At first, it felt like a joke. It had to be, right? Real estate mogul, business tycoon, entrepreneur, TV celebrity, beauty pageant producer and bad hairdo owner Donald J. Trump announcing his candidacy for President of The United States? Really?
Sure, he’s told us he wanted to run before. Those situations normally had more to do with flagging TV show ratings than a serious interest in politics, though. The routine was that ratings were going down on The Apprentice, so Mr. Trump would announce his interest in a possible bid for the White House. Ratings would creep back up, or the networks would renew the show’s contract, and Mr. Trump would disappear back into his murky world of billions, buildings, babes and bad comb-overs.
Like a bad penny, he’s back.
This time, he means it. Unlike all those other times when it was just to get attention. To say that The Donald is a non-traditional presidential candidate is like saying that Bernie Madoff was not a diligent investment manager.
The Donald doesn’t have any political experience whatsoever. Of course, compared to some, less DC experience might not be a bad thing. Longtime denizens of Washington tend to forget what life is like as a “real” American. They’re so pandered and pampered that they lose touch with our shared experience.
How anyone thinks that Mr. Trump understands our shared experience is a little crazy, too.
So, what does Donald Trump know? He knows real estate, a gift from his father, Fred Trump. His father was one of the quintessential New York real estate barons, and he left The Donald plenty of money and connections. In the 1980s, Donald Trump had effectively leveraged his inherited fortune into massive real estate holdings and major Manhattan construction projects.
If Donald Trump is a real estate tycoon, he’s also a master at filing bankruptcies and walking away from corporate indebtedness in a way that enhances his own bottom line while leaving the cleanup to others.
Ah, free enterprise!
Mr. Trump once said: "I've used the laws of this country to pare debt. ... We'll have the company. We'll throw it into a chapter. We'll negotiate with the banks. We'll make a fantastic deal. You know, it's like on 'The Apprentice.’ It's not personal. It's just business."
Taj Mahal – Chapter 11 in 1991
Trump Plaza – Chapter 11 in 1992
Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts – Chapter 11 in 2004
Trump Entertainment Resorts – Chapter 11 in 2009
It’s just business, alright. It’s the worst kind of business. Cavalier, insensitive and arrogant to the impacts on the community, other investors and debtors. Just think about your own world, or that of the small businesses, organizations and community groups around you.
Imagine where we’d be if all of us took the view that has facilitated The Donald’s brand of buy-it, snazz-it-up and dump-it capitalism.
In his announcement, Mr. Trump reminded us of his wealth. He told us he didn’t need campaign contributions or lobbyist cash. He has enough of his own to spread around. This is supposed to make us think he’ll be free from external influence. It will also make him free from giving a tinker’s damn about anything else, either. That includes the media covering his presidential candidacy as well as the American voters.
He also promises to take on Asia on trade. His deal-making skills mean he can alter international trade arrangements. An example of his dangerous naiveté is the comment that “there are millions of Toyotas on our roads, but where are all the Chevy’s in Tokyo.” If Japan stopped assembling Honda’s, Toyota’s, Lexus and Infinity autos in the U.S., the unemployment rolls would swell, crushing many rural communities that depend on those jobs to employ their residents.
He chastises China for unfair trade practices while ignoring the fact that China now holds more U.S. debt than any other nation, and that Chinese real estate investment underwrites a significant share of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Should we change these things? Of course! Is The Donald the right guy to make the change? Of course not.
Sure, punch the tiger in the face with your language. That’ll show them.
On Russia, Mr. Trump says that President Vladimir Putin is a bully, and that he would be a bigger bully. Call it the recess playground theory of foreign affairs. Should be a fun time!
Where Ronald Wilson Reagan was humble, Donald J. Trump is arrogant. Where Ronald Reagan was self-deprecating, Donald Trump is acerbic. Where the Gipper was inspirational, The Donald is just embarrassing.
There is one unquestionable promise buried within the announcement of Donald J. Trump’s presidential bid. It promises to be a thrill ride of gaffs, quips and humor. The debates during the primary season will provide numerous opportunities to be quoted pointing out the flaws and shortcomings of other GOP candidates. The Republican Party primary field already has plenty of quotable characters, but none comes near to the PT Barnum-style showmanship of The Donald.
So, if you love your morning coffee with a dash of stupidity, brash egotism and intentionally ignorant commentary, you’ve found your guy.
Just don’t try to sell the idea that all of his business “success” justifies his candidacy. Only an idiot would really believe that. It's perfectly okay to say you like Mr. Trump for his showmanship, his style, or his attitude. Just don't claim that by bouncing from bankruptcy filing to filing, shifting the burden of failure to others, makes The Donald a well-qualified presidential candidate.
If you really think Donald J. Trump is the best that Republicans have to offer in 2016, you’re fired