tell you what’s up. Or, better yet, here is Francis
X. Clines in the New York Times, succinctly summing up
the meaning and motive behind the Trump presidential bandwagon.
Trump, who has never been a political candidate, clearly timed
his announcement to target Mr. Buchanan, denouncing him on
NBC television as the candidate of the
"really staunch Right wacko vote." "Look, he's a Hitler lover,"
Mr. Trump said, alluding to the recent controversy over Mr.
Buchanan's view that in World War II Hitler had initially
presented no serious threat to the United States. "I guess
he's an anti-Semite," Mr. Trump said.
his gambling casinos, his self-conscious flamboyance, and
the studied air of a man who takes the task of making himself
look ridiculous very seriously, Trump is a clownish figure,
served up by the media as more of an entertainment than a
serious candidate. Don’t you believe it. Trump is deadly serious.
has already booked media buys, a series of "fireside chats"
starting in April. No, it isn’t meant as an April fool’s joke
– these days, Donald Trump, playboy entrepreneur and casino
owner, is a man with a mission. No more frivolity, no more
"super-models." "I have respect for the office," he said,
explaining his reformation – as if he had already won.
POLITICS OF BRAGGADOCIO
is a man used to getting what he wants, and he is willing
to pay for it. Trump has pledged to spend a whopping $100
million on his campaign. His campaign manager, Republican
consultant Roger Stone, once an advisor to the Dole campaign,
is carefully marketing "The Donald" as a kind of blue-collar
Republican – aimed specifically at Buchanan’s demographic
base. A CBS
News report put it this way: "Trump's greatest popularity
is with the kind of people building his newest skyscraper:
blue-collar men. They enjoy ‘The Donald’ acting like ‘The
Don.’" The idea, according to these self-appointed experts
on the psychology of the prole male, is that all gold-chain-wearing
young ethnics want to be like "The Donald" – and are
bound to be drawn into the voting booth by Trump’s parody
of the lower-class alpha male-made-good, because they see
their crude selves reflected in his picturesque braggadocio.
TRUMP, ROLE MODEL
doesn’t matter that this caricature is a strictly upper class
construct with little or no relation to reality. Stone has
no doubt convinced his client that these guys look up to him,
that he is – or could be a role model to millions.
Media analyst Roger Trout, who says that the Trump candidacy
is a "giant scam," insists that the whole thing is a publicity
stunt and will never really happen. Trout points out that
Trump’s poll numbers are abysmal, much much lower than
Buchanan’s – and, if you can believe it, even way below Linda
$100 MILLION SMEAR
poll numbers are not the point. Patrick J. Buchanan is the
point. Trump started out his campaign smearing Buchanan: "Hitler-lover"
were practically the first words out of his big mouth after
announcing his interest in a White House run, and you can
bet there’s more to come: $100 million’s worth.
NIGHTMARE COME TRUE
why, you ask why has "The Donald" emerged as Buchanan’s
competitor for the Reform Party nod, and not someone more
serious, say, John Anderson, or former Colorado governor Richard
Lamb, who briefly challenged Perot for the nomination
in 1996? Surely this is some surrealistic nightmare, in which
the evolution of the presidential candidate as movie star
and politics as public spectacle has reached its grotesque
zenith. But as a levelheaded
appraisal in Salon points out:
to public perception, while Trump may be an electoral neophyte
as a candidate he is not green to politics. As a young man,
he joined the family real-estate business a highly politicized
enterprise, especially in New York. Trump, in effect, became
the company bagman, handing out contributions to politicians
in return for favorable treatment for the family's holdings.
He's been an equal-opportunity influence buyer, building his
own empire in part by playing the pols like violins, ladling
out the bucks to Democrats like Gov. Mario Cuomo and Mayor
Ed Koch when they were in power, then switching with ease
to Republicans George Pataki and Rudy Guiliani when they took
THE ERRAND BOY
knows what debts Trump is paying off to those who have been
in a position to help him and his booming real estate empire?
The evidence that he is acting as the errand boy of the left
wing of the Republican party, epitomized by New York City
Mayor Guiliani and Republican governor George Pataki, is a
suspicion well-founded. Trump went broke when his casino floundered
and some of his real estate investments didn’t pan out: he
likes to say that he fought his way back up – but fails to
mention that he did it with more than a little help from friends
in high places. He is building a 90-story condominium tower
next door to the United Nations, over the vehement protests
of community groups and neighborhood residents, with plenty
of political muscle supplied by the Mayor’s office. Likewise
with the development of the old rail yards on the Upper West
Side, some of the most valuable real estate in the Big Apple,
which has residents in an uproar – and the firm support of
TO HIS EARS
political loyalties, such as they are, can be divined by looking
pattern of his political contributions – neoconservatives
of both parties have been the beneficiaries of Trump’s largess.
But this is just scratching the surface. More important is
the perpetually precarious state of his finances. His well-publicized
bout with near-bankruptcy in the early 90s left him $900 million
in debt. While he claims that his comeback is due solely to
his "can-do" attitude a key theme of the "narrative"
he is selling—clearly he has been bailed out time and again,
financially as well as politically. On his latest acquisition
alone, what used to be the General Motors building on Fifth
Avenue, he borrowed $700 million, together with his partners,
and provided a $200 million personal guarantee, according
to the New York Times, although Trump denies it. Why bother
denying it when it’s a matter of public record? For some reason,
he doesn’t want his indebtedness examined too closely.
AS AN INVESTMENT STRATEGY
he could in effect pay off some of his debts, both political
and financial, by investing a mere $100 million, then that
is a pretty good investment. The Trump campaign, looked at
in this light, this gives new meaning to The Donald’s boast
while being paid $100,000 to speak at a Tony Robbins
motivational rally that he is the "only candidate who
makes money while he runs." From some reports, Trump could
use the money. He denies that he is cash-strapped, but the
New York Times article referenced above reports that
he lost millions on his casino; tellingly, he won’t say whether
he has $100 million in the bank to spend, but airily dismisses
the idea that his pledge to spend that much on his campaign
was an idle boast: "Money today is very plentiful."
PUSH IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
But why would any bank, or anyone for that matter, loan a
businessman who already went bankrupt once $100 million just
as the bull market bubble seems ready to burst? In effect,
Trump’s creditors, the New York banks, will be financing his
campaign. But why, you ask, should they do that? Why should
the "Money Power," as Buchanan would put it, finance a campaign
to deny one of their fiercest and most unrelenting critics
the Reform Party nomination? Why should a man who questions
the loyalty of our transnational corporate elite suddenly
discover that a well-funded candidate pops out of nowhere
and stands in his path? How is it that a vain and very indebted
New York real estate wheeler-dealer, not exactly a policy
wonk, suddenly develops the idea that he ought to run for
President – is it just an advanced case of megalomania, or
something else? You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist
to see that the fix is in for Pat Buchanan. It seems fairly
clear, even to the willfully naïve, that The Donald has
not started out on the road to the White House with some of
the lowest poll numbers on recent record without some prompting.
STONE – A MAJOR SLEAZEBALL
of that prompting no doubt came from Roger Stone, the Republican
political operative kicked out of the Dole campaign when the
tabloids revealed that he and his wife had placed sex ads
in a slew of sleazy magazines, advertising for "couples":
military, bodybuilders, jocks. No smokers or fat please."
was also revealed that Stone, in the company of his wife,
visited a Washington sex club called Capitol Couple. Writing
about Stone’s disgrace in the New Republic, Dana Milbank
puts it this way:
were photos of her in a black negligee and him bare-chested,
and there was an enumeration of her personal measurements.
Stone said he had been set up, but he was forced to step down
as an adviser to the Dole campaign.
finally there was the vehicle for Roger Stone's rehabilitation:
Donald Trump himself."
"rehabilitation" is a funny word to use, in that context,
for it raises the question in whose eyes Stone
is being rehabilitated? Who else but his Republican
ex-employers? That this is his way of weaseling back into
the good graces of the GOP establishment, which will be duly
grateful for services rendered, is the clear implication.
Given the character and politics of the people we are talking
about, the "cat’s paw" scenario is all too plausible. The
author of The Art of the Deal has signed an unofficial
nonaggression pact with his friends over at the Republican
National Committee: while Buchanan has been steadily and relentlessly
attacking the foreign policy of the Clinton administration,
Trump has trained his fire on Buchanan and virtually ignored
Bush. The harshest thing he has said so far about the latter
is that he is "saddened" that Dubya is "not exactly Einstein"
– a conclusion that many voters might find somewhat comforting
as well as entirely unsurprising.
Trump buy the Reform Party nomination? My guess is no, but
that is really beside the point. For he can do immense damage,
both to Buchanan and to America’s nascent third party movement,
in the process of trying. The genius of what we might call
the cat’s-paw strategy being used against Buchanan is that,
in choosing Trump as their instrument, the Anti-Buchanan Brigade
has vulgarized the political debate inside the Reform Party:
a contest pitting Buchanan against Trump can only drag the
former down to the latter’s level, underscoring the main theme
of the media assault on the Reform Party: that it is a circus,
a freak show, and not to be taken seriously. The Big Lie technique
it was Trump who started out his campaign smearing Buchanan
as a "Hitler-lover," inevitably The Donald will face questions
about his own reputed love of Der Fuehrer. This story has
been making the rounds for a long time, and finally saw print
in a recent piece by Marie Brenner in Vanity Fair.
Brenner reports that Trump keeps Hitler’s book, My New
Order, in a bedside cabinet, and regularly reads from
it for inspiration. This makes perfect sense to Brenner, who
perceptively writes that Trump, like Hitler, is a skillful
propagandist: his penchant for repetitive hyperbole and prevarication,
she notes, bears more than a passing resemblance to Hitler’s
"Big Lie" technique. We will see that technique in action,
if my worst nightmare comes true, in the coming months. According
to one of the few news reports I’ve seen on this question:
Brenner bearded Trump in his den on this issue, Donald said
it was his friend Marty Davis of Paramount Pictures who'd
given him a copy of Mein Kampf and he's a Jew. Davis
says he didn't give Trump Mein Kampf, but the aforesaid
My New Order. ‘I thought he would find it interesting.
I am his friend, but I'm not Jewish.’ Trump told Brenner,
‘If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I
would never read them.’"
what would happen if Vanity Fair published a piece
exposing Pat Buchanan’s favorite bedtime reading as a dog-eared
copy of My New Order, or even The Collected Speeches
of Father Coughlin? We would never – ever – hear
the end of it. In The Donald’s case, however, it is barely
mentioned. This could change the moment he starts spending
millions in an obvious attempt to maul Buchanan and destroy
the Reform movement as a viable opposition party. Especially
if – or should I say when? – the Hitler-baiting starts
up big-time, Trump is just asking to be exposed. It could
happen soon, and in a big way.
to Brenner, another copy of My New Order, possibly
with Trump’s notes in the margin, is in the possession of
his estranged wife Ivana’s lawyer, Michael Kennedy, where
it sits in the vault "as if it were a grenade." Here’s hoping
that Ivana lights the fuse.
AN EYE ON THAT "NARRATIVE"
website, The Donald regales us with quotes from the media
that echo his own inflated sense of self-importance, including
one from Newsweek's Howard Fineman, who advises us to
an eye on Trump. He has, as they say in the business these
days, a 'narrative.' Nearly in bankruptcy a few years ago,
The Donald has re-emerged as perhaps the most powerful builder
in what he calls "the hottest real-estate market on the
planet," New York. He speaks in a clear, punchy style,
and is the kind of business hero (like Lee Iacocca before
him) who appeals to blue-collars and computer nerds alike."
"narrative" ought to be a familiar one to conservatives: a
"moderate" candidate pops up out of nowhere, with startling
abruptness, to block the path of an ideological conservative.
Wendell Wilkie, a Wall Street lawyer who had never run for
public office or displayed the least bit of political ambition,
played that role against the "isolationist" (i.e. pro-peace)
Robert A. Taft in 1936.
quote bandied about by the Trump operation is one from Camille
Paglia, who avers: "Buchanan appears less qualified for high
office than the quirkily long-shot Donald Trump, an articulate,
shrewdly observant, high-powered businessman and real estate
developer with a genuine common touch." Having made her name
as an acerbic if still acceptably liberal critic of academic
political and cultural correctness, the author of Sexual
Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson
stick to what she knows art criticism and "high culture"
and leave such plebeian pastimes as politics to us
lowbrows. There is nothing genuine about Donald Trump,
or his candidacy: not his serio-comic "platform," the product
of "focus groups" and cynical "marketing" techniques, nor
his hair color, which looks like it comes out of a very cheap
bottle. He is, indeed, the virtual personnification of inauthenticity.
Paglia ought to be ashamed of herself for allowing herself
to be used by this cretinous Croesus. Whatever she got out
of it it wasn't enough. The Donald is not even in the
same league as Buchanan: in facing down his enemies, Pat is
a giant among pygmies but Paglia, like the rest of
the cynical, decadent elites in this country, is blindly hostile
to Pat's stern republican virtues. The pagan Paglia and her
ilk are creatures of the Empire, the cultural and political
effluvia of a degenerate and hopelessly comnpromised elite.
Will the Reform Party prove vulnerable to their virtually
unanimous chorus of Pat-bashing and media hype? We shall see.
I'm counting on you, Ivana and the revulsion
of the Reformers at this blatant attempt to bribe and co-opt