Donald Trump says he wants to be president. I don’t believe him.
Running the United States is a grueling job. The salary stinks, if you’re a billionaire, and the downsides – terrorist attacks, recessions, low favorables – are huuuge.
Policy briefings, state dinners, tussles with Congress and relationships with foreign leaders are way too boring for a high-flying mogul like The Donald, who seems to read Twitter and little else.
If Trump doesn’t want to be our president, then what’s his campaign all about? Fame and fortune. He craves the spotlight and is a publicity junkie, saying or doing whatever gives him the biggest buzz on any given day.
In decades past, this boundless narcissism was mostly evident in his quest to put his name on hotels, skyscrapers, casinos, steaks, an airline, ties, water, cologne and a university, which, of course, was not a university at all. And who can forget Trump’s star turn as a straight-talking business savant on “The Apprentice.”
All of this was of little consequence when Trump was playing in the corporate and TV worlds. But now his thirst to extend his brand to the ends of the universe matters to all of us.
Unfortunately, presidential politics – at least the 2016 variety – is a glorious fit for Trump. Thanks to our 24-hour news cycle, Trump is riding a runaway adrenaline train, getting new jolts of dopamine with every outrageous move he makes.
Ban the Muslims! Deport Mexicans! John McCain’s no war hero! Putin’s a true bro!
Journalists accustomed to politicians who avoid controversy don’t know what to make of loose-lipped Trump, and that their coverage of his troubles, past and present, fail to dim his popularity. Trump began the campaign as an ego-inflation vehicle. Then he became too addicted to quit.
Sound far-fetched? Take it from Stephanie Cegielski, former communications director for the Trump-aligned Make America Great Again PAC:
“Trump never intended to be the candidate … but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters,” she wrote in a column in March. “The Donald does not fail.”
Trump has hoodwinked millions of Republicans into believing he actually cares and wants to serve as president. Along the way, he has chased many lifelong Republicans – myself included – into Hillary Clinton’s camp, and left the GOP a hot mess.
The Donald is likely wondering if he might actually win – that would be GREAT! – and then have to actually govern – that would be NOT great. He has indicated his distaste for the work of being president, saying he would direct his vice president to handle “domestic and foreign policy,” leaving the annual White House Easter Egg Roll in his capable hands.
And, as he has with failed business dealings, Trump has started lining up excuses he’ll use if he loses. These include polling place cheaters working for “Crooked Hillary” and lukewarm support from the GOP establishment.
Whatever the results on Election Day, Donald Trump Inc. wins. Trump’s brand was estimated at $3 billion in his election disclosure statement. The White House run has bumped up the value, son Eric Trump reports.
Indeed, while Donald Trump has disgraced our democracy with his electoral charade, it hasn’t been bad for business.
Doug Elmets, who served as a White House spokesman during the Reagan administration, is president of Elmets Communications, a branding, advertising and public affairs firm in Sacramento. He spoke at the Democratic National Convention, firstname.lastname@example.org.