I don’t know what to think about Donald Trump… I was a big fan last year when he stormed the race with his vow to build a wall. I wasn’t a Trump supporter but I was very thankful that he put the issue of illegal immigration front and center of the race, exactly where it needed to be.
As the campaign wore on and contenders started dropping out I began to get a little worried but I was confident that Ted Cruz, the only real conservative in the race, would prevail. Little did I know that the dunces running the GOP would allow Democrats to pick their nominee. But alas, that’s exactly what happened and today we have a Democrat as the GOP nominee. And before someone mentions that Ronald Reagan was a Democrat for decades, yes, it’s true, but he not only became a Republican, but he became an actual conservative, which is the polar opposite of Donald Trump. Can you imagine Donald Trump coming up with this: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help”? Not likely. The truth is, with Trump we simply don’t know what’s behind the eyebrows…
On the one hand we know that Donald Trump has probably the biggest ego on the planet. Although born with a giant platinum spoon in his mouth, he has indeed taken that spoon and turned it into a full dining set. You may not like how he did it, but he did actually do it, all the while spending thirty years telling America he’s the greatest businessman on the planet. That’s hyperbole of course, but whatever the actual size of his bank account he’s done spectacularly well. But the question is, does this guy with the giant sized ego really want to be president?
On the one hand, it appears to be yes. He’s declared he’s running and he’s actually won the GOP nomination. The presidency is easily the most powerful job in the world, and if someone wanted to write a legacy worthy of the history books it’s a lot easier to do from the White House than it is from some random shiny tower on 5th Avenue.
But of course, with the potential to join the pantheon of names like Lincoln, FDR and Reagan comes the potential for abject failure too… think Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. While history has lionized the former, the latter have and will become poster children for failure or worse. And the problem for Donald Trump is that bankruptcy laws won’t allow him to simply wash his hands of such failures. He won’t be able to simply rename failure as success and ride off into the sunset to the praises of the chattering classes… he’s not, after all, Barack Obama.
But becoming a great president requires more than inspiring a cult following among a small segment of nominally Republican voters. It requires the successful running of the largest organization in the United States and managing the largest budget on the planet… all while keeping the economy from falling off a cliff and ideally keeping the country safe and ideally out of a war or wars. The government of the United States is far more complex than building a few buildings, signing a licensing agreement or convincing some gullible would be entrepreneurs into taking your real estate courses. And under the glare and scrutiny of a press salivating at the idea of chronicling the mistakes of any “GOP” politician, a bankruptcy filing or tax abatement won’t be able to hide Trump’s failures. Which may be why he reportedly offered to let John Kasich run domestic policy if he took the VP job. Is Trump scared he won’t be able to actually succeed? Trump may love to talk about – rather than actually disclose – his net worth, but he knows that his path to riches was a narrow one with lots of help and an ability to intimidate opponents into quiet submission. He also knows he will have no such luxury in the White House. There he will actually have to succeed rather than just talk about it… again, he’s no Barack Obama. Trying to engineer success on that scale might simply be too intimidating to really want the job.
Which might be why some suggest he’s not really in it to win it. To wit, rather than attacking his opponent Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has spent the lion’s share of the post convention period attacking and alienating the very people he needs on his side in order to win like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan. In addition, he has suffered self inflicted wounds such as occurred when he engaged in a war of words with a Gold Star family. Khan may have been wrong, but the optics of a man who got five deferments during Vietnam fighting with a family who sacrificed their son on the battlefield are lost on Trump. Is it possible that Trump got into the race on a lark and stayed in simply so he could prove that he could win? Now that he’s on the big stage and has to contemplate what it means to actually govern rather than just talk about it, would he rather spend the next three months doing the Donald Trump show rather than running a disciplined campaign because he knows he can chalk up his defeat to a rigged election?
Finally there are the allegations from Trump that the vote is going to be rigged against him. Is he setting himself up to lose, purposefully? Some believe that Trump is simply a Clinton plant. That is, frankly, easy to believe. Given the chameleon like fluidity with which he transformed from embracing a Clinton embracing Democrat to an ostensibly Clinton opposing Republican, it would be nothing to publically announce a mea culpa after her inauguration and go back to being a friend of Clinton and reap the windfall that comes with helping put her in the White House. He will have in one stroke eviscerated the GOP and put a longtime friend in the White House. From the perspective of a man who has made billions from crony capitalism, this is getting the keys to the kingdom.
Whether driven by a lack of desire or in coordination with the Democrat party, losing the presidential race offers Donald Trump the potential to put a stamp on history’s accounting of him. In addition to being the greatest businessman in history, he can become the aggrieved hero who wanted to save America but who was undermined by the entrenched political establishment. For a man who more than anything loves to tell tales about his exploits and to whom hyperbole is second nature, the allure of “What if” or “I would have” is that there is no limit to how great his accomplishments would have been if he’d only been given a fair chance... And the bonus is… he doesn’t actually have to accomplish anything and no one can ever prove him wrong. I’m not sure the prospect of actually taking the job, with the ancillary risks of failure and requirements for actual results can hold a candle to that…