Being 'The Donald'

Monday, 16 May 2011 08:53 AM

By Chris Freind

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He can’t win. He’s not serious. He’s only talking about running for President to satisfy his never-satiated ego. And of course, he’s doing it to boost ratings for his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice.

So say the political pundits who, as we all know, are wrong more than the weatherman.

So let’s take a look at a Trump candidacy.

First things first. The entire endeavor is irrelevant if the last aforementioned point is true. Obviously, if his TV show returns for another season, it’s an instant show-stopper for Trump’s political quest.

If, however, he shocks the political world by genuinely committing himself to the Republican primary, the GOP field will go on life-support as it collectively suffers a massive heart attack. More than any other individual, with the exception of New Jersey’s firebrand Gov.r Chris Christie (who states he is not running), Donald Trump has the ability to instantly alter the dynamics of the race. His candidacy would dominate national headlines to such a degree that his rivals could find the cure for cancer and establish world peace —and no one would notice.

And anyone who believes that scenario is overstated hype needs only phone Barack Obama, who would begrudgingly concur. After all, it was Trump — and Trump only — who forced Obama to address the birth certificate issue. Irrelevant is whether the “birther” issue has legitimate merit or is a ludicrous political argument. The fact is that Trump utilized his star power to make the President of the United States respond directly to him, despite not even being a candidate. That display of raw power can only be dreamed of by every other GOP hopeful.

But Obama had his “payback,” making Trump the butt of his jokes at the annual correspondents’ dinner (as did comedian Seth Meyers). Clearly, that was the biggest compliment the billionaire could receive, since being the focal point of such a prestigious event (where Trump was in attendance) simply would not have happened if Trump wasn’t a real threat.

Not surprisingly, the “joke candidate,” as Karl Rove labeled Trump, has also come under withering attacks from Republican rivals.

Translation: to the people who matter, Donald Trump is being taken very seriously. But questions remain.

Is that momentum sustainable? Can Trump exercise the necessary discipline to remain viable under the world’s brightest spotlight? Will he adapt to politics, infinitely more brutal than business? And perhaps most important, will he instinctively know when to take a backseat to the counsel of experienced political consultants and when to overrule them when he thinks they are wrong?

Hard to tell. But if any political “novice” can overcome those challenges, it is Trump.

He is not only used to the media spotlight, but has actively courted it for decades. As a result, he is at home in front of the cameras, having honed his skills to discuss issues off the cuff. Of course, up until now, the subject matter has always been that with which he is most familiar: business, real estate, casinos and entertainment.

It is a different ballgame entirely for presidential candidates, who are expected to speak intelligently on everything. How a candidate handles questions on issues with which he is unfamiliar can make or break him in an instant. And without a doubt, Trump’s rivals would love nothing better than to set him up in this regard, relishing the opportunity to send the flamboyant new kid on the block to the political graveyard for having the audacity to enter “their” world.

That’s a strategy with merit, since Trump’s publicity is a double-edged sword. Just as his stock soars when making positive headlines, any major misstep will be seized upon, with a cacophony of calls discrediting Trump as nothing more than a publicity hound without the experience necessary to be President.

But the single biggest threat to Trump’s viability is being overly “handled” by advisors. Sarah Palin fell from grace during the 2008 campaign because she wasn’t allowed to be herself, instead being remodeled as someone else. She was only able to recover that lost image after the election.

Trump’s biggest “trump” card is that he is Donald Trump. No rival comes close to matching his charisma and his ability to articulate issues. Whether taking on Congress, the Chinese or the Middle Eastern oil nations, without the need for a script or teleprompter, Trump is increasingly perceived as a man who will back up words with action, based on his track record in business and the fact that he isn’t financially beholden to anyone.

That type of bold, take-no-prisoners vision is exactly what Americans are seeking. While they will not always agree with him, knowing where a leader stands and having confidence that he will keep his word are the hallmark issues that trump all others in a presidential race.

So it’s only fitting that in a decade of unprecedented electoral surprises, Round One in the Republican primary goes to Donald Trump.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and television commentator who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com; he can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com


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