Ever since I've worked in New York media, I've known a man who thinks he's been around since the 15th century. More specifically he thinks he's Niccolò Machiavelli -- I suppose somewhat like Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, but with more realpolitik. Wait...
Anyway, Nick seems to do well no matter what he's doing and while he's doing it cable news is playing in the background most of the time. His fire is also on (it's gas) regardless of the temperature outside, I suppose because it's hard to stay warm when you are 542 years old, but I've never asked him about it.
Nick is a man who is concerned solely with what is, not what should be. These days, Nick is analyzing the man he thinks might become the 45th President of the United States of America -- one Donald Trump. Rather than relate our conversation (which truly disturbed me), I give you his thoughts verbatim as he sent them to me (yes, via email).
"Donald Trump, always known for controversy and bombast, seems to have reached a new pinnacle. He's everywhere these days; every brow-raising word rebroadcast throughout the day on the endless loop of cable news shows.
"The talking heads of course traffic in banalities: they say he's only talking about 2012 in order to have his TV show renewed; he's not a serious candidate and could never be elected; he doesn't intend to run at all; and even if he does run he will never survive any real test of the campaign, etc. Commentators have called him 'stupid'. And you know what I am going to say: Those commentators are missing the point. Trump may be many things, but stupid is not one of them.
"Trump's plan is brilliant. The first way he can be distinguished from the herd of 2012 potential candidates, is that he actually has a plan. The plan has nothing to do with policy in Libya, or the problems of Social Security, or what to do about immigration. It is about getting elected, which is the first duty of any politician. The putative campaign is not designed to support the TV show -- quite the contrary: the TV show was designed to support the not at all putative campaign, which started at least a dozen years ago. The fact of the matter is that Donald Trump has been executing his plan to be president undetected for quite some time.
"Perhaps most surprising is the tendency for commentators, pundits, and polls (to date) to predict that Trump would make a terrible president. They say he changes positions on the issues, knows nothing about government or policy, etc. But none of that matters. It's all marketing anyway.
"What matters? He's tough. His business history bears that out. Observe the man. He throws a sharp jab at anyone -- no matter their status politically, economically or influentially -- at the slightest provocation or indeed when there has been no provocation at all. He's a great negotiator; offering cheek, not the other cheek. His vast experience with bankruptcy courts, taking many a lender to the cleaners, gives you at least two more important insights: he's resilient as hell (he was almost certainly personally bankrupt only 20 years ago) and he is an expert manipulator of complex laws and even more complex lawyers and accountants -- important skills for any CEO in the modern world. Finally, no one can deny his charisma. Like him or hate him, he evokes a response.
"So what about his position on those all-important issues? We don't know about those things, and maybe he doesn't either. With regard to the task at hand (becoming the next president), he is pleasantly unburdened by ideology or conviction. Ideologues have never done particularly well in American politics. On the rare occasion when they do actually get elected they usually fail miserably (cf. Obama). Trump is truly a horse of a different color. His brash attitude is just what the doctor ordered in this polarized, fractious political world.
"America and the whole field of 2012 contenders would do well to consider just how 'crazy' some of Trump's outlandish positions really are. For example, he says that we should go into Libya in force, execute Qadaffi and his entire family, and appropriate the oil. Of course, this policy would be more in keeping with historical precedent than any other; and in the last few days at least two non radical-right Republicans have advocated those same assassinations. They haven't mentioned the oil -- yet -- but that's what they're thinking.
"The main point here is simple: Donald Trump wants to be president, may become president, and may become a good president -- though from the perspective of the humanists now in charge of the cable news industry, a dangerous one. The obvious question: dangerous compared to what?
"Trump is first and foremost a businessman. This fact and its implications are overlooked by some naïve political 'experts'. Some say he'll never be able to raise enough money from the public to compete effectively in a very expensive presidential campaign. He could write the check himself, but he won't need to. Trump has been raising money, and using other people's money, all his life. Similarly, some observers are concerned about his ability to deal with foreign leaders, since he has no formal foreign affairs experience or training. Rest assured, mega-rich businessman are always smiled upon by men who wield power. Politics is most often a route to personal wealth for these leaders. Do you think that Putin knows who Tim Pawlenty is? Think he'd be impressed?
"In this world of collapsing emirates, runaway debt, the American dream becoming wishful thinking, the ascendancy of the radical right, seemingly plenipotent Asian countries and rapidly accelerating globalization, businessman Trump's time has quite possibly come. As Ned Beatty famously said, playing threatened tycoon Arthur Jensen in the film Network, 'the world--is a business, Mr. Beale'."