CONRAD BLACK is fretting that no one will buy his new book, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”
“He’s always in your face, every day,” Black worries. “I don’t know if people want to read any more about him.”
There seems to be a market for Trump books, albeit mainly for anti-Trump books, such as James Comey’s current number-one bestseller, “A Higher Loyalty.” Whether readers will flock to Black’s slender (213 pages of text) valentine to his friend and former Palm Beach neighbor remains to be seen.
Black is a household name in Canada, less so below the 49th parallel. He occasionally popped up on American TV during the 2016 election. “I was,” he says, “the token ‘Trump doesn’t have cloven feet’ spokesman on panels with nine foaming Hillary enthusiasts.” Well, re-acquaint yourself with Lord Black of Crossharbour (“Call me Conrad”), media mogul emeritus, historian, newspaper columnist, television personality and — sorry, I almost forgot – convicted felon.
Black is about as Trumpian a character as Canada could produce. He has spent a lifetime in the headlines, not all of them favorable. In 2001, Black committed the unpardonable sin of renouncing his Canadian citizenship (a very bad idea, if you have been following “The Handmaid’s Tale”) to accept the Crossharbour title from the British prime minister Tony Blair.
He and Trump share a loathing for federal prosecutors. Black likes to compare the “fascistic American criminal justice system” with that of North Korea. Although in his new book he stops just short of calling Robert Mueller an overzealous prosecutor, Victor Davis Hanson does it for him, in the introduction.
Black comes by his hatred of American justice dishonestly, meaning he served over three years in federal prisons after being convicted of fraud in Chicago, in 2007. Once free, he became an articulate proponent of prison reform: “Black, who is as sharp as a prison shiv, advocates an end to wasteful mandatory sentencing, for a more serious commitment to prison education, and for relaxing the rules for inmates’ visiting rights,” I wrote in 2014.
Black chuckles nervously when being compared with Trump. “Culturally, no. I drink, for instance, and I read and write a lot. I do identify with him in some ways,” he allows. “I admire his unstoppability, and occasionally I try to emulate it.”
It’s pretty clear that Black thinks Trump is a vulgarian who’s made good. “He’s no Eagle Scout,” is one of his circumlocutions for Trump, whom he calls “déclassé” for publicly mocking his first wife, Ivana, while she was crying.
“Yes, Trump can be grating at times with his blowhardism and his confected vocabulary that is not as witty as Yogi Berra’s,” Black told me. “He may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but you can’t write him off as insane or stupid.”
In his writing, Black expands on this theme: “[Trump] is not, in fact, a racist, sexist, warmonger, hothead, promoter of violence, or a foreign or domestic economic warrior,” he insists.
“Donald Trump is not a blundering reactionary, but a battle-hardened veteran of very difficult businesses full of unethical people,” Black writes. “He genuinely loves the American people, but he has not always been above trying to peddle them his version of snake oil.”
The cynics, who are often right, have suggested that Black may have ginned up his love letter to Trump to prepare the ground for a pardon request. Black says he hasn’t asked for a pardon, but doesn’t rule out requesting one in the future: “I might.”Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.