Thanks to a recent media barrage and some colorful sound bites, the thought of a Donald Trump presidential campaign has everyone talking. Will he or won’t he? Is he really a birther? Is he serious? Could he win?
We all have our own opinions on the answers to those questions – and I’ve been fairly open about mine in talking with former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, Trump friend and professional “lord of mischief” Roger Stone, and a variety of Republican strategists over the past month or so. Whether he is running, and whether he can win, depends on whom you ask.
But a few things, I do know for certain. So, let’s conduct an experiment. Print this out or bookmark this page, and we’ll revisit it in six months. If Donald Trump does indeed run for president, I can, with almost surgical precision, predict the conversations we’ll all be having.
Forget birtherism. By the time Trump runs, his flirtation with, or in this case, his outright molestation of, the birther meme, will be old news. There are other story lines certain to emerge.
How can I be so bold as to gaze six months into the future when so much is still uncertain about the coming political climate? Well, that’s simple. Presidential politics is a lot like vomit….regurgitated narratives that keep coming up over and over again. So let’s stick our fingers down our proverbial throats and see what comes up.
Prediction #1: It’s all about money, honey.
Roger Stone, close friend of Trump, told the SE Cupp Show that if he runs, he’ll be able to forego public funding and outspend nearly all of his political rivals. While true, I’m not sure that will be as big a boon to Trump 2012 as Stone predicts. Thus, I guarantee that one of the talking points Republican contenders in the primary will use is that Trump is trying to buy the White House. Look for the following sound bites to come up on the Sunday shows:
“Just because Trump has an ego the size of New York City and a net worth that rivals the GDP of Brazil, doesn’t make him qualified to run for president.”
“We don’t need another millionaire telling us how to spend our money.”
“Owning golf courses and casinos doesn’t mean you should be leading the country.”
Those talking points are, however, fairly easily deflated if Trump is so inclined. It’s not as though any of the rumored candidates are begging for change. And Trump can certainly use the “American Dream” bromide in his favor. Anticipate the following retorts from the Donald:
“Don’t begrudge me my success. In America we’re supposed to want it all. And, you’re fired.”
“I’m funding this myself. The fact that I’ve turned down public money shows just how sensitive I am to our dire economic straits. And, you’re fired.”
Prediction #2: Donald Trump’s playboy past
Rest assured, nothing fires up the media more than a good, old-fashioned character assassination. And the Donald is not without his skeletons. With some failed businesses, a lifestyle that many would find outrageous, and a personal life marked by public divorces and public weddings, the latest of which was to a much-younger model named Melania, Trump will be mocked as someone whose values and character make him incompatible with a conservative message. Look for the following arguments from his critics:
“How can we believe Trump is committed to the presidency when in his life he’s proven he is more commitment-phobic than George Clooney?”
“The last thing we need is another Bill Clinton cad, whose values are decidedly more French than conservative.”
Donald will, however, find his fellow opponents’ skeletons heartening. It’s not as if Newt Gingrich could bring any of this up. And there’s always a chance that a Ron Paul sex tape emerges, God forbid. Expect Trump to respond to this line of attack as follows:
“I got a past. You got a past. All that matters is that I will make you proud to be an American again. And, you’re fired.”
“At least my skeletons are out in the open. Unlike some people (rhymes with Shmarack Shmobama) who keep everything hidden, like it’s secret. And, you’re fired.”
Prediction #3: The White House is no place for reality television
As if Washington were some kind of scrubbed utopia, a black-and-white Mayberry, that’s too pure and white-as-snow to let in the corrupting influence of Celebrity Apprentice, we can be sure that another storyline surrounding a Trump run for office will center on his reality television and beauty pageant forays. The argument would be believable if the storylines coming out of Washington weren’t worse than anything you can see on the Jersey Shore. But nonetheless, the argument will be made that Trump’s endeavors are too low-brow for an office that has set such high standards in the past. Some of the talking points will go as follows:
“While we’ve dedicated our lives to being public servants in Washington, Trump’s dedicated his life to being on television and on Page Six.”
“Trump’s talents are better-suited for must-see TV than commander-in-chief.”
But in this day and age, being an adept manipulator of new media, social networking, and brand-building is a real plus, and hardly something to run away from. Barack Obama became president not because he was most qualified, of course, but because he became a brand, and he has consistently expanded his circles of influence to include such mass-market institutions as late-night television shows and bracketology. Sarah Palin allowed TLC into her home for a television show, and we even elected a former Real World cast member to Congress. So in a business where name recognition is everything, expect Trump to deliver the following responses:
“My hair is more famous than Tim Pawlenty’s entire body. And, you’re fired.”
“My three-year-old kid has more Twitter followers than Gary Johnson, Mitch Daniels and Herman Cain combined. And if you want to learn who any of those guys are, go to www.Trump2012.com. And, you’re fired.”
“I admit, I can’t compete with Mitt’s hair. But I know good TV. And the toilets in the Trump Towers bathrooms have more charisma than that guy. And, you’re fired.”
So mark my words, some of this will happen verbatim. Others are admittedly, exercising a little creative freedom. But regardless, it isn’t hard to predict the kinds of story lines that a Trump 2012 campaign will incite. I for one, can’t wait to say “I told ya so.” Oh, and you’re fired.