Deals that assure him a win

Forbes suggests we need to get a grip and understand President Pinhead. He’s a “dealmaker”; he’s in it for maximum payoff for himself, and nothing else. At first glance that sounds to me like just Capitalism, but of course it’s not that simple.

Donald Trump didn’t get rich building businesses, despite years of brand-burnishing via The Apprentice and millions of votes from people who craved exactly that experience. Instead, his forte lies in transactions–buying and selling and cutting deals that assure him a win regardless of the outcome for others. The nuance is essential. Entrepreneurs and businesspeople create and run entities that have any number of interested parties–shareholders and customers and employees and partners and hometowns–that in theory all share in success. Under Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Apple has helped early shareholders multiply their investments nearly 400-fold, turned thousands of options-wielding employees into millionaires (swelling the local tax base), performed similar wonders for Taiwanese supplier Foxconn and made customers so deliriously happy that they wait all night to fork over hundreds of dollars for products that will be obsolete two years later.

Dealmakers rarely seek that kind of win-win-win-win-win. Whether it’s a stock trade, a swap of middle relievers or optioning a real estate parcel, a deal tends to involve just two parties and generally results in one coming out ahead of the other (so much so that a “win-win” is considered a noteworthy aberration). “Man is the most vicious of all animals,” Trump told People in 1981 (and it merited a mention the first time he appeared in Forbes , a year later). “Life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” It’s a mentality that remains hard-wired in President Trump.

Nearly a year after the most stunning Election Day in many decades, pundits still profess to find themselves continually shocked by President Trump. They shouldn’t be: His worldview has been incredibly consistent. Rather than as an opportunity to turn ideology into policy, he views governing the way he does business–as an endless string of deals, to be won or lost, both at the negotiating table and in the court of public opinion.

And, furthermore, the win is for him, not for the country or the people or even for rich people. Just for him. Him is all he cares about.

This is why he loves numbers.

Numbers offer Trump validation. They determine the winner or loser of any deal and establish an industry hierarchy. It’s why Trump, more than any of the 1,600 or so people who’ve been on The Forbes 400, has spent more time lobbying and cajoling Forbes to get a higher valuation–and validation.

He’s similarly proud of the GDP. “So GDP last quarter was 3.1%. Most of the folks that are in your business, and elsewhere, were saying that would not be hit for a long time. You know, Obama never hit the number.”

When informed that his predecessor did, several times, Trump pivots immediately. “He never hit it on a yearly basis. Never hit it on a yearly basis. That’s eight years. I think we’ll go substantially higher than that. And I think this quarter would have been phenomenal, except for the hurricanes.”

For Trump, numbers also serve as a pliant tool. American business has fully embraced Big Data, Moneyball -style analytics and machine learning, where figures suggest the best course of action. But Trump, for decades, has boasted about how he conducts his own research–largely anecdotal–and then buys or sells based on instinct. Numbers are then used to justify his gut. He governs exactly that way, sticking with even his most illogical campaign promises–the kind other politicians walk back from once confronted with actual policy decisions, whether making Mexico pay for a border wall when illegal immigration is historically low or pulling the U.S. from the Paris climate accords, despite the fact that compliance is voluntary–citing whatever figures he can to justify his stances. When asked about Russian interference in the election, for example, he notes that he got 306 electoral votes and adds that the Democrats need “an excuse for losing an election that in theory they should have won.” For the greatest-ever American salesman (yes, including P.T. Barnum), statistics serve as marketing grist.

When at a loss, just mention a number, however irrelevant.

In any situation, Trump must be the alpha dog. Delegation isn’t his strong suit. Witness what happened when Tillerson apparently reopened a dialogue with the North Koreans. “He was wasting his time,” Trump now says. But doesn’t publicly upbraiding his top diplomat effectively neuter him? “I’m not undermining,” Trump says. “I think I’m actually strengthening authority.” It’s hard to see whose authority he’s strengthening, other than his own.

In Donald Trump’s orbit, clearly, no one is off-limits. A decade ago, Donald Trump Jr. told Forbes this story about his now-presidential father. “I’d be going to work with my dad when I was 5 or 6 years old… .

“Besides telling me again and again not to drink, not to smoke and not to chase women, he always told me: ‘Never trust anybody.’ Then he’d ask me if I trusted anybody. I’d say, ‘No.’ ‘Do you trust me?’ he’d ask. I’d say, ‘Yes.’ “

“And he’d say: ‘No! Don’t even trust me!’ “

What a hideous little story. (Notice he heeded the advice about trust but not about not chasing women.) What a loathsome cold affection-killing story.

All self, all numbers, no trust. Sums him up.

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