Even if you’re not a golfer, apparently the hottest ticket on the Fathers Day tour this year is a copy of The Commander in Cheat by Rick Reilly. Reilly,a a serious golfer, whose family is so steeped in golf that they have an annual family outing, in which his 90 something grandmother plays, has golfed with Trump personally on multiple occasions. The book itself is a compilation of Trump’s profligate cheating on the links, some personally observed by Reilly, and others related by golfers who have had the dubious distinction of playing a round with Da Boss. The book lays bare both Trump’s childish behavior, as well as the stunning brazenness with which he does it.
Full disclosure. I am a former golfer, and enjoyed both the challenge of the game as well as its pastoral relaxation. In my younger days, I played whenever I could, and while not a “scratch” golfer, I was good enough to enjoy the round rather than be frustrated by it. And with just a basic understanding of the mechanics of golf, as well as the basic mentality, there are some things that Reilly writes about that strike me as being indicative of a limpse into the actual psyche of The Trumpinator.
The Long Game – The long game is a very simple golf term. Basically, it is used to describe most shots that will not place the ball on the green. Other than a par 3, most tee shots are a part of the long game, as are some second shots on a par 5. The long game is also the easiest shot in golf, simply because no distance calculations are required. An hour with any qualified pro can give a golfer the basic mechanics to hit the ball as far down the fairway as possible with enough control to put in on the fairway.
Trump is absurdly proud of his long game. Time and again we have all heard him brag about the distance on his drives, and the fact that no President has ever hit the ball longer and straighter than Trump does. Rick Reilly freely admits in his book that Trump has a very good long game. Trump has had the money, and sufficient leisure time to master the mechanics of the stroke, and to hit the ball a good distance.
But the simple act of a drive in golf is pure Trump at his core. The drive is an act of brute force, and it requires no planning or tactical consideration. Stand over the ball, rear back, whack something much smaller than yourself way the hell and gone, and then pound your chest while grunting :Ooh-ooh-ooh!” Compare that to almost everything Trump does as President. He finds a rhetorical ball, grabs a rhetorical club, and whacks the thing as hard as he can, taking great credit for his decisive action, all the while ignoring the fact that his action, at very best, only got him halfway to where he ultimately wants to be.
The Short Game – The short game is where things get interesting. The object of a stroke in the short game is to actually put the ball on the green, within striking distance of the hole. These shots require discipline and calculation. You must select the club with a projected distance that will get the ball to the green without overshooting it. And even with a perfect club selection, self control is required to “lay off” of the shot, to hit the ball with less than maximum force to put it where you want it.
Suffice it to say, Rick Reilly gleefully reports that His Lowness has an atrociously terrible short game. Trump seems to lack the mental ability to select the proper club, and even when he does, he lacks the self discipline to “lay off” of the shot, to use less than the full amount of brute force to achieve the maximum result. This is also where the majority of Trump’s cheating seems to occur. Being incapable of committing an error, Trump either furiously blames an eternal event or distraction, and insists on a “mulligan,” a second shot from the same spot without a stroke penalty, or either he or his caddy surreptitiously (they think) move the ball from its original position to a more advantageous position, and claim that’s where it went in the first place.
Again, compare Trump’s conduct on the links in the short game with his behavior in the White House. After starting the round by whacking his rhetorical ball down the fairway, Trump lacks the skill and self discipline to either select the proper tool, or the self control and skill to put that rhetorical ball even on the green, much less in the hole. When this happens, he either blames an external force, such as an incompetent aide or negotiator, and wants a free mulligan to take another whack at putting the ball where he wants it. Failing that, his fallback position if to simply cheat, to claim that he put the ball exactly where he wanted it to go in the first place, and play from there, even though everybody with one myopic eye can tell that he’s lying his portly ass off. This is not a sustainable tactic when you’re playing against opponents who actually want to win the game.
The Cheat – This one is actually broken down into two components, the act of the cheat itself, and the psychology of the cheat. Trump cheats, both in golf as well as in his conduct as president, for two reasons. One, he feels that he is smart enough, as well as slick enough, to get away with it. again, this can be incredibly dangerous. It’s one thing to cheat in a friendly game, where nothing is at stake, and the opponents can simply shrug, and mentally tally up the true score. It’s another thing entirely to cheat in a tournament game, such as a negotiation with a foreign power, where reputation, prestige, and maybe even money are at stake. Opponents are far less likely to indulge him when they personally have something of value to them to lose in the process.
And then there is the psychology of the cheat. Trump cheats constantly and brazenly, for the simple reason that he feels entitled to cheat. He cheats because he is superior to those he is playing against, and is entitled to win. He cheats because he has seldom actually been called out for it in the past, and on those rare occasions where he has, there have never been any consequences serious enough to deter him from cheating in the future. People are willing to play with him again because it’s easier than incurring his wrath for declining. On the international stage, for the first time, from Russia to North Korea, from Japan to China to Mexico. Trump is finding out two very hard lessons. First, these people are actually keeping an accurate score, and if you screw them once, they’ll simply find another partner to play a round with the next time. And second, he’s finding out to his severe dismay and disappointment that some of these guys are one helluva lot better and more effective at cheating than he ever dreamed oof being.
So there you have it. While I have yet to pick up the book myself, I have seen Reilly discussing it on several shows, with hilarious examples of the audacity with which Trump so childishly tries to manipulate the game, and his lack of expertise, and the reviews I have seen have all been glowing. But if you get the book for Fathers Day, if for no better reason than the fact that the giver knows how strongly you hate Trump, and will revel in his churlish behavior, take a moment as you read to compare his behavior on the course with his behavior as president. I think you’ll find that in this particular case, his hobby is actually a window into his soul.