Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Humble Servant?

I have great respect for the energy and enthusiasm that Donald Trump has brought to the GOP Presidential primary race. I wrote about it last July when I asked the question, "Will Trump Be A Trumpet Call To The GOP?".

Politicians are first and foremost very good listeners. They have no future without votes. They will bend with the political winds if Trump's straight talk continues to appeal to voters. The message that they carry may not be as bold or brash as Trump but a trumpet call nevertheless will be going out to the other candidates if Trump's appeal is sustained.
Keep an eye on Trump and his trumpet. And keep an eye out for the rest of orchestra. If the trumpet continues to strike a chord with the voters, you are going to hear a lot of similar notes even if they are not played with the same verve and vigor. Those notes mean votes. And votes are everything in this concert.

These is little question that Trump has had a big influence on the issues in the race.

Of course, it has come with a lot of controversy and criticism. Trump's bluster and brashness has only added fuel to the fire that burns around him.

However, I think something that Carly Fiorina said in her recent book, Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey, is really true when you think about Trump.

"Leaders see things that others don't yet see, which is why they are frequently criticized in their time." 

Of course, Trump is really not seeing anything about some of the underlying issues such as out of control illegal immigration, the questionable Iran deal, the dangers of radical Islam and a loss of respect for the USA around the world, that is not self evident to a great number of  Americans.

I still like this quote from Victor David Hanson that I wrote about last month to describe what has fueled the Trump phenomenon.

"The world that we are told about by our government bears no resemblance to what we see and hear every day."

What Trump really has seen best is that there are a lot of Americans who are fed up with politics as usual and the political correctness that now dominates us. Trump is talking bluntly and boldly about these issues and in the process it has made himself a target of both the political and media class. It is for this reason why the Carly quote seems especially appropriate for Trump with one small change.

"Trump sees things that others politicians see but they don't want to talk about it. He will talk about it, which is why he is frequently criticized."

Now that I have given Donald Trump his due, let me reiterate again why I think he would be a poor choice to be the Republican nominee for President.

I have read a couple of Donald Trump's books over the years, including his first book, The Art of the Deal, almost 30 years ago.

Since it has been a few years since I read anything in detail by or about Trump I recently read the most current biography (published in September, 2015) on him, "Never Enough"  written by Michael D'Antonio, in order to  get a closer look at the man who wants to be President.

D'Antonio is generally complimentary of Trump's business success but he makes it clear that Trump's desire for wealth, attention, power and success is practically insatiable. Quite simply, it is "never enough" for Trump.

Trump is also clearly driven by a self belief that he is a singular and superior human being. And he is not bashful about sharing his views about that with anyone and everyone.

Trump clearly understands the power of politics. In fact, his father's original wealth and Trump's early success in real estate in New York City can be directly tied to the close relationship (and political donations) the Trump family made to members of the Democratic political machine in New York. Former Mayor Abe Beame and Governor Hugh Carey were important allies for Trump early in his career.

Trump does understand the way the game is played because he has played it very well for his own benefit and wealth.

Trump is also relentless and ruthless. He does not suffer fools lightly and any perceived slights or betrayals are dealt with strongly and harshly. He not only barks, he also bites.

Trump's past political positions are clearly nothing you would like to think of as consistently conservative.

For example, in 1999 he renounced his membership in the Republican Party and flirted with running for President on the Reform Party (made famous by Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura) ticket .

At that time he stated his ideal VP running mate would be Oprah Winfrey (hardly a conservative icon.)

Over the years he has supported a wealth tax, a large income tax increase, universal health care and abortion rights (which he says he now opposes).

After reading the book, you have to respect the results he has delivered but you have to wonder what kind of conscience he has, let alone whether he has "the conscience of a conservative".

All politicians have egos. I think it comes with the territory. You don't get in the arena it without it.

However, Trump's ego is in an entirely different universe.

For example, Trump has had a decades long battle with Forbes magazine because he believes they consistently underestimate his wealth in their annual list of the 400 Richest Americans.

I saw the recent list is on the newsstands now and Trump is credited with having $4.5 billion by Forbes which is good for #121 on its list. Trump claims his net worth is at least double that. Here is the financial disclosure statement that he filed when he announced his candidacy. However, in this statement he put a value of $3.3 billion on his name. I know my father told me that my good name is the most valuable asset I possess but how many people put it on their personal financial statement?

Trumps's ego is tied very much to his wealth. It is how he seems to measure his self worth. He says as much in the Forbes cover story.

" I look better if I'm worth $10 billion than $4 billion".

Yes, he is wealthy but let's put that wealth in context. I know two brothers who sell chicken sandwiches that are richer than Trump according to Forbes. Dan and Bubba Cathy of Chick-fil-A. They have $7 billion between them. Contrast the relative modesty of how they lead their lives and and how Trump lives his.

I continue to believe that Trump's ultimate downfall in this campaign will revolve around his wealth.

A big part of Trump's allure is that he says he is going to fund his own campaign and will not be beholden to any special interests.

Consider the fact that Mitt Romney and the Republicans spent $1.1 billion during the 2012 campaign. Romney spent $336 million in campaign funds that he raised for his campaign, the National Republican Party spent another $386 million on Romney and Outside Super PACs and others chipped in another $419 million.

Is Trump really prepared to spend $1 billion of his own money to get elected? 

I don't believe he is. I think he loves his own money too much.

I also question whether he would have anywhere near that kind of liquidity in his portfolio. Is he going to start selling properties to finance his campaign? I don't think so.

Is he going to borrow against his good name? No.

He also most assuredly is not going to raise $1 billion through a bunch of $200 contributions.

And if he has to go to Wall Street and other special interests to fund his campaign like everyone else, a big part of the attraction of Donald Trump washes away.

I am not naive to think that there are any politicians today who you could describe as a humble servant.

The last one was probably George Washington.

I do know Donald Trump is about as far removed from the words humble and servant as you could find.

I can think of only two other names that are further removed.

Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton.

The bottom line is that Cruz and Rubio are both overall better candidates than Trump to represent the Republican Party this year. 

However, Trump still trumps Obama and Clinton if it comes to that.

We will start to see how it all unfolds in less than a month.

May the best "humble servant" win.

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