Donald Trump is about to be nominated for president. It is not something he expected. No one did. There is strong reason to believe that his presidential run was merely a publicity stunt, a fun frolic for the man who has everything -- money, fame, power, a trophy wife, and his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only thing he lacks is a place in history -- an assurance that years after he has passed on to that great casino tower in the sky, he will be remembered. Winning the presidency would probably do that, although it is not guaranteed. Most Americans can probably not identify John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce or Benjamin Harrison.
The polls suggest Trump will lose badly. Then he will not have much of a place in history. Who remembers Rufus King, Alton Parker, John W. Davis or Wendell Willkie? Furthermore, Trump sees himself as a winner, not a loser.
But what if he is elected? The presidency is a tough job. President Obama gets five hours sleep a night. He has gone gray and looks tired. Does the 70-year-old Trump want that much work? As president he will have to put up with Congress -- maybe even a Democratic Senate. Pesky reporters will be asking embarrassing questions, and it is not as easy to ban them from the White House as it is to deny them access to a campaign event. Then there are the freedom of information requests, and subpoenas from Congress. Trump has so far avoided revealing his taxes to the nation, but it might be harder as president. The downsides of the White House are huge. As president he will have to put all those investments, buildings and businesses in a blind trust. And no more jaunts to Scotland to check on the golf course.
But Trump has an out. He has won the nomination. But what if he refuses to accept it? What if his "acceptance speech" is Shermanesque? What if he refuses the nomination? Then he will go down in history as the man who refused the nomination. No one has ever done that. He will be famous. He will be in every history book and every political science book. He will change our vocabulary, the way General Sherman did by refusing to run. But this is better. Sherman went down in history just by refusing to even consider running. But Trump will have trumped that. We will forever talk about "pulling a Trump" or "Trumping the process." Trump will go out a winner, and not have to run, not have to spend so much of his own money running, and not risk losing.
In his post-presidential-run years he will be a talking head, a pundit, a wise man who can be on every network. Future candidates will come to him for advice and support. He will be a powerbroker without having to leave his golf course. No more reporters to ask tough questions; no more late-nighters learning who the leader of Germany is, or where exactly Ukraine might be located.
This is about to be Mr. Trump's finest hour. He can make history by just saying no. It is an opportunity too good to pass up for a dealmaker, a man who understands the main chance and goes for it.