Review: ‘The Confidence Man’ Finds Trump’s Business Image Was Made for TV

This film, part of Netflix’s docu-series “Dirty Money,” argues that the success the president used as a campaign plank was largely set dressing.

Comments: 80

  1. We have all had our hand in creating this monster. The Cult of Celebrity has vomited out this Moloch upon us. Febrile, feral, ferocious. Reality TVs apotheosis has come full circle and now this undiagnosed sociopath who has spent his life being shielded from even the knowledge of the consequences of his actions has his fingers on the nuclear launch codes. May the God I do not believe in help us all.

  2. On criminal psychologist Robert Hare’s famous Psychopath Test you get zero for No, 1 for Partial, and 2 for Yes.

    Glibness and Superficial Charm - 2, Grandiose Sense of Self-worth - 2, Pathological Lying - 2, Cunning/manipulative - 2, Lack of Remorse - 2, Emotional Shallowness - 2, Callousness and Lack of Empathy - 2, Unwillingness to Accept Responsibility for Actions - 2, a Tendency to Boredom - 2, a Parasitic Lifestyle - 2, a Lack of Realistic Long-term Goals - 2, Impulsivity - 2, Irresponsibility - 2, Lack of Behavioural Control - 2, Behavioural Problems in Early Life - 2, Juvenile Delinquency - 1, Criminal Versatility - 0, a History of “Revocation of Conditional Release” (ie Broken Parole) - 0, Multiple Marriages - 2, and Promiscuous Sexual Behaviour - 2.

    So Trump scores 35. Hare says: “A friend of mine, a psychiatrist, once said, “Bob, when I meet someone who scores 35 or 36, I know these people really are different.”

  3. That's one hell of a summation. Kudos, my friend.

  4. This test should have been used in his recent physical. Instead, he was asked to identify a lion and a camel among other things. Since he requested the test, rather than have it sprung upon him, he perhaps studied up in advance so he could also differentiate between a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus.

  5. You quickly say, “the fraud case, later settled, against Trump University.” I guess if armed robbers had the cash to buy off victims, they’d be just fine too.

  6. My thoughts exactly. “Settled” a few weeks before the election, for $25 million!! How many of those plaintiffs actually got paid?

  7. And this is a surprise to whom?

  8. All the people who voted for him, apparently.

  9. One should read the recent book, "Bunk" or "Fantasyland" by Kurt Andersen to also get a greater understanding as to why the American people are so susceptible to "confidence", or simply put, Con Men. Americans seem to have an innate susceptibility to fantasy, conspiracy theories, bold, audacious liars, film-flam, etc. From Barnum to Madoff, from McCarthy to the original Ponzi, Americans willingly submit to the fantastic, the carnival barker, the showman, the current Republican Party (37 years of picking the people's pockets and still counting). And now Trump. Of course, if anyone who voted for him read any of the books about him, laden with so many contemptuous lies, he/she would have voted as did most Manhattanites...90% for Clinton. Those who truly "know" him fully understood he was the ultimate con man. And now we are paying the price as David From so aptly writes in his current book.

  10. I think "The True Believer," the 1951 book by Eric Hoffer should be required reading in all government classes.

  11. And yes there's trouble, right here in River City...

  12. There is a lot of "magical thinking" like I could be that guy, if only.... The other thing is that the con man makes it interesting, exciting, can't turn your eyes away fun or preys on your insecurities..."don't be left out"; "don't be stupid"; "everyone else is doing it"; be an "insider, a player, be in the room."

  13. The man lost money running casinos, for crying out loud! A third grader should be able to make a profit from a casino. So, was he an idiot or a crook or both?

  14. Anybody can lose money running a casino. All you have to do is think that you know everything, and to sink vast amounts of money into your every whim without comparing what you are spending with what you are making in profit. You can bluff your way through for a time, but sooner or later people see through your bluff.

  15. Unquestionably both.

  16. Both!

  17. "Confidence Man" is a step in the right direction by Netflix.

    There was also "Small Potatoes, Who Killed the USFL" by ESPN, an excellent documentary about Trump first coming to national prominence by buying a pro football team, and then dismembering a viable alternative to the NFL for personal, spiteful reasons.

    That was 35 years ago, and I still remember the lack of equity and good judgment Trump displayed then. So the fact that he is president seems implausible. The fact that the Republicans use him as their stalking horse is vomitorious.

  18. And the US voters all fell for the fake about the fake. Not much in the critical thinking skills I would say. Little hands in the white house is a fake.

  19. And the alternative is what? Focus on solutions not critique - the man is disgusting but what is the alternative?

  20. The uneducated White Trash of Nancy Isenberg’s treatise gave us what we richly deserve: a lying fraud... a man that lies for a living. Donald Trump never knew who he was, so he manufactured an identity and went with that. Melania knew, but she wanted out. Her son will want out, too. It’s only a question of time. Wall Street has had few honest men or women. Goldman, Sachs has been the best of the worst for decades. Access journalism now has a president that feeds the frenzy. The Confidence Man inspires no confidence in the 5% of the population that bothered to get an education that matters. Robert Maynard Hutchins and his campus saw all this coming...

    Exiistentialists saw it coming. Aldous Huxley, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus... 1984... it’s all there.

    And we have not yet learned the worst of it. That is coming in the pages of my favorite...


  21. Soon.

  22. This is what everyone in new york already knew.

    You can barely throw a rock in queens without hitting a contractor with a bounced check or a missing payment from trump. He's a con man, a lousy businessman, a liar, and an imbecile.

    We warned everyone, but thanks to the old gray lady et al we were drowned out by a chorus of "emails... but those emails!"

  23. end: But in spite of "those emails" she won by nearly 3 million votes. It's the damn Electoral College that fouled up the works.

  24. yes, ejd…if the rest of the country just knew Trump like the people in the NY metro area…he would never have won. Nobody would have voted for this nasty self serving con artist.

  25. Yes, the way he treats vendors is the single greatest reason I despise this guy. As an accountant, it tells me everything I need to know about him. In the 9 years I worked in property management, I saw one check held until the contractor finished the job properly, and only then was paid in full.

  26. Yes, he is an advertising mascot, a perfect description. Part Hamburglar and part Stay-Puft Marshmallow man a la' Ghostbusters- a meaningless, amusing, floating cartoon blown out of all proportion into terrifyingly colossal size.

  27. Vandalfan: Judging from more recent photos, it appears Fearless Leader is now the animatronic Pillsbury Dough Boy.

  28. Vandalfan, good description. BTW, my grandmother was from Coeur d'Alene. Great place.

  29. I'm more furious with the seemingly endless list of financial institutions that found it prudent to do business with this man. Institutions, by the way, that are on the verge of freeing themselves of any oversight from the last time they almost destroyed our economy barely a decade ago.

  30. I think if you were able to examine the upper-level management of such financial institutions you would find that they are run by suckers who went for some of the lamest tricks that exist.

  31. Could we please have fewer millionaires and billionaires in government? Over half of Congress are millionaires. They don't think like the rest of us do.

  32. in other equally surprising news: water is wet, fire is hot, and direct sunlight is bright.

  33. The ultimate insult to all good Americans that millions of our fellow citizens voted for a carnival barker. Historians and political scientists will have a field day explaining how this happened. The big question: will the country learn from this mistake, or is America broken?

  34. I hope I'm alive to read (yes there's people my age who still "read") historians analysis the mind of Americans who support this clown and why they are completely unable to acknowledge his lies and frauds to the American People.

  35. The "American People" voted for Clinton over Trump. Eleven million in total people voted for other candidates. Don't include us/me in this indictment.

  36. The name "Trump" is itself a mixed-blessing. Just check " A Dictionary of Historical Slang" by Eric Partridge where "trump," noun and verb respectively are defined as: " a breaking of wind," and "to break wind." Not sure I'd be paying big bucks to emblazon that on a building. But talk about branding!

  37. His grandfather's real last name was Drumpf, but changed it when he emigrated. For a real laugh, look up Betrump.

  38. Finally this gets some discussion. Trump understands image and message control like no other, every article refers to him as “businessman turned politician” “former businessman” - he’s only ever been a publicity artist and the media loves to cover him for eyeballs and clicks (gotta sell advertising!) so it’s a marriage mage in heaven. Criticizing him as a person and POTUS is getting old, what’s the alternative? Protect illegal immigrants, expand welfare, and raise taxes? There is no competing narrative from the Democratic Party - see what happens this time next year when the GOP has a super majority - it’s a good thing Schumer cares more about “Dreamers” than he does about improving the LIRR, Metro North or debt relief for LIPA so rate payers get a break.

  39. Reality TV is probably the lowest form of TV . It is a lie trying to pass itself as reality . The problem with it is that the weakest minds among us truly believe it . We are living in a culture of fame , tabloids and spectacle . There is surely a price to pay for this superficiality .

  40. There is indeed a price, and the Germans paid it in 1945. And they will never live it down. Neither will we, for the choice we made in 2016.

  41. Reality TV happened when there was a writer's strike and the business people figured who needs writers anyway when we can do pretend reality TV shows for far less money. Hence the very low bar and the pretend reality that so many find entertaining. Give me some great writers, talented actors and some first rate production values please. I live in the real world and I would like to see semiprofessional entertainment for some relief fro reality. Reality TV is not about reality nor is it entertaining to watch people eat, go to the toilet, have sex etc. Why am I paying so much for cable TV for such low bar crass content w/ no merit?

  42. Did he conjure up his very real wealth in the same way? $3.1 billion ain't chicken feed. Trump lies, the NYT publishes fake news, Hillary would have been even worse for Americans, and I have the soul satisfaction of not having voted for any one of the passel of candidates who ran in 2016. Don't vote! You're sure to be sorry you did.

  43. You have to vote when all the regulations that keep us safe and healthy are demolished.

  44. Very real wealth? $3.1 billion?? Where did you find that -- a Trump University brochure? Donny built Trump Tower (as usual, with other people's money) to insure that he'd always have an apartment in Manhattan regardless of cash flow. Not voting doesn't absolve you of responsibility for this ongoing catastrophe; it intensifies it.

  45. Trump has made me want to vomit - 'slightly nauseous' in the words of James Comey - since I saw the 60 Minutes interview by, I believe, Morley Safer with him & Ivana when Trump Tower opened. They were trashy, tacky people. And, still are. So, I never watched The Apprentice other than about 15 seconds, it was all I could stand, once. I have, however, called Trump the 'Network' candidate starting almost from the first rally I saw. Now, I learn the ranting Howard Beale, who was smarter than Trump could ever be, was not the only thing stolen from that movie. If Trump doesn't put an end to 'run government like a business' & elect a businessman to do it...the Democrats are way, way worse at messaging than they've demonstrated so far.

  46. Reality TV was a programming solution in response to the writers strike. That strike basically spawned a President.

  47. I won't expect any credit for the President here. However even a "weak mind" can discern the difference between Form and Function. Form: - Nothing more needs to be said. It is well covered here. Function - Tax reform, Immigration reform, Standing up to belligerent countries instead of kissing up (59 cruise missiles, North Korea,...); Looking out for American jobs (Nafta renegotiations, tariff on foreign subsidized solar panels); substantive discussion on immigration issues; and ....

  48. His accomplishments are of debatable value, but they are real. Those of us who oppose him ignore that at our peril. Do not discount the possibility of re-election!

  49. I agree. Trump is the poster boy for the TV. That alone says a lot about both. Until recently American TV had been considered a "Wasteland". Most that airs on the original broadcast channels is rubbish. It's appeal to the lowest common denominator prevailed for decades. Its gauge to success was based on how many people/bodies could be gathered around to stare at the vacuous tube for long periods of time. Their mantra: quantity versus quality. With ratings dominating, Trump became the perfect foil for someone who flew to the red light of the camera like a moth to the flame. Trump is the prime example of what happens to a media obsessed with big numbers, it turns to schlock. And Trump became the king of schlock, the one person we New Yorkers think of when it came to being the purveyor of the gaudy, the garish, the over-the-top display of conspicuous consumption. Trump is a laughingstock here in New York, has been since he arrived with his gold hair in tow from Queens. Trump is New York's Elvis. Elvis, he the hillbilly truck driver from Tupelo who became the King. From the velvet portraits that hang in Graceland, and the white-studded jumpsuit and cape, Elvis displayed his wares without an ounce of embarrassment. Too bad the King of Rock and Roll is no longer with us. A picture of Elvis and Trump shaking hands in the Oval Office would be more appropriate than the most popular photo of the King with Nixon. Neither would display an ounce of parody or satire. DD Manhattan

  50. Trump did not have golden hair when he came to Manhattan back in the day. His hair was dark brown and actually covered his head then.

  51. If "The Apprentice" gave the con man his pulpit, Jeff Zucker kept it going in the Presidential campaign. Zucker was at NBC and benefitted from "The Apprentice" star and the show's revenues. Zucker then went to CNN, where he shamelessly pushed the same reality show Trump garbage, referring to it as "the drama of the day." Zucker wanted Trump live and uncensored on CNN at his campaign appearances. A shambles grab for ratings, simply giving away air time with no checks by journalists. Zucker is every bit the equal of Trump's con and fed America a load of unrestricted trash.

  52. While most others watched "Network" and saw a Swiftian satire, Jeff Zucker saw a business plan.

  53. Donald Trump is more poser than president, and by coincidence has a artform named for him . . . Trompe l’oeil Per Merrimack-Webster: a style of painting in which things are painted in a way that makes them look like real objects.” Or, fool the eye. Or, fool us all . . .

  54. "Per Merrimack-Webster:" That's MERRIAM-Webster.

  55. Ned Beatty gives quite a performance, certainly worthy of a best supporting Oscar.

    If not, did he at least get a (so-called) "Nobel memorial prize" in economics? After all, most of those prizes were awarded for saying pretty much the same thing, albeit spruced up with some pretty fancy-shmancy math.

  56. Thanks for the review, but I hardly need to watch this. I've known Trump was a lying con man for well over a decade. He was always all about the image, always refusing to pay his debts, always declaring bankruptcy, always cheating on his wives. And he still is exactly the same, right down to cheating on the wife of the moment. And I'm sure there's a younger foreign model lined up to be Ms. Trump #4.

    So yeah, Trump is a disgusting, amoral liar, and not terribly bright. Says a lot about our nation that he got elected. To be clear, it says that America is too dumb to remain a superpower, that our educational system has failed us, and that the average American has all the intelligence of a turnip.

  57. @Dan Stackhouse Call any vegetable And the chances are good That a vegetable will respond to you-hoooo Where's FRANK ZAPPA when we need him?

  58. It does become a bit tedious, from the beginning he has always been a narcissistic psychopathic pathological liar who is a conman, misogynist and racist. Conmen exist because there are always suckers. He is now way way beyond his abilities. When will people learn.

  59. Just additional confirmation to the choir about our Page6President.

  60. Which brings us to the Trumpian performance as a negotiator, as The Supreme Deal Maker. Having created and honed a performance of All Donald All the Time, Donald J. Trump has found the perfect foils for his unexpected triumph playing President of the United States: the other politicians, Republicans and Democrats, who may know K Street but don't have a clue about show business.
    When the Emperor has no more clothes, nudity is the coin of the realm.
    Confidence Men depend on, rely on the many who are easily conned, who conflate fame with genius -- and there's some kind of "genius" at work in the Trump Dome. At the same time, most but fortunately not all Republicans are willing to take advantage of Mr. Trump's going to Washington -- a fetid Mutual Admiration Society where membership involves dishonesty, bullying, cruelty, craven greed and taking advantage of the Born-A-Minute suckers for whom ignorance is bliss.
    The worthy Dreamers may soon begin living a nightmare unless those who oppose President Trump think outside the Beltway Bubble, and unless Mr. Mueller in well-timed fashion rings down the curtain before Act Five of this ludicrous tragedy.
    Yes, Virginia, the world is a business, and as a genuine American genius told us long ago, "There's No Business Like Show Business." It's a motto Donald J. Trump has taken to heart and to the bank too many times.
    Exit Stage Right, please.
    Doug Giebel, Big Sandy, Montana

  61. Donald Trump recognized the power of having others speak for him, of letting them characterize him — ideally, as something or someone bigger, better than he actually was, but even if the characterization didn’t match his desired image, press is press, whether positive or negative. He always wanted to be seen, more than anything, as a Big Deal. Television and print exposure helped him along, and in a one-hand-washing another way; he presented an outsized eye catching picture to the media, knowing that it would draw eyes, and that eyes draw advertisers, and that media outlets would happily give him still more exposure to keep their numbers up. The loudspeaker of television, especially, got doubly loud when “The Apprentice” was conceived; not only was the man being talked about, but now he was also acting the part of the stern, savvy business executive. Image trumped truth. Twitter then put a bullhorn in his hand. He got his own TV airtime, lots of third-party exposure and commentary, and then the ability to amplify his own voice online. Unbelievably media-savvy, and the prime example of how easy it is to gull great swathes of the public with image.

  62. It seems that Donald Trump is the human version of too big to fail. At this point, Trump's voters are not unlike his creditors - too vested to in him succeeding to want to acknowledge his defects.
    What irks me is when many people who not only should, but do know better express "hope" that he will "grow" into the office.
    No. He needs to shrink to the point of irrelevance.

  63. Alleged self-enrichment? It's happening right before our eyes! He doesn't even pretend it's not happening.

  64. True it's all a show for him. He reminds me of Christian Bale's portrayal of Irving Rosenfeld in "American Hustle".. only higher stakes. Funny - if it were not so terrifying.

  65. Of course, tRump's a fraud. There's no lack of evidence for that. But he's the perfect frontman-shameless, dishonest, self-aggrandizing, unintelligent, unsophisticated-for the 24/7 sideshow being staged for our distraction and amusement. The Donald is the perfect empty-suited host organism for the corporate oligarchy (and it's GOP lobbyists) to inhabit in order to destabilize our institutions, shift enormous wealth to the already enormously wealthy, and complete its takeover of our democracy.

  66. I just want Trump, his spawn & cronies & religious & far right all to just go away & disappear. They make getting up in the morning difficult & hard to sleep at night with worry about what idiotic and dangerous things he the rest will do next to bring the doomsday clock to midnight. UGH!

  67. That Paddy Chayefsky-written monologue from Ned Beatty is perhaps the greatest of the past 50 years, and it's almost too good for that (already great) movie. It accurately predicted the Reagan-era, when the philosophy that the corporate sphere should dominate the public governmental sphere began worldwide. We take this for idea granted now, but it wasn't always this way. Another prophetic movie to watch from that era is "Rollerball," which predicted a future where all big decisions are made secretly by corporations which provide television entertainment to distract everyone. It still amazes me that popular big-budget films actually got this stuff back then - they knew society's growing telegenic pro-corporate conservatism wasn't going to end well, and here we are.

  68. Trump's business plan: stiff creditors.

  69. This show was made before, from 1989-1991. It's called "Trump: What's the Deal?" It was financed by Leonard Stern, a real billionaire, who wanted to make a series of documentaries about successful business figures. In 1989, Trump looked like one. In 1991, he didn't. Trump threatened to sue. Stern shelved the documentary. 25 years later, Libby Handros (the producer/director) got it released on the Web. By then, Trump was running for President, and, for him, the past didn't exist. Here's the trailer:

  70. When the Kardashians began to make money off of their connection to the OJ murders...when the Jersey Shore and Housewives are the most popular shows...and when reality TV becomes cheaper to produce than sit coms and dramas...that is when TV addicted America began to believe that TV stars are better than the average Joe and Jane at everything. Rather than elect an empathetic Oprah or PBS egghead, we got Trump. America is resilient, but every day that passes I am more depressed and sad that this is everyone's reality show now, even those of us who never deigned to watch one of these driveling fake TV episodes. And all of these reality show "stars" are getting richer and richer. Especially Trump. He is grifting the whole world now.

  71. Trump is an entertainer, nothing more. All that matters is that the lead story is about him. If some other major news interrupts he will blast out another outrageous remark to retrieve his top spot. Donald Trump and cable news know they cannot survive without the other and play act accordingly. Unfortunately for our country his supporters voted for his "reel" self and ignore his "real" self. While he's networking at wealthy enclaves like Davos or Mar-a-Lago, his base believes he's working for them. Proof that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

  72. Eventually it will all come out into the light and very clearly. It may come fast or slow. For me, the only question about Trump remains how will he end it - will he jump or linger to a slow death in shame or denial. And how will his family survive him. We will be fine if we can keep his little finger from the button...

  73. Corruption of the body politic or of the mind. It's all the same now. We are all now a part of the asylum of our own making. Turn off the TV and it will all go away.

  74. Wasn't Reagan an entertainer? He was a B movie actor and he is considered one of the best Presidents ever. Its obvious what I have said all along. It does not take a genius to be President. No matter who is in office, things are exactly the same. We would be right here in the same exact place if HRC was in office. No change.

  75. I think you generalize quiet profusely. Its all same, until one day it isn't and then you accept it for what it is.

  76. Everyone in the NY Real Estate and Construction industry understood what the country has gained to understand-that this guy was a sham. He was never the great developer or builder that he claims to be. He was never a great real estate deal maker. He was ( and still is) a tireless and very successful self promoter. That is all he is and ever has been. Everyone in the NY Real Estate world understood that he was no where as rich as he claimed to be....they all just mused....He couldnt manage a project or business to save his life. Eventually he ran out of "patsies" in NYC so he expanded his sights on the rest of the world and on the public through his TV show. He just keeps moving....never admitting failure...never taking responsibility...always attacking.... Now, this might have been good for him and his family....who cares? But he has now turned the same methodology on running the country-making the US Government his vessel for self promotion, self aggrandizement and for enrichment. This is a man that is amoral....with no values at all.

  77. Timothy O'Brien, author of "Trump Nation," says in this documentary "the definition of a confidence man is someone who claims he will satisfy the needs and wishes of the people - but who knows he lacks the ability and the intention to do so." Welcome to Trump's America. You too can be a participant in Donald Trump turning the United States into part of the Trump Brand. You get to be part of "Make America Great Again." You didn't have agree to be a party to this experiment in celebrity branding, the electoral college chose this opportunity for you! So sit back and enjoy. If you aren't enjoying Trump's racism, hatred of women, lying, deceit, plans to strip you of your healthcare, reopening coal mines leading to an increase in mining deaths in 2017, attempts to obstruct justice in the Russian investigation, paying off a porn star he had an affair with, describing the Justice Department and law enforcement and intelligence agencies as "like Nazis," destroying clean air and clean water protections, attempts to deport every Muslim in this country, if that doesn't whet your whistle hold on because Trump will likely offer something down the pike that will probably thrill and benefit you! Possibly future excitement in the Trump Administration includes the possibility of a nuclear strike on Iran and the United States waging a nuclear war with North Korea. Nuclear war! The ratings will be HUGE! Trump's giving us plenty of reason to make more popcorn.

  78. But.... but Her emails! What about Benghazi?

  79. Notice all the people in Trump's orbit/friendships who have been accused of multiple instances of sexual assault: Mike Tyson (convicted of rape), Steve Wynn, Russell Simmons. The company he keeps.

  80. We often blame the bad actor without realizing that we are the one addicted to the reality-show culture! It's our addiction to fantasy or "pseudo reality" in the name of reality is what has created a President like Trump. Real change starts from within, Our President just represent the people who elected him. Let's reform ourselves first and of course like all reality shows this presidency also has an expiration date.