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  •   Trump Throws His Hat in the Ring

    Donald Trump, Ventura
    Real estate tycoon Donald Trump, left, and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura on their way into Trump International Hotel in New York Thursday. (AP)
    By Michael Powell
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, October 9, 1999; Page C1

    In a further sign of Trump's seriousness, he is meeting tonight with . . . Jesse Ventura.
    -- The Associated Press

    It's vox populi a go-go.

    The Donald. The Body. Warren. Cybill. Arnold. Oprah. And E.T. himself--Ross Perot--has to be out there somewhere. . . . Dice-rolling, movie-gawking Mainstream America meets late-20th-century presidential politix.

    What's not to like?

    Is it as if you're in love with George W's triangulating compassionate blandness? You'd rather have the I'm-so-boring-I'm-moving-to-Nashville grayness of Albert Jr.? The Inside-Meet-the-This-Week-With-Who-Cares dullness of Beltway Washington?

    You call that reality?

    Donald Trump, the sometimes-bankrupt developer with the comb-over who gets phobic about shaking hands for fear of picking up bacteria [to type these words is to fall in love . . .] forms a presidential exploratory committee. And he's serious. He's got a poll. It happens to be in . . .

    "The National Enquirer . . . did a poll that said I'd win the election," The Donald tells NBC's "Today."

    Didn't a Newsweek poll, the blow-dried head asks, put you at 2 percent?

    "If I had 2 percent," The Donald replies, "how come they put me on their cover?"

    So who can argue?

    You think what we have is so great? Half of all Americans don't vote. Big Money rules. The political class expends tens of millions of dollars and bows to the polling gods trying to figure out how to say

    . . . very

    . . . little

    . . . at

    . . . all.

    So much for experience. Besides, this is America. Any celebrity can be president--that's one of the risks we run. And say this of the so-called amateurs: Their rhetoric isn't pasteurized, much less homogenized.

    So Gov. Jesse informs Playboy magazine that religion "is a crutch for the weak-minded" and interferes with that noblest of indoor sports: prostitution. Our Minnesotan is in touch with his inner pyramid. He wants to be reincarnated--as a "size 38, double-D bra."

    There's Warren Beatty, that rare bird who has made a movie ("Ishtar") worse than "Bedtime for Bonzo." Who has no problem with women--really, none at all--and doesn't let focus groups do the nip and tuck on his rhetoric.

    "I'm an old-time, unrepentant, unreconstructed, tax-and-spend, bleeding heart, tax-and-spend Democrat," Beatty tells a cheering crowd of millionaire actors and the agents who love them. "I believe in the safety net. I believe in regulation."

    Then there's Cybill Shepherd, but we're not quite sure what Cybill stands for. So just say it again: Then there's Cybill . . .

    Back to The Donald.

    His shtick seems easiest to decode. This is buy-sell, Dow-for-the-ages America. Acquiring a presidency is, like, the ultimate marketing twist. (He's going to announce his presidential plans in January, the month after his new book comes out.) Wouldn't the White House look better ringed in neon? Doesn't Trump One sound better than Air Force One? Tell me the Lincoln Bedroom wouldn't look better with a mirror on the ceiling.

    Isn't this true?

    The Donald, like Warren and Cybill and whomever, won't pester us for money. As The Donald explains, his exploratory committee won't concern itself with the petty business of grubbing for greenbacks--he's already got the mother lode lifted from the wallets and purses of Americans with the gambling jones.

    "The good thing about this is I don't need the money," Trump said.

    As to the question of presidential aura, that je ne sais quoi that could turn him into Da Man, The Donald has no doubt. He is, he says, a "great builder and conceptualizer."

    "The only thing that could interest me is if I could win. I'm not talking about the nomination, I'm talking about the whole megillah."

    And isn't that a relief?

    At this point, a Beltway-bonded writer might be tempted to ring in a quote from the Roman publicist who went by the moniker of Juvenal. Something along the lines of: "The people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now concerns itself no more, and longs eagerly for two things--bread and circuses."

    Yeah, well. That kind of whining is old-think. As another candidate, Arnold Schwarzenegger--the next governor of California?--might say to all that:

    Hasta la vista, baby.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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