A still from the ‘Twilight Zone’ episode that haunts Donald Trump

On Thursday, Wayne Barrett died of lung disease in Manhattan. He had written about Trump's business dealings for decades, mostly for the Village Voice, and for his book Trump: The Deals and the Downfall (1992), a portrait of a man who got ahead because of his willingness, at every stage of his career, to screw over anyone foolish enough to trust him. It was reissued last year as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

Each chapter in Barrett’s biography has an epigraph from Theodore Dreiser’s novel The Titan, about a financier for whom other people ‘present but a mass of bent backs, their knees and faces in the mire, over which as over a floor he strides to superiority’. Trump has almost certainly never read it – he doesn’t read novels – but he does enjoy watching television, and according to Barrett’s biography he’s haunted by The Twilight Zone episode ‘A Nice Place to Visit’. Trump summarised it for the July 1990 issue of People magazine; he’s on the cover, holding what was supposedly a million dollars in cash.

You know, there was an old Twilight Zone episode: it was about a man – he wasn’t a good man – killed in an accident. Then somebody came up to him and said: ‘You can have any wish you want.’ And he said: ‘I want to win all the time. I want to win, win, win. Everything I want, I want to get. I want to get the most beautiful women. I want to get the most beautiful this and that. I want to never lose again.’ Then they showed him playing pool. He was winning every time. Everything he did, he won, won, won. And the person came back to him, and this man said: ‘If this is Heaven, let me go to Hell.’ And the person said: ‘You are in Hell.’ This was sort of interesting. I’ve had a lot of victories. I fight hard for victory, and I think I enjoy it as much as I ever did. But I realise that maybe new victories won’t be the same as the first couple.

I watched the episode a few hours after the inauguration. It’s not surprising that Trump would remember it. The protagonist, a 'scared, angry little man' and an armed robber, is a New Yorker. His apartment is tremendous, if not as tremendous as Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower, and overlooks a vast metropolis ('who does it belong to,' he asks, 'some phoney politician? All this gets thrown into the deal?'). His preferred women (‘like stacked, like … like beautiful’) look like bikini models, and they don’t say much. 'All of this is your own private domain,' he's told. 'It was made especially for you alone.'

Was Trump thinking of The Twilight Zone when, repeatedly, on the stump, he promised that under his administration, Americans are going to ‘win at everything we do’? ‘We’re going to win, win, win. You people. You’re going to be sick and tired of winning. You’re going to say: “Mr President: please, we can’t take it anymore.”’

Win, win, win. 'Now he has everything he ever wanted,' Rod Serling's voiceover says at the end of the episode, 'and he's going to have to live with it for eternity, in the Twilight Zone.' As are the rest of us.