Donald Trump for President?

Sunday, February 27, 2011 12:21 PM

Although he is saying that he will make a decision by June, my impression is that Donald Trump has already decided to run for President. He is getting prepositioned and testing the waters. So you may soon be faced with a decision. Do you want The Donald for President? Would you vote for him? 


This quandary reminds me of what my chain-smoking, coffee-addicted, tennis pro used to say when I asked about his wife. Charlie was a Greek whose adopted, Anglicized surname was Patrick. Charlie loved his wife, tennis, the race track, and the stock market, in that order. In short, he was a Renaissance Man. Whenever I politely inquired, "How's June?" Charlie's inevitable reply would be, "Compared to what?" 


We automatically take that comparison factor into account when thinking about a candidate for President. Would you vote for Trump, when compared to Obama? Of course you would. Obama is a disaster, like Bush II before him. 


But what about Trump, when compared to those on the Republican side who want to run against Obama? Say, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, or Ron Paul, not to mention Sarah Palin?


Trump recently appeared on the Piers Morgan CNN interview show. Here's the transcript. This marked the unofficial, soft opening of Trump's run for the White House. He had a number of startling things to say, some of which I agree with. I only half agree with his outlook on China. 


Trump is anti-China. He regards China as an enemy. The problem is, Trump has never set foot in Walmart. He wants to slap a 25% tariff on everything imported from China. "That will bring them to the table," he says. If such a tariff were actually installed, it would likely push inflation through the roof. It must be a negotiating ploy.  


Trump wants fair trade with China, not free trade. That makes all the sense in the world, but how Trump would put the China genie back into the bottle without wide-scale disruptive repercussions is a mystery. He may not have been kidding when he proclaimed, "The president of China comes here, we give him a five-star dinner at the White House.... I would have said come to my office, let's talk. And if we don't work out a deal we send him to McDonald's and send him back." 


Kidding or not, Trump has made it clear that he wants hard-charging businessmen like himself, not diplomats from the State Department, negotiating with China Inc. Fine, up to a point.


A better approach, it seems to me, is to think of China as an ally and partner, both for the international economy and world peace. Naturally, adjustments need to be made, and we have to protect ourselves. We can't keep shipping jobs to China and elsewhere, which is something Bill Clinton's policies kicked off. A tariff might indeed make sense. 


If we simply travel down the road of regarding China as an enemy, however, we are asking for trouble. This is not a zero-sum contest. Besides, who will buy U.S. Treasury bills, if we go to the mat with China? Like it or not, America is in a de facto alliance with China out of necessity and mutual self-interest.


Trump's other whipping boy is OPEC. He suggested to Morgan that the President should pick up the phone and tell OPEC to backtrack the price of oil. My guess is that Trump wants to increase production in this county by opening up exploration. To wit, the Sarah Palin solution: "Drill baby drill!" More supply, the price goes down. 


There must be courses about the law of supply and demand at the Wharton School of Business, Trump's alma mater. Increased supply is the only way the U.S. could impact OPEC. He knows that. 


There could be as much oil in Alaska and in the lower 48 states and offshore California, and in the eastern seaboard and in the Gulf of Mexico as there is in Russia. It is estimated that Russia provides Europe with a third of its energy right now. By the way, Russia is not even a member of OPEC. Russia may have more reserves than Saudi Arabia. Between Russia and the increased production in America, OPEC could be rendered almost irrelevant.


Accordingly, I think Trump was referring primarily to jobs in the energy sector when he announced to the cheering crowd at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington: "...If I decide to run...we will be creating vast numbers of productive jobs, and we will rebuild our country so that we can be proud." He didn't explain exactly how. He can't be thinking in terms of building more condos. At least I hope not. That market is saturated. It must be growth in the energy sector, which would coincidentally make America independent of OPEC.


And it must be manufacturing. Trump added, "I will not be raising taxes; we will be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries that are screwing us." He is talking about tariffs, like the 25% tariff on China, which he mentioned to Piers Morgan. Trump plans to boost American manufacturing by keeping out cheap imports. Shades of Patrick Buchanan.


Trump hit some other hot-button issues at CPAC. He declared that he is staunchly pro-life and against gun control. As for health care, Trump threw CPAC a choice cut of red meat: "I will fight to end ObamaCare and replace it with something that makes sense for people in business and not bankrupt the country." Who can disagree with that, aside from those has-beens, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? Even Obama must now realize that ObamaCare is over the top, a monster. Hopefully, it will be ruled unconstitutional and rendered a dead issue before Trump or anyone else is forced to deal with it.


Speaking of our Potemkin village President, Trump made an important observation in the Piers interview. It is something I have been saying to my Obama-hating, country club Republican friends for months. I told them: G.W. and Dick Cheney stuck you with Obama. Blame Bush. Instead, they act like time began on January 20th, 2009 when Barack Obama walked into the White House. My Republican friends are generally brain-dead when it comes to the Cheney Regency, also known as the George W. Bush Administration. Trump, to his credit, does not make that mistake. 


He informed Piers Morgan: "I'm a very good Republican, but I thought Bush was a terrible president. I thought he was a terrible leader.... Ultimately, he did so badly at the end that we have Obama. A gift from President Bush."  


In a live interview with Wolf Blitzer in March 2007, Trump called G.W. Bush "probably the worst President in the history of the United States..." based largely upon the debacle in Iraq. In September of the same year, Trump reiterated his opinion and told Blitzer that Bush should go into hiding. Soon thereafter a smooth-talking, unknown and inexperienced mountebank comes along, and gets elected President. Obama then proceeded to make matters worse.


I've spoken to Trump only once, and that was at his Mar-a-Lago club and residence in Palm Beach about six years ago. I was walking out the front door on the way to the croquet courts for the annual invitational tournament. He was sitting in a red Ferrari near the entrance. I gave him a salute and proceeded. He called out, asking if I liked the courts and how did they rate against the other croquet courts in the area. 


I told him that his courts were fine, but that they were not the best in town, there was room for improvement. Trump seemed stunned for a second and then replied that croquet was not, after all, the club's first business. I assured him that the courts were fine, just not the best. 


The following year, when I returned I noticed a qualitative difference, like day from night. The courts were outstanding, the best in town. It's a small thing, granted. But it is indicative. The Donald is a can-do guy; he gets the job done and wants only the best. People in New York know that. They like him. His performance in 1986 in taking over construction of the long-delayed Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park from the incompetent Koch administration is a good example. We could use that spirit and ability in Washington.  


I've encountered Trump's ex, Ivana, only once, and that was in St. Moritz in February about ten years ago. This encounter also says something about Donald Trump, the man. Ivana, a former member of the Czech Olympic ski team, was going skiing by herself. She was fashionably attired. She stood out, even in St. Moritz. Somehow a friend and I found ourselves alone with her, locked in a compartment of the funicular going up to Corviglia


I like listening to English spoken with a foreign accent, especially if the accent is German or French, but I had never encountered anything like this. Ivana started talking and it was all about herself. She wouldn't stop. By the time we got to the top, I was ready to scream. 


I'm sure Ivana is a wonderful person; she has some impressive children with Donald. She can be proud. But on that particular occasion, she was the most self-centered individual I had ever encountered. It was amazing. What do I deduce from it? Donald Trump, contrary to his public persona, must be a man of infinite patience, understanding, tolerance, kindness and bonhomie. Such qualities would be assets in the Oval Office.


There are some negatives. Recently, after the Morgan interview, I asked the waitresses at the modest Palm Beach luncheonette where I take breakfast what they thought about the idea of Trump for president. They did not know anything about his positions on the issues, but he just wasn't their cup of tea. On the positive side, they did like his beautiful wife, Melania. 


She had come in once with her young son, Barron. She was charming and her son was well behaved. I conclude that The Donald may have some work to do if he wants to capture the women's vote. Perhaps Melania and Barron could be helpful in that department. If he wins the election, Melania would be good competition for Carla Bruni.


Then there is the issue of the Mar-a-Lago estate. As you may recall, the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, willed this magnificent Hispano-Moorish extravaganza to the U.S. Government. It was to be used a Presidential retreat and guest house for foreign dignitaries. That was in 1973. The Secret Service vetoed the idea. A major flight path to the West Palm Beach international airport was directly overhead. It still is. 


The property was transferred back to the Post Foundation, from whom Trump bought the property in 1985 at a bargain price. Ten years later he turned the property into a club, while keeping it as his home. 


The question is, if Trump were to be elected President, would the Secret Service allow him to remain in residence at Mar-a-Lago? The same security concerns are present today as they were back when. Can you imagine becoming President, and then being thrown out of your own house as a consequence? It hardly seems fair. 


Trump will need to address the issue and find a solution. Otherwise, he could revert to the uncompromising character in his hit reality T.V. show, The Apprentice. He can tell the Secret Service, "You're fired!" 


So there you have it. On balance, Trump is an experienced, honest businessman who could largely finance his own campaign, and hence be somewhat free of Washington lobbyists. He speaks his mind, even when he is wrong. He has a beautiful wife and a well-behaved young son. He has plenty of name recognition and a can-do spirit. He has never held public office. He is a nationalist but also anti-war. He says that he has never taken a drink or smoked. 


Perhaps it comes down to Charlie Patrick's admonition: "Compared to what?" Compare Donald Trump to the other presumed individuals in the race. Barack Obama. Newt Gingrich. Sarah Palin. Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney. Ron Paul. John McCain. Etcetera. Get the picture? With the notable exception of the refreshing libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, I ask you, do we really want more of the same?


Trump told CPAC: "I like Ron Paul. I think he is a good guy, but honestly he has zero chance of getting elected." At this point in time, what have we got to lose? Let me be among the first to say it: Trump for President! 


--Copyright 2011 Patrick Foy--