Monday, August 15, 2016

Maybe This Explains Trump

Understanding Donald Trump

Listen, you know these politicians, they don’t know me. They don’t understand me.

-- Donald Trump, "Second Amendment Speech," "Read the Full Transcript of Donald Trump’s ‘Second Amendment’ Speech," TIME, August 9, 2016

Donald Trump says we don't understand him. He's right. Politicians, reporters, and voters have had little to go on beyond their own speculations.

Some professional, and many armchair, psychiatrists think he displays classic, textbook narcissism and varieties of mental illness. Others believe he's just naturally mean-spirited, unthinking, crude, and lacking in empathy when he attacks military personnel who are captured, women, people with disabilities, Muslims, Gold Star families, and whoever else happens to be in his sights when his mouth opens.

There's speculation that he never has been serious about running, was surprised to have won the Republican nomination, and is preparing himself and us for his general election loss -- already blaming such an outcome on a hostile media ("the lowest form of life") and the "rigged" voting that will require his army of poll watchers.

And we can't overlook his brag reported by Fortune magazine: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it." Jerry Useem, "What Does Donald Trump Really Want?" Fortune, April 3, 2000. For a 2016 update, see Joseph P. Williams, "Is Trump’s Campaign Breaking the Law by Paying Money to Trump’s Businesses? Campaign Finance Experts Say It's Hard to Tell," U.S.News, June 22, 2016. Roughly 20% of his campaign expenditures involve payments to his own companies. Drew Griffin, Paul Murphy and Theodore Schleifer, "Trump Directs Nearly One-Fifth of His Money to His Own Businesses," CNN Politics, June 22, 2016.

So he can make money while running for president. Moreover, since much of his "property" is his brand, his name, he will be able to continue to make money as someone who ran for president -- not to mention larger royalties for ghost-written books, speaking fees for lectures, and a possible future TV show.

But wait; there's more.

There are at least three ways to get the goods and services one needs for a political campaign: (1) pay for them yourself (including the Trump option of paying your own companies), (2) get campaign contributions from donors used to pay for what you need, or (3) obtain what you need without having anyone pay for it.

Given the proportion of campaign funds for advertising that go (mostly) to the purchase of radio and television time (80%), option (3), above -- getting it for free -- is clearly the best approach. "In 2012, fundraising for various campaigns reached $6.5 billion. Of that, an estimated $5.2 billion [or 80%] was spent on advertising." This year one estimate puts total contributions at $7.5 billion with, again, 80% going to advertising. Meg James, "Political Ad Spending Estimated At $6 Billion in 2016," Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2015.

So how has Donald Trump made out with free media? Like a bandit! Two billion dollars worth of free media by March -- a record. Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, "$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump," The New York Times, March 17, 2016, p. A3

All of which now brings me to my hypothesis regarding a possible understanding of Trump.

One of his more recent wild assertions is that ISIS' founder, the person who created the organization, was none other than our President, Barack Obama. Tal Kopan, "Donald Trump Tries to Walk Back Claim Obama Founded ISIS: 'Sarcasm,'" CNN Politics, August 12, 2016.

I, along with others who, unlike me are actually informed on the issues, have noted that our entry into Iraq -- as well as our exit, and re-entry -- have contributed to the recruitment of terrorists and more attacks on Americans, as the organizations have evolved and changed names over time. When Trump appeared on the program of conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, Hewitt tried to use this analysis to help Trump out of his absurd assertion regarding Obama as "founder of ISIS." Trump was having none of it:
Hugh Hewitt (HH): I’ve got two more questions. Last night, you said the President was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.

Donald Trump (DT): No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.

HH: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.

DT: I don’t care. He was the founder.
Duane Patterson, "Donald Trump Makes A Return Visit,", August 11, 2016

The discussion continued along these lines:
HH: You don’t get any argument from me. But by using the term "founder," they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?

DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him, and I give it to, I gave the co-founder to Hillary. I don’t know if you heard that.

HH: I did. I did. I played it.

DT: I gave her the co-founder.

HH: I know what you’re arguing…

DT: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?

HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.

DT: Well, I disagree.

HH: All right, that’s okay. . . . I’d just use different language to communicate it . . ..

DT: But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?

HH: Well, good point. Good point.
"They do talk about my language." Those six words of Trump's really tell the tale. Trump's playbook is a variant of the old line, "Say anything you want about me as long as you spell my name right;" the belief that there is no such thing as bad publicity -- especially when the price tag would have been $2 billion for that much publicity.

The media is talking about Trump. You and I are talking about Trump. I'm sitting here writing about Trump. It all helps to fire up his supporters -- even, perhaps especially, the perceived criticism of Trump. Whether or not those loyal followers are of sufficient numbers to deliver him 270 electoral votes, I wonder how much he even cares. He can't "lose" -- regardless of what happens November 8. The value of his brand, his name on his properties, will have increased by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.

And all because, as he says, "they do talk about my language, right?"

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