, of course, the good ones – to soften the edges. And more important, Don Jr portrays himself as an authentic representative of the aggrieved heartland, in some ways more so than his father.
He dedicates his book to “the deplorables,” saluting the patriotism and values of the everyman Trump supporter. “I am proudly one of you,” he wrote. And he almost seems to believe it.
Throughout Triggered, Don Jr claims both his political and familial inheritance. “From the moment the nurses at New York Hospital inked the name ‘Donald John Trump Jr.’ onto my birth certificate,” he writes, “you might say I’ve been following in the footsteps of my father.”
He claims to share his father’s “killer instinct” and writes that speaking bluntly is “just one of those things that got passed down in the genes!” The connection is not just genetic but mystical: “The energy that flows through my father is the same energy that flowed through my grandfather and great-grandfather before him. The same energy also flows through me.” At times, he even seems to conflate the two Donald Trumps: “I fight back,” Don Jr writes. “That’s what we do.”
So when he brags about receiving so many death threats (“second only to my father”), Don Jr’s message to the base is clear: The left hates me nearly as much as they hate my dad, so you should love me nearly as much as you love him. There are clear parallels between Don Jr’s Triggered and his father’s Trump: The Art of the Deal, both of which were published when the authors were 41.
Don Jr: “We would arrive early in the morning as the crews were setting up, and I would walk with my dad while he inspected the concrete foundations and metal stairways.”
Trump Sr: “I remember very well as a kid, accompanying my father to inspect buildings. We’d spend hours in the building, checking every refrigerator and sink, looking over the boiler and the roof and the lobby.” The son also lingers on his various construction projects and real estate deals and how they were completed “on time and under budget,” another standard Trumpism.
The latest book is also littered with familiar Trump put-downs, talking points, omissions and pats on the back. “Crooked Hillary” and “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” make cameos. Rep Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is derided as “FullofSchiff.” Robert Mueller is an “old, over-the-hill puppet,” although Don Jr. still invokes Mueller’s investigation to contend that there was “no collusion” with Russia and “no obstruction” of justice (even though Mueller’s report, particularly on obstruction, was hardly so definitive).
Don Jr insists that his father’s opposition to Barack Obama was about policy and not race, making no mention of how Trump built his political brand on the lie of birtherism. And he trashes the news media – only his father’s Twitter feed and his own provide the “unfiltered truth,” he asserts – yet is quick to point out news stories discussing his political potential and popularity with conservative audiences. He dismisses a recent Atlantic cover story about his rivalry with his sister Ivanka Trump as “mostly false,” then proceeds to quote portions he finds personally flattering.
Don Jr also displays his father’s eagerness to stoke culture wars and deploy wedge issues, devoting entire chapters to the fake 2019 attack on actor Jussie Smollett and to athletes “smashing women’s hard-earned records” in weightlifting and track and field. Don Jr appears obsessed with questions of gender identity – he says the ultimate Democratic presidential candidate would be “a nonbinary minority who identifies as a dolphin” – and never ceases to trumpet his supposed good looks (“hey, I’m a Trump”) and his tenacious heterosexuality.