(The following article was originally published on January 23, 2018. Considering everything that has since transpired during Donald Trump’s tenure, thoughts are very much welcome.)
Before The Candidacy
I lived in Brooklyn, New York, during Donald Trump’s rise as a celebrity. Over the years, we’ve met and spoken twice. Nothing that has transpired since has surprised me.
He announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015. Prior to his historic proclamation, the colorful future U.S. President was a New York tabloid fixture. From the building of his iconic Trump Tower, to The Art of the Deal and the circus-like atmosphere surrounding his divorce with first wife, Ivana — who would accuse him of rape, and years later rescind the accusation — The Donald, as he was known, appeared intent to veer into P.T. Barnum territory.
Was he a businessman, a showman, or both? Whatever the answer, the rules were the same: Stay in the news. Be big or go home.
He navigated both masterfully. From his multiple bankruptcies, alleged matters with the mob and money laundering, his association with the controversial Felix Sater, his numerous reported affairs and appearances on The Howard Stern Show that seemed to verify most if not all of those charges, he never wavered. In the process, he “earned” billions (“earned” in quotes due to massive bank debt) and starred in one of reality television’s flashpoint efforts: The Apprentice.
Is it arguable that he’s been “successful?” It shouldn’t be.
The chess moves he’s utilized to get there? That’s a whole other ball of wax.
I will not rehash our President’s biography here. If any of the above names or circumstances are unfamiliar to you, I suggest you Google the information. My reason is the results will be negative and resultantly dominate my larger exploration. Further, my contention is much of his history, and subsequently his image, has been orchestrated by the man himself. The narrative, the news reports pro and con … It was not unusual for him to do favors — “payola” by any other name — for the press prior to his political rise. This is widely accepted knowledge, and a portrait to which I subscribe. Opinion, technically, to be clear.
But well-considered opinion.
Character in Question
I am writing this essay on the eve of the latest threatened government shutdown. An hour ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that one of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, utilized a limited liability company, Essential Consultants, LLC, as a shell to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels to the tune of $130,000. The shell entity was said to be formed for this purpose. He has been called ”a bully,” “a liar,” “a racist,” “a sexual predator,” “disrespectful,” and “a thief.” Some have accused him of being aligned with Russian interests and subsequently guilty of treason.
And so it goes. He maintains a base who loves him. A typical response: “My bank account is doing better than it’s ever done before.“
And they’re not wrong. Whether Barack Obama set those wheels in motion does not matter to many. National consumer confidence is at an all-time high, while internationally the United States has fallen in the eyes of our allies due to the unorthodox behavior of this world leader, behavior that includes the rollback of prior Obama policies and regulations that many believe are personally motivated.
From mocking a disabled reporter to venting about “shithole countries,” every day of Trump’s Presidency remains newsworthy. Since he assumed office, his questionable character has dominated the spotlight.
This article will question whether President Trump’s morality should hold any sway over his achievements. If Robert Mueller concludes his investigation with across-the-board ”guilty” verdicts, what then? What of Wall Street?
Should character matter at all? This is a question that has dogged not only politicians, of course, but artists and anyone in the workforce. But when the world’s attention focuses on a flawed world leader who has cultivated his desired life under a microscope, other tough considerations beckon.
The conflicts are worth a focused exploration.
I was a former special education teacher. I worked with students possessed of both emotional and physical disadvantages. Like many, I was horrified in the early days of Trump’s candidacy at what appeared to be the Presidential hopeful’s mocking of a handicapped reporter during a campaign stop. Serge Kovaleski, said reporter, shared the opinion.
That alone made me feel worse, as I have a natural sensitivity against such actions. The ensuing outcry certainly validated my anger. Regardless, the character of the candidate was quickly meeting the image of the tabloid mainstay from my New York days. The billionaire builder with the chronic affairs, whose marriage ended in part over a new flame named Marla Maples as his infamy, and bank account, grew exponentially.
We watched as other GOP candidates fell like dominoes, while the television celebrity from “The Apprentice” toyed with them all like a schoolyard toughie. “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” were but two who folded in his wrath. “Bleeding from the … whatever,” he infamously said to reporter Megyn Kelly, when she asked him a question during a debate.
When he made it to the top in the veritable game of “Survivor” as the last GOP candidate standing, he attempted to psych out Hillary Clinton by bringing her husband’s alleged sexual abuse victims together, first in an impromptu press conference, and then as members of the debate audience.
Of course, earlier on Trump himself boasted about grabbing women by the pussy, which he claimed as nothing more than “locker room talk.”
You know the rest, or much of it anyway. It’s an oft-repeated refrain that Trump never expected to win, and he only ran for office to build his brand. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It’s all supposition. The headlines have made sure of it. Trump won the Presidency. No candidate before or since has mastered, or played, the media like he had. For awhile, it was as though no other candidate existed. His print and television coverage was far beyond anyone who has ever run for office.
But back to his character. In the end, does any of this matter?
Presently, the number one best-selling book in the country is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. I recommend it. The author and his publisher insist its contents are true, with an introductory caveat that those who Wolff interviewed were assumed to have been honest. If even a small percent of the book is truthful, it’s a head-scratcher that Donald Trump has made it as far as he has.
None of which matters now, of course.
Donald Trump was successful in his campaign because we’ve never seen a candidate like this before. Verbose, bellicose, belligerent. He said what he believed needed to be said. His average 39% national base, or thereabouts, based on a year’s worth of various polls, has not notably wavered. He reached people, who are doing better financially than they had before.
This cannot be discounted. To some, it makes up for the Trump University fraud.
if the economy undergoes a correction at some point, then it undergoes a correction. For now, Trump supporters lauding the President for this reason is an argument that cannot be easily shrugged off.
He also passed major tax reform, and rapidly assigned federal judges.
Donald Trump is certainly not the first U.S. President with personality defects, if I can assume a certain degree of decorum and use that descriptor as representative of one who thrives on impulse and chaos. He may well not be the first President to (allegedly) sleep with a porn star. Or, porn stars. Is the Russian dossier real? Who knows.
I think so, but my opinion doesn’t matter.
Richard Nixon had his flaws. Bill Clinton certainly had his share. Even the revered JFK was long-rumored to have been a ladies man. Many artists have been tortured by imperfections, many turning to drink and drugs due to certain personal weakness, or lack of career stability.
#MeToo is historically, and finally, redefining female empowerment. In the world of Hollywood, careers are ending based on accusation alone. Senator Franken? He wasn’t immune either.
Only Trump appears immune, based on past charges and statements.
Apparently, however, none of that matters. This President has yet to meet his kryptonite, though who knows. Mueller beckons.
As a late point, which may in time prove even to be a positive, President Trump has certainly shaken up a system that has desperately needed change. Today, chaos reigns. Several important old allies no longer trust us. They loathe his behavior. His nuclear brinkmanship with Kim Jong-un has become a dangerous game of who has the larger penis.
Tomorrow … We’ll just have to be patient and see how all of this shakes out.
The Question Becomes: “Does character matter?”
To the query above, as I mentioned at the outset I’ve tried being fair. My own bias has shown through, of that I am certain. I reread what I wrote here, and it’s obvious where I stand. I am not a fan of this President. My social media will certainly bear out that matter. His rallying cry of “Fake News,” I believe, will bring about a global chain reaction that will not end well. Autocrats attempt to control the media, and to censor. I am a writer, an artist.
One issue among many I have with this world leader.
When I was a child, I wanted to be the President of the United States. I held them up to a higher standard than most. Watergate happened, and reality hit. Still, I’ll volunteer my own answer, and then I would like to hear from you.
Character matters a whole hell of a lot, as with character comes confidence and hope.
That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it. I’m sure most of us truly do want to Make America Great Again.
Thank you for reading.