Donald Trump announced his candidacy today, to the knowing, complacent guffaws of journalists and political experts who have achieved so much less in their lives than he.
Trump, in reality, is remarkable. But these critics who nip at his heels are not wrong. He is also, unfortunately, a buffoonish piece of American pop culture.
Here’s Trump spending two and a half minutes today talking about his money, and capping the presentation with, “I’m not doing that to brag.”
Trump, of course, is the biggest braggart going. His whole persona is built on braggadocio. And in the video above, you may have noticed, he sounds slightly nuts.
But the irony here is that Trump actually has more to brag about than nearly anyone else in the GOP field, including Carly Fiorina, who is also basing her candidacy on her much less impressive business career.
Trump has made himself very, very rich, and more than once. He is a highly accomplished individual who as a real estate titan has employed tens of thousands of people and built massive structures. Things you can feel, enter, and live in. Not speeches for half a million a pop.
And while he may be slightly insane, you certainly need a very strong grounding in reality to make so much money. Because money doesn’t grow on trees. It accrues to people who figure out how to plant, grow, and tend to trees.
I once read one of Trump’s books. I had decided there might be something more to the man than the cartoonish figure we often see when I saw the video below.
It’s of Trump’s appearance on the Ali G show. Ali G is a fake, a pseudo British hip hop character – created by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen – who fools celebrities and other august figures into granting him “interviews” and then leads them into a maze of absurdity where, the more they try to follow along, the more ridiculous they look.
Invariably, serious people attempt to humor this obvious moron, pretending that he has some good ideas and trying desperately not to insult or humiliate him with a dose of reality. The interviews drag on until Ali G releases his captive.
Look how Trump handled it. He gave Ali G exactly one minute of his valuable time, sized up the situation, and exited.
The Trump book I read – “How to Kick Ass in Business and in Life” – made clear that there is a lot more shrewdness, self awareness, and even sensitivity beneath the outward Trump character than you would expect.
He wonders, for example, why we make people who have never negotiated the the price of a tomato Secretary of State. The clear implication is that he, the famous dealmaker, would be a better Secretary of State than someone like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, or John Kerry. Look at their records. He might be right.
The problem for Trump, who seemed to be extemporizing during much of his announcement today, is that he clearly has no one to discipline either his thinking or his talking. He’s brilliant, but he’s not, at this point in his life, going to take instruction, if he ever did.
And so this talented man will be little more than an amusing sideshow during the Republican primaries. And that’s a shame.