In a new biography, Conrad Black provides intriguing analysis of Donald Trump’s political rise. Victor Davis Hanson describes author Black as “a prolific and insightful historian” who carefully traces Trump’s early years in business, covering Trump’s various misadventures, financial recoveries, and “sometimes wild antics.” In his review of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other, Mr. Hanson writes:
Black’s aim is to illustrate how much of what Trump has done since announcing his presidential candidacy in summer 2015 is hardly mysterious. Instead, Trump’s methods are fully explicable by what he has always done in the past—in the sometimes troubling, but more often reassuring, sense.
Black is neither a hagiographer nor an ankle-biter. He seeks to understand Trump within the three prominent landscapes in which Americans had come to know their new president: politics, the celebrity world, and the cannibalistic arena of high-stakes Manhattan real estate and finance. Of the three, Black is most jaded about the anti-Trump hysteria within the first two, not because the real estate business is inherently a nobler profession, but because it more often lacks the moral preening and hypocrisies of both the beltway and tabloids. The result is an argument that the first president to have neither prior political nor military service nevertheless has his own demonstrable skill sets that are making his presidency far more dynamic than either his critics or supporters quite imagined. Black’s unspoken assumption is that it is more difficult to build a skyscraper in Manhattan than to be a career politician or an evening news reader.
(Conrad) Black is a singular prose stylist of what in the ancient world would be called the Asiatic, or florid and decorative, style—multisyllabic and sometime near archaic vocabulary, ornate imagery, melodic prose rhythms, diverse syntax, and classical tropes of deliberate understatement, juxtapositions of Latinate and Anglo-Saxon words, and plentiful metaphors and similes. In the modern world, few in English write (or can write) any more like Edward Gibbon or Winston Churchill, but Black does so effortlessly and with precision. So it is often a treat to read an Isocrates or Cicero in modern English.