Donald Trump has achieved his life’s work. All he ever wanted was to be rich and famous, and he certainly has a claim on both. But the results are mixed, and in both cases, he might have been more careful what he wished for.
Rich? Rich was something bestowed on him by his father, despite an obvious dearth of business aptitude. Somehow, through sheer chutzpah, he managed to impersonate a self-made tycoon for forty years. More than that, he lived rich, flamboyantly so, and not enough people questioned where that money came from. We now know that astonishing amounts of his gains were ill-gotten, but we still don’t know the real extent of those gains — or losses, for that matter — and may never.
But as his assets get sent into receivership in the next months and years, we’ll learn more about the murky business practices that were covered up by Alan Weisselberg’s cooked books and false valuations, and we might even learn how rich Trump actually is. Or was. Or wasn’t.
New Yorkers have long known of his media-grabbing, self-promoting ventures that went bust over the years — USFL, New Jersey Generals, Trump Shuttle, Trump Casino — as well as his Roy-Cohn-like weaponization of the legal system. His failures far outnumber his successes — the opposite of a Midas’ touch.
Is he as rich as he thinks he is? It could go either way — prince or pauper. By the time Judge Engeron gets done with him, pauper is more likely, though prince isn’t out of the question. So the jury is still out on rich.
But famous? There, he hit the lottery. He is, bar none, the most famous person on the planet.
Nobody comes close. Not Putin, not LeBron James, not Lionel Messi, not Taylor Swift. I can’t think of anyone more widely known, or more widely talked-about, usually in an emotionally charged way. Historians will study him for centuries.
So in that sense, his life’s work is done and dusted. He might lose the fortune, but the fame is here to stay.
Which is why his next act is so deeply odd. For an undisputed front runner, he seems remarkably casual about how he goes about getting re-elected. It’s as if he’s waiting for someone else to do it for him, while he plays golf, stiffs lawyers, and pushes the envelope of what his various judges will let him say in public. That’s not what most of us think of as campaigning.
Yet here we are, fast approaching the put-up-or-shut-up phase of the American electoral process, and his campaign — if it is one — appears devoid of either drive or coherence. There is little sign of any real staffing, any strategy, or anything beyond a corrupt fund-raising operation that seems more dedicated to his legal bills than to any presidential aspirations.
I’m sure Trump has convinced himself that being re-elected is his only chance of staying out of prison. This is a rare example of sound thinking on his part.
But as a politician aspiring to such re-election, he’s shown no gift for politics beyond those demented rants at the rallies of his true believers. He’s won only one election in his life, and that was with three million votes fewer than his opponent. Famous yes, popular no.
Even so, his dwindling base continues to adore him, and they’re as volatile as ever, if somewhat chastened by Jan 6. With them behind him, he assumes he has the unwavering support of Republican politicians, most of whom just wish he’d go away. His endorsements have been generally more hindrance than help — his “hand-picked” candidates have been poison at the ballot box in all but the most irredeemably dumbass electoral districts.
But most of all, he has not yet demonstrated the attention span required to run a real campaign while simultaneously appearing in four criminal trials and at least that many civil actions. That’s a full calendar for anyone, and leaves little time for golf.
Maybe he’s fooling us. Maybe there’s more going on under the table. Maybe he has secret cabals even now hard at work stealing the next election for him. Maybe, but I doubt it.
To be sure, there’s a burgeoning cottage industry of right-wing “thinkers” who have big plans for the fascist state they’ll install once Trump is elected. They’ve thought through, in detail, the mass deportations, the immigrant concentration camps, the dismantling of the civil service, and the prosecution of Trump’s enemies. The thing is, they seem to be skipping the part about actually getting him elected.
Which looks increasingly unlikely, no matter what the mainstream media pundits tell you about Trump’s inevitability, about Joe Biden’s weakness, and about how Democrats are doomed.
Don’t believe a word of it. They’re still pitching that same crap, even after last week’s election blew a huge whole in both their logic and their credibility.
But among other things, that blowout was just one more indication that on every front — legal, financial, political — Trump is a huge loser.
Make that medical, too. He also seems to be slipping into a sort of dementia, which has long been suspected, but which the mainstream press wouldn’t go near. They’ve been happy to disingenuously portray Joe Biden as some doddering old fool, while giving Trump’s own doddering a pass, even though it’s been clear for some time who the real dodderer is.
But the dam broke on October 30, when The Times did a story that alluded to possible cognitive issues, as evidenced by a long procession of public speaking slip-ups. The article refers to two polls, each claiming that roughly 43 percent of voters are just as concerned about Trump’s age as they are Biden’s. And what’s adorable is that over 60 percent of those particular voters would vote for Biden without question, while only 16 percent would even consider Trump.
Since that article, it’s been open season on Trump’s dodderage. The Washington Post, Saturday Night Live, CNN, MSNBC — even the Biden campaign itself — have gotten into the act. If age really becomes an issue in the election, Trump will, as usual, be on the wrong side of it.
Trump is three years younger than Biden, but from all reports far less healthy. We’ve long suspected that his bout with Covid was more serious than we knew. Between the severity of his case and the presumed toxicity of the drugs that saved him, it would be surprising for a man of his age to go through that and not suffer long-term, perhaps permanent, damage.
So I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I don’t believe Trump is a serious candidate for president. He’s more likely to be in prison by election day. And considering the constant debilitating stress he must be under, together with his poor health and diet, I’m not even convinced he’ll live that long. His chances of dying a penniless prisoner are considerably better than his chances of re-taking the presidency.
Where that will leave the Republican party, I can’t say. Trump seems to have maneuvered them into a political suicide pact, and they all seem committed to carrying it out.
It’s their best idea ever.