By Joel Achenbach-Trump
DONALD Trump may be under the impression that the president of the United States is the same thing as the owner. Someone should tell him the bad news. He can't sell Yellowstone or put up a casino in Yosemite. He can't put his name on the rivers or mountains or even on the White House (besides which, "Trump Castle` is taken). The best deal for him may be to stay in New York and stick with being a self-parody.
Trump's announcement yesterday that he is considering the Reform Party presidential nomination, with Oprah as his running mate (not that he's even discussed it with her), raises some serious issues. One of them, of course, is whether the misbehaviors of the sitting president have so debased and sillified the office that it is now considered less a part of the government than of the entertainment-industrial complex.
The other question is what Trump really wants. Surely he doesn't want to work. He can't possibly desire to greet foreign leaders, who might not understand that his Michael Jackson-like phobia for germs prevents him from shaking hands.
My colleague David Von Drehle, an actual political reporter, offers a theory: Presidential candidacies have become adjuncts of book tours. The goal is not to lead the nation, it's to lead the bestseller list. And sure enough, Trump has a book coming out in a few months. It's called "The America We Deserve.`
I called the publishing house, Renaissance Books, and spoke to director of marketing Mike Dougherty, who is thrilled by Trump's flirtation with a presidential bid.
`I think it's terrific synergy, absolutely,` he said. The first printing was supposed to be 150,000, but "it's going north of that, with everything that's going on,` he said. He hopes that Trump will run. "I think it would be great for the country. And I think it would be great for the book, too.`
Renaissance Books publishes a number of celebrity and self-help books, like Karch Kiraly's memoir of his life as a volleyball player, the unauthorized biographies of Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, and, in the must-read category, "Three Dog Nightmare,` the cautionary tale of a former rock and roll singer who spent 25 years on drugs. The house also has published two books by political strategist Dick Morris, including "The New Prince,` his updating of the Machiavellian classic.
Advance excerpts of "The America We Deserve` feature Trump warning of a massive economic crash (`nobody knows better than I do that we're going to have to be prepared to claw our way back up`) and, perhaps most provocatively, advocating pre-emptive military strikes on countries he says are building nuclear bombs for terrorist attacks. "We have to face the fact that the best thing may be a surgical strike to disarm their capability before they use it on us.`
Donald Trump, finger on the button, ready to rock. Now there's a cool head.
What's most intriguing about Trump is how truly uninteresting he is, even in the context of all those other boring people who are obsessed with money. His self-promotional urge is mind-numbing (for him and for us). Go back and look at "Trump: The Art of the Deal,` and check out the brain of the billionaire:
`I like thinking big. I always have. To me it's very simple: if you're going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.` "I like the casino business. I like the scale, which is huge, I like the glamour, and most of all, I like the cash flow.` "At [Judith Krantz's] request, I agreed to play the role of myself in a scene from the miniseries based on her book, and filmed at Trump Tower.`
At one point he goes to dinner with John Cardinal O'Connor and half a dozen "top bishops and priests` (for Trump, "top` and "hottest` are favorite words, along with "huge`). He's a bit awed. He says of the cardinal, "He's not only a man of great warmth, he's also a businessman with great political instincts.` The ultimate compliment. (The next day he lists the cardinal's name as a character reference on his application for a Nevada casino license.)
His introduction of his wife, Ivana, is unburdened by sentiment. After describing her as an Olympic skier and "top model,` he writes, "I'd dated a lot of different women by then, but I'd never gotten seriously involved with any of them. Ivana wasn't someone you dated casually. Ten months later, in April 1977, we were married. Almost immediately, I gave her responsibility for the interior decorating on the projects I had under way. She did a great job.`
(In 1991 he showed the media a $10 million check outside a Manhattan courthouse and announced that the divorce had gone through.)
No doubt Trump's interest in running for president stems from his perception that, at least until recently, most of the candidates were running as brand names. Bush, Gore, Dole, Forbes -- brand names all! These are political corporations with a single face at the front.
So it was natural that the race would attract a shameless brand-name promoter like Trump. The entire universe of Trump leads back to his name. In the end, there was the word, and the word was Trump.
Rough Draft is posted at 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Begrudgingly it will appear this Monday even though it ought to be a holiday.