Did you like The Apprentice?” Republican candidate Donald Trump asked the audience of The Tonight Show apropos of nothing.
What an odd question to ask, some of us thought while the crowd roared in applause. Was it a populist play to establish a link with the audience? Was it an attempt to link “The Donald” character he played on The Apprentice with the candidate, now running for president? Was Mr. Trump trying to develop a rapport with the audience in a manner that he hoped might lead to the host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, avoiding tough questions? Or, was he sending a subtle, covert message that his desire to be president is not as serious as we have all been led to believe? Is it possible, and I realize that this is the epitome of a conspiracy theory, that Donald Trump was hinting at the idea that his whole campaign could be nothing more than the third installment of The Apprentice? The Republican Apprentice?
First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage, he’s No. 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls and how he even got up here … There’s too many people up here anyway.”
The idea that Trump may not like Paul is, at this point, so obvious that it’s not worth exploring, but could it be that in that pause were the words, “If I were in charge, you wouldn’t be here.” Or, as anyone that has watched The Apprentice, or Celebrity Apprentice, could imagine him pointing at the Senator, saying, “Ron Paul, you’re fired!”
In the first Republican debate, on August 5, 2015, on Fox News, Donald Trump was asked if he would go third party in his bid to win the presidency.
I cannot say (that I would rule it out),” Trump said. “I have to respect the person, if it’s not me, who wins.”
Donald Trump, as we have learned over the years, is a blunt man. He is a plain spoken man that tells you what he thinks of people, places, and things without qualifiers. With that in mind, one would’ve expected the typical Trump response to be: “I won’t rule anything out. I want to win.” Instead, Trump said something that could be interpreted as a man stating that one of his goals, in this election season, is to evaluate the cream that rises to the top of the Republican primary. These quotes can be interpreted a number of ways, of course, but I believe Trump sounded like a man that believed himself a better judge of talent than the Republican National Committee, or the voters in the Republican Primary, and he sounded like a man waiting until a final boardroom before making his final decision.
He has since made a vow that he won’t go third party, but the intriguing choice of words he used in that first debate, suggest that Mr. Trump wants to, at the very least, have some say in who the eventual nominee is, and if it’s someone Trump respects (selects) then he will walk away without a fight. With his current standings in the national, Iowa, and New Hampshire polls, it looks like it’s Trump’s party, and you can cry if you want to.
The underpinnings of any conspiracy theory rest in the author’s attempts to root through the mind of the subject of their theory to find motive. In our conspiratorial attempt to root through the mind of Donald Trump, we must account for the fact that he’s a successful real estate developer that inherited his father’s love for building, a best-selling author, a TV star, and a man that has achieved such a prestigious place in the zeitgeist that he has his own Muppet on Sesame Street. We must also factor in the idea that he walks away from accomplishments that others would consider lifetime achievements, to focus on other things that pique his interest.
The point of bringing up Mr. Trump’s resume is to illustrate that the man is a big ideas guy. Those that have had some experience with big idea guys know they don’t often enjoy the minutiae involved in the “after the introduction of their ideas” process involved in implementing their ideas, and they get bored easy. Big idea guys may sit in real life boardrooms with executives, and they may stand shoulder to shoulder with foreman to discuss the finer details of a project, but after those discussions are over, they delegate the authority of getting things done to the the talented people they’ve hired to see it to completion.
And it could be said that the ability of knowing when to delegate, how to delegate, and to whom they should delegate, is a mark of a great president. There does come a time, however, when every president has to put their own hands in the machine. Our current president has the same problems that we can predict Mr. Trump might have. Like Mr. Trump, President Barack Obama is a big ideas guy that is reported to have disdain for the chore of “working the phones” to get votes from lowly Congressman. Obama’s mentality, much like Trump’s, is that he appointed henchmen to do all this, a chief of staff, a Vice-President more familiar with the inner-workings of the process, or whomever they nominate to be their enforcer, but as any Congressman will tell you, nothing gets things done in Washington like a call from the president.
The Founders of this country set our government up, in such a way, that even the lowly Congressman, from the most insignificant congressional district in Kansas, can have a lot of power in the legislative process, and big idea guys don’t enjoy having to placate to other idea guys they consider lesser in stature.
I’m the president,” Obama has been reported to have said, when his advisers inform him of the need to make such calls. “I shouldn’t have to do such things.”
“I’ll get it done,” Trump says, when an interviewer presses him for details on his ideas, “Trust me.”
The confidence Mr. Trump displays when saying such things, coupled with the track record of doing just that, leads some of us to believe him in ways that inspire confidence. He may, in fact, be one of the guys that could get things done. He is the author of the influential book The Art of the Deal after all. This, more than anything else, may be why he has remained atop the polls thus far, but has he run into a system that was constructed for the expressed purpose of making it difficult to get things done?
It’s early in the campaign, at this point, so we should give candidate Trump some slack for providing ideas without many details, but we’ve already been through a campaign of “I’ll get things done. Trust me.” We’ve already witnessed a presidential campaign high on ideas, low on details. We’ve already witnessed a candidate that laid the implicit statement on us that through the sheer force of his personality, charisma, and will, things would get done in Washington. We’ve already witnessed a candidate that said he would “soon release a proposal that would lay out the details of my plan to …” And most of us believed him, and most of us witnessed that same man resort to the executive actions that he condemned on the campaign trail, based on the idea that Congress was too partisan.
In 2008, it could be argued, we had a candidate successfully ride a cult of personality campaign into office. Some would argue that the popularity of the Barack Obama campaign was such that he had been given a mandate by the people, to get things done, before he ever stepped foot in The White House. Obama walked into office with Democrat majorities in the Senate and Congress, to assist him in getting whatever he wanted done. He also had the media on his side, lying in wait for any that might speak out against him. It was a tough time in America for lowly Congressmen to fight the President of the United States, yet fight they did. Even the Democrats, in both houses, made it very difficult for Obama to pass a stimulus package to help finance unions, and they made it so difficult for him to pass his signature legislation, the Affordable Healthcare Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, that he and his acolytes had to resort to legislative chicanery to get it passed. The other president that rode a landslide election to a perceived mandate was Ronald Reagan, yet Ronald Reagan had to get shot before his popularity reached a level where few Congressman could say no to him on a piece of legislation.
Trump knows all this, of course, but it wouldn’t play well on the campaign trail, if he spoke about how difficult it would be for him –an inexperienced player on any level of government– to get something done in a system that was constructed for the expressed purpose of making it difficult to get things done. Even knowing that he has to say it this way to inspire confidence, it still worries some Republicans –that have already witnessed how this plays out– when he says: “Trust me. I’ll get it done.”
Why would Trump want it?
When the average American sees what a president goes through, and they see how the stresses and strains of the job have aged their presidents, they can’t understand why anyone would want the job. It is the most powerful elected position in the world, of course, but if Donald Trump died tomorrow he would go down as one of the top 1%, most accomplished men of the era. If he became president, the discussion of his past accomplishments would become a footnote in the biography of Donald Trump, and the legacy he cherishes would be virtually wiped out. For Donald Trump, unlike most men, becoming president would offer him very little upside, in the long-term. Why would he want to subject himself to the intense examination, the rigors, and the humiliation that are associated with the day-to-day activities of the job of President of the United States?
My contention is that he doesn’t. I believe that he loves this country, and I believe that he sees the damage that has been done to it over the last seven years, and the last fifteen, and he wants to do what he can to push the candidates to be better than they would’ve been without his presence. He has shown, throughout his career, that he knows how to spot talent, how to cultivate that talent, and how to tell lesser talents that they aren’t ready for the big stage.
In a nation where people fall all over themselves to find polite ways to support another’s self-esteem to a point where we often end up with less than talented people in powerful positions, Mr. Trump looks those people in the face, points at them (rude), and says, “You’re fired!” He even had the audacity to go out and trademark that slogan to inform the world how proud he is of a statement others consider rude.
The most obvious contention is that Donald Trump, like all of the people that have vied for the office of the president of the United States, is so egotistical that he doesn’t think anyone could do a better job than him. The other contention, based on the first, is that Mr. Trump believes that if we ran this country more like a business, and we learned The Art of the Deal better, in affairs both foreign and domestic, we could Make America Great Again.
All of that could be true, but could it be that Donald Trump has stepped up on the stage to fire those candidates he believes don’t belong there, and that no one else has the courage to do so? Could it be that The Donald believes that his very presence can cause the candidates vying for office to be better than they would otherwise be? Could it be that Trump wants nothing more than to focus this campaign on issues that he believes will save it from an eventual demise? Could it be that his campaign amounts to nothing more, and nothing less, than a third incarnation of The Apprentice, the Republican apprentice?