GOLDEN HANDCUFFS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF TRUMP’S WOMEN by Nina Burleigh

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(A younger Trump and Melania)

Nina Burleigh states in the Acknowledgements of her new book, GOLDEN HANDCUFFS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF TRUMP’S WOMEN that the idea for her new book derived from a Newsweek cover entitled, “The Queens of Trumplandia” shortly after Trump’s inauguration.  The book itself has several interesting tidbits about Trump’s three wives, daughter, Ivanka, his grandmother and mother, but it does not rise to the level of a complete volume, when an in-depth magazine article would have been enough.

Burleigh draws several interesting conclusions as it pertains to each of the women and the first part of the book dealing with Trump’s childhood and adolescent years provides a few important insights into the president, but again it could have been covered in a magazine article.  Perhaps one of the most insightful comments occurs early on as Burleigh quotes historian, Todd Gitlin who states, “Trump represents the other side of the ‘60s.  He’s not operating in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., God knows – he’s operating in the spirit of Hugh Hefner.  That’s his 60s: the liberated guy fucking around at will, grabbing women.  He’s living the Playboy philosophy as Heffner articulated it.”  His approach to women is clear-cut, they must surrender their power in measures of dignity in order to enhance his.  As he once said, “It really doesn’t matter what they write [about you] as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

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(Spouse #1, Ivana Trump)

For Trump, women had to conform to his brand.  Further, for each woman, everything was for sale, especially their “look.”  By middle age Trump had become the arbiter of female beauty as he purchased several beauty pageants.  It is also interesting to note that all his women (if one excepts that southern Georgia was not conducive to overall American culture) were immigrants considering his own immigration policies as president.  In fact, Melania would not be allowed into the United States today if her husbands proposals had become law.

In imparting her narrative, Burleigh never misses an opportunity to relate something from Trump’s earlier biography to that of current obstruction, corruption, or just plain nastiness on his part.  Despite the sarcasm that abounds Burleigh does have something meaningful to impart.  Trump’s maternal grandmother Elizabeth Ann Christ who immigrated from a German village is given little credit for beginning the Trump family wealth accumulation.  Burleigh argues that the 49-year-old widow with three children was able to parlay her husbands bank account into a small, but successful real estate enterprise in Queens, NY.  Trump gives all the credit to his father, Fred who he claims was a real estate genius at 14, and grandma just wrote the checks.

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(Spouse #2, Marla Maples)

The key figure in Trump’s childhood was his father.  His mother Mary Anne MacLoad a Scottish immigrant accepted the patriarchal family where daddy was feared.  For Trump no woman could measure up to his mother which becomes a problem with women throughout his life.  The part of the book I was looking forward to the most was Trump’s childhood as I will be teaching a Psychohistory course next month and I will be analyzing the “Donald,”  but after reading the book I feel somewhat disappointed.

Trump as a child was a hellion from the time, he was a toddler.  His primal scream may have occurred when he was two years old as his mother suffered a hemorrhage, hysterectomy, and peritonitis with the birth of her fifth and last child.  Trump’s mother had cared for him very affectionately until that time and it was a blow to a boy who was in the midst of the “terrible twos.”  Mary was exhausted during her recovery and never rebonded with Donald who “became an aggressive, impulsive, and sometimes downright sadistic little boy.”  Trump would lash out at teachers, Doctors, schoolmates, etc. and grew proud of his own belligerency.  Today he would be diagnosed with ADHD highlighted by “inattentiveness, impulsivity and hypersensitivity” who refused to read which sounds like a daily occurrence at the White House!  One wonders if his son Barron has inherited some of his father’s learning issues.  Trump, undiagnosed suffered from these learning disabilities which we are all paying for.

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(Spouse #3, Melania Trump)

Donald’s development was markedly affected by his father.  Fred Trump whose treatment of women fixed his son’s attitudes towards females for life.  Burleigh argues that he was a philanderer who viewed women through two lenses – what they could do for him in private, and how they might be employed as props to advance his career and sell his properties.   Donald’s adulthood suggests a boy forever marked by a rigid, demanding, pathologically fastidious, and possibly physically abusive father – sound familiar?  The book unearths stark details of the forces that shaped Mr. Trump’s thinking about women — Mr. Trump’s father, went as far as forbidding the word “pregnant” from being uttered in a household that would grow to five children and explains Donald’s aversion to certain biological aspects of being a woman.

Perhaps his most interesting wife was Ivana who was a Czech immigrant who would become a mogul in her own right.  She became competition for the limelight that Trump could never share.  Burleigh points out that Trump loved to play Pygmalion which worked out well with Ivana for several years, but once she developed her own separate and successful brand she had to go.  In addition, as she grew older and had her facial and body alterations, she no longer fit Trump’s image of what his spouse should be.  Burleigh as he does with all the wives ply’s the myths and accepted facts pertaining to the marriages.  But what is clear that if Trump could not mold his women into what he needed, like Marla Maples, his second wife then they could no longer stay married.  As far as wife number three is concerned, Melania, is a stunning woman who could not measure up to the modeling world that was the source for Trump’s women.  She evolved into the perfect spouse as she seems to be content as she does not give any indication that she wants to bask in the limelight as her predecessors.

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(Fred Trump and Donald Trump)

Burleigh summarizes the relationship with all his wives very effectively, “Unlike Marla, who demanded Trump make an all-encompassing spiritual commitment to her, and a spiritual commitment to doing good works, and unlike Ivana, who morphed into a female version of Donald, Melania purred with contentment, was happy to stay indoors, and as she would say in many future interviews, she had no interest in changing Donald.” As one of Melania’s friends has stated “I think she needed a strong man, a father figure.”

The section of the book that is most disconcerting apart from Trump’s misogyny deals with first-daughter Ivanka.  Burleigh deals with the most important aspects of their relationship and perhaps the unconscious sexual dreams Trump has about his daughter.  What is clear is that she is a more refined version of her father with her own agenda.  Her disingenuous approach to issues and claims of being a supporter of liberal causes may ruffle her father’s base, but it appears it is to be part of her own political agenda in the future.  Trump raised her to be a combination of his own brand of woman, the future head of the Trump Organization, and possibly a political force for the future.

In summation if you are to be a Trump woman, be it a wife, mother, or daughter you must conform to the look – stiletto heels, have the characteristics of a model wearing the right clothing and jewelry, and have the visage of how you view and carry yourself as always showcasing the brand.

To her credit, Burleigh has sifted through decades of publicly available materials — including Mr. Trump’s own words in memoirs and interviews — to animate the central point of the book: that “Mr. Trump has long believed women, particularly if they are not able to be molded to his liking, are not to be trusted.” (New York Times, October19, 2018)  If you are interested in detail about Trump’s relationship with women this book may be for you.  However, it doesn’t really say much that has not been said before, though Burleigh corroborates a great deal of what has been in print and interviews.  If you are interested in a more sophisticated approach to the material, and I might be a bit facetious when I say material, I would pursue some of the other “Trump” books.

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WE ARE MARKET BASKET by Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker

(Associates at Market Basket demonstrate their support for their CEO Arthur T. Demoulas)

For me the Market Basket story of the summer of 2014 is somewhat personal.  I had the pleasure of teaching two of Arthur T. Demoulas children and had numerous interactions with the family.  They treated my family as if we were part of theirs and their generosity and support when needed was always present.  The concept of “family” is also the core of how the Market Basket supermarket chain has always been operated.  This concept forms the basis of Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker’s new book WE ARE MARKET BASKET which relates the story of the amazing relationship between management and labor, describing the behind the scenes events and analysis that accompanied the firing of Arthur T. Demoulas (Arthur T.) as company CEO in 2014, bringing to a head an ongoing family dispute that had existed for years.  The dispute has become a case study for many business classes as in this instance labor supported management in the person of Arthur T., when his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas (Arthur S.) sought to destroy the company’s successful business model by squeezing every last dime out of Market Basket to the detriment of the loyal workers and customers of the chain.

The ongoing battle for the leading supermarket chain in New England was between two different corporate views.  The first was followed by Arthur T. who continued the principles laid down by his father Telemachus and his uncle George, the sons of the chain’s founder in creating a sense of family and empowerment among the company’s labor force.  Treating workers as associates with generous profit sharing and other benefits, and keeping prices down for middle and lower consumers whereby helping balance the socioeconomic divide in a given community.  For Arthur S., George’s son, the goal was quite different.  After an earlier court decision, Arthur S. and his faction controlled 50.5% of the company’s stock and a majority of its corporate board.  They sought to implement a plan to shift as much of the company’s liquidity to shareholders as possible, this involved an immediate and continuous dividend of all excess cash, beginning with a $300 million payout in the fall of 2013.  Further, it appeared that Arthur S. and his cohorts were going to sell the company to Delhaize Group, that a few years earlier had also purchased Hannafords.  To achieve this goal, Arthur T. had to be fired as company CEO.  In a nutshell that is the background that Daniel Korschun, a marketing professor at Drexel University; and Grant Welker, a journalist with the Lowell News present in their new book.  However, the detail presented goes much deeper and upon completion what emerges is the family background to the business dating from its founding by Greek immigrants in 1917, a detailed discussion of the company’s philosophy and business model, and the nasty corporate war that raged inside the family until Arthur T. was finally restored as company CEO in August, 2014.

Market Basket is a $4.5 billion corporation that retains the mom and pop feel that its founder, Athanasios Demoulas and his sons Telemachus and George cultivated from the outset.  The authors detail the course of the company’s evolution as it caught the American supermarket phase of the 1950s to create the success that it has become.  Once its founder died, the two son’s success was built on their ability to serve families on fixed and limited incomes as the textile mills closed down in Lowell, MA where the first store was opened.  They kept their prices low which in effect raised their customer’s standard of living.  Further, the Demoulas brothers were open to local producers and did not charge the high slotting fees that other chains did.  They relied on offering high quality products, fully staffed and stocked their stores on a level not matched by their competitors, and treated their employees well so they would have a vested interest in the company’s success.

The authors acknowledge that Arthur T. possessed personal attributes that were almost “cult” like during the ensuing strike following his dismissal as CEO, but they argue there is much more to this complex man than is often presented in the media.  He is a perfectionist who demands excellence and an extremely tough negotiator.  He believes in having almost complete control in implementing his vision, but he is an astute individual who has a good “heart” and has developed a strong and loyal management team that has been with him for years.  He believes workers, known as associates have to learn the business from the ground up and promoting from within, not hiring the latest MBA.  Like his father, Arthur T. “overarching goal is to grow the company, and his personal goal is to be a good merchant,” which is in marked contrast to his cousin, Arthur S.   For Arthur T., “Market Basket has a moral obligation to the communities we serve,” which explains the amazing support he received from customers during the 2014 strike and how they returned as shoppers once he was able to buy out the opposition and return as CEO.

The authors stress the culture that has evolved at Market Basket over the years-loyalty, family, and community.  The sense of family transcends traditional boundaries as is described in detail throughout the narrative.  The culture of the company rests on empowerment as “associates believe that their job is important and that they as individuals have roles in the success of the company.”  The authors devote a significant amount of time to explaining leadership and business practice theory and apply different academic philosophies to Market Basket.  But, it seems in all cases no matter which study or market research that is consulted, the company either stands out as one of the best, or it has adapted and never wavered from its core values, i.e.; empowerment, communication, and distributed leadership strategies.  Market Basket executives consistently break with the accepted wisdom put forth in business schools and focus on weekly shoppers who buy for their families, as opposed to the newer trends of the mega store like Wegmans or the occasional shopper like Trader Joe’s.

By 2013 following the death of George, the family conflict over the company’s philosophy could no longer be contained once his widow and son shifted their support to Arthur S.  The authors had access to Market Basket board meetings as part of their research that provides a unique view into corporate conflict.  The strategy of Arthur S. and his board allies to remove his cousin are laid out, in addition to the birth of the movement that would support Arthur T.  Once the firing took place fear spread among associates that there company was about to be sold and felt that their lives that were totally integrated into the Market Basket family were about to be destroyed.  A detailed chronological description of events from the perspective of the opposition to Arthur S. and his board actions is presented, as is a perceptive analysis of the strategic errors they made.

(Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas)

To gain the feel of what the firing meant to Market Basket associates the authors included numerous interviews in the text, and the relationship between Arthur T. and his employees is clearly one of deep emotion and support.  The authors spend a major part of the book analyzing the strike that was implemented to save Arthur T. and their vision of their jobs from the warehouse and supply stoppages, the use of social media to gain outside support, as well as the economic and political ramifications that probably would have taken place had Arthur T. not been able to purchase control of the company.  The narrative and dialogue presented is often breezy, but in a very serious manner because of what was at stake.  It is a fine effort by the authors and fully explains why so many people were “honking their horns” throughout the summer of 2014 as they drove by their local Market Basket store.