Analyzing Trump

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With all the popular support behind Donald Trump, people are no asking the quite logical question of exactly who he is, and what sort of president he would make. Just the other day someone asked me what I thought because, as he said, he found Trump “scary.”

I have never met Donald Trump. I’ve never been interested in “reality TV” so I have ignored The Apprentice and whatever else he may be involved with.   But there is plenty of information out there if you look and my experience gives me a reasonable basis for attempting some sort of analysis even if I’m not a psychologist and don’t play one on TV. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the man.

Donald Trump is the son of a former real estate developer and homebuilder from New York who made his fortune during the WWII era. With family money and intelligence to back him, Donald graduated in economics from the Wharton School of Business and then proceeded into real estate development taking over and remaking his father’s company. Perhaps because of his personality, he eschewed home building in favor of large commercial developments. That may give us a clue to understanding him better.

Douglas Adams, the British humorist and author created in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series a “fugitive galactic president” Zaphod Beeblebrox who, it turned out, had an ego as big as the universe. Donald Trump may be in a slightly similar position. Research generally indicates that he frequently overstates things, including the qualifications of his first wife, Ivana, as a model and athlete. Rush Limbaugh, who has played golf with Trump, says that he likes to do the same about his golf course properties and his personal skills at the game. This is also true of his building developments all of which are the best, the greatest, and so on. His Taj Mahal casino property in New Jersey was, upon opening, touted as the Eighth Wonder of the World. All this can be reasonably regarded as ego driven behavior.

There can be no doubt that Trump is a great deal maker. He has always had a knack for acquiring properties and turning them into something new. Critics have descried his methods, including political manipulation and association with unsavory characters in the process. In his defense, it must be said that he has probably done exactly the same as anyone else would do in a similar situation. In large eastern cities the politicians must be greased to get anything done and building trades are frequently under significant influence of organized crime. Thus, “unsavory” connections must be dismissed as part of doing business in that environment. His past relations with the Clinton family might also exist for the same reason.

While Trump’s ego has led him to develop or acquire “the biggest and best,” it appears to have had a down side as well. In doing deals, he seems to forget what comes after the acquisition; making it profitable. Analysis of his early business career bears this out. His focus always seemed to be on the next property instead of on what he already had. This led to cash flow problems and then the bankruptcy courts. His companies have been in bankruptcy four times, leading some people to say that he is incompetent as a manager. The other side of the discussion is that when one is involved in high stakes business activities as he is, this sort of thing is to be expected. One might even assert that he was using bankruptcy as a tool to restructure debt and obtain a more favorable business position. Regardless, his business empire has continued to grow in wealth and diversification from commercial real estate into golf courses, resort properties and entertainment media.

Is Trump ego driven and sometimes erratic as a result? It seems so. This leads us to question the reason for his presidential run. Two likely reasons will come to mind. One is that he was serious from the start. The other is that it was all a publicity stunt, which became serious as his support developed. As the support increases the campaign becomes still more serious with the result that he ends up pursuing something he didn’t intend at the outset, partly because his ego may prevent him from doing otherwise.

Despite his ego and his seemingly difficult personality, Trump is able to inspire loyalty in essentially all who come into close contact with him. Ivana, his first of three wives refuses to say anything negative about him. His ex-employees are the same; they never seem to criticize him. While he may be an extremely difficult person in times of stress or when he is criticized, he will also generally give credit where credit is due. It is obvious that he does not accept criticism well, even when justified. His reaction to a business analyst’s negative outlook on the Taj Mahal casino; that it would break records at the outset but would fail by the end of the year resulted in legal action. The analysis turned out to be correct and the lawsuit was later settled. What will happen to his current episod of sniping at Dr. Ben Carson remains to be seen. Trump may not be sufficiently aware of Carson’s credentials and that may be the origin of the problem.

So, like all of us, Trump does some things right and some wrong. He makes mistakes, and may blame others for his shortcomings. His high profile easily makes him a target of headlines, both serious and tabloid. In short, he is not really different from any of us. He just has more money and that puts him in a different position relative to society as a whole. The question then remains as to what sort of president he would make and why? Here are some ideas on that score.

Firstly, it is very likely that his candidacy was initially driven by his ego, whether serious or not. It is likely that he saw an opportunity in a fractured political field and ran in, using his marketing skills to quickly seize as much of the market as possible. If he is running for office in the same manner as in his early business deals that would mean an unprepared executive if and when he won; a potential disaster.

Another possibility is that Trump sees a chance to be the guy who comes out of nowhere, like a hero in an old western movie and saves the day; he restores America to greatness after the ruin that Obama has perpetrated on the people of the nation. Thus, his place in the history books would be secure, overshadowing all the negative images in the tabloid press. It could be the ultimate achievement for an ego driven personality.

On a further question, many people have asserted that Trump is “not a conservative.” The only answer that makes sense is that no one ever said that he was. The real question is whether or not he would govern according to principles that would be best for America and its people. That is a question that is impossible to answer, absent a track record and Trump has none in the political arena. It is impossible to determine.

History is replete with ego driven individuals who were detrimental to the nation that they were supposed or expected to serve. Those who claim that Obama is ego driven may be correct in that assertion, but it is also highly probable that the place he wanted in the history books was as the man who destroyed the “evil that was the United States of America,” rather than as the man who made the world a better place through enlightened leadership. Trump may be truly interested in his slogan “Make America Strong Again” or he may have some other motive including personal gain.

In short, Donald Trump could be the man that America needs, or he could be a big mistake waiting to happen. It will depend on whether his interest in restoring American greatness is true, if it wavers, or if it falls victim to bad decisions. Further, the true effects of a Trump presidency may well be the result of whom he puts into cabinet level positions. Obama chose Eric Holder as Attorney General in large part because Holder could be trusted to cover up any criminal activity in the executive branch; hence the non-prosecution of Lois Lerner, for example. If Trump selects dedicated and ethical people in the cabinet, it would signal a tremendous shift in administrative philosophy and in governance. Without more information, speculation is useless.

Similarly, if a President Trump removes the political shackles from the military, and allows them to “just win” it would signal a return to the tried and true approach that made America a world power. If such a philosophy is backed by a sound economic policy promoting jobs at home and truly fair international trade, then we may be on a quick road to recovery, particularly if the Federal Reserve is brought to heel.

What American conservatives may need to understand is that practicality might be the only formula that will allow the nation to step back from the brink of destruction. Whether Trump can and will make that possible remains to be seen. But if he wins and if American wins as a result, then success will be its own answer and the questions will likely be forgotten.

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