Trump's an interesting bloke, a self-made billionaire who stretches the limits of the term 'self-made'. He has certainly spent his life manufacturing his version of the Horatio Alger story, controlling his narrative so masterfully it's hard to believe. This History Channel documentary, created in response to Trump's historic run for the American Presidency, does its best to remain impartial, doing a pretty good job at that. While watching, one might even feel either an enthusiastic or grudging admiration for Trump's deft manufacture of his particular cult of personality. On the other hand, it's hard not to catch whiffs of disdain for the new President Of The United States, a truly self-serving personality, whose very nature as an outsized egoist of questionable moral character can't help but show, no matter who's doing the telling.
The feature length documentary brings us further into Trump's world (than he has already brought us in real time) through a framework based on Trump's improbable candidacy. Hand picked snippets of footage from the Republican debates lead us to wonder how this man got his start. Cue the archival footage, photos, and contemporary interviews, which are interwoven with more examination of Trump's candidacy, to reveal a documentary with a purpose. Though The History Channel, in this case, maintains a certain level of impartiality, the rhetorical question "how did we get here?" wordlessly presented with unflattering pictures of Trump on the campaign trail, is not exactly presented as a question of wistful satisfaction.
Conversely, interviews with Trump friends and supporters, not to mention a simple examination of his exploits, leads viewers to an almost grudging admiration. Viewers have to credit Trump's focus. Even though he (born into a hugely successful family business, which he took over and transformed with the aid of a 'tiny' loan of a million dollars) is nowhere near a self-made man, he did things his real estate developer father never did. He also began expertly playing the media for his one true act of self-creation, turning his patrician, calculating self into some sort of pop hero.
Bankruptcies have proven what many commentators mention; Trump knows real estate development, but little else about business. Longtime family friend Nikki Haskell admires his focus, Spy Magazine co-founder Kurt Andersen is aghast. Both seem to feel at Trump's core is an equal opportunity offender who will "insult anyone" if it serves his purpose. The documentary stops before Trump really takes off, speculating that he's been as successful as he has in his candidacy because no one takes him seriously. Of course we know now exactly how successful he was, as evidenced by the fact that no one currently, anywhere, is talking about anything else but President Trump.