Donald Trump wants to be President of the United States. Should we worry?
That he's vulgar, brash and egotistical doesn't mean we shouldn't take the billionaire seriously
I knew there must be a Twitter account for Donald Trump's world-famous hair, and so there is. "I'm on top of the man who is on top of the world," it brags, and its followers tweet things like: "Will Trump's hair be chosen as his running mate?"
It also, incidentally, tweeted a helpful diagram showing how to get your hair to look like his. Don't ever tell me this column doesn't give useful advice.
Maybe as a consequence of growing up in a grey, dingy Dublin, I enjoy occasional blasts of tackiness and vulgarity, which is why I've always had a soft spot for The Donald (as Ivana, the first of his three younger glamorous wives, called him). Visiting New York in the 1980s, I asked a friend to point me towards the most vulgar place in the whole city. "No contest," she said. "Trump Tower."
It didn't let me down. I've been to Vegas since, but 30 years ago I was thrilled with a sky-scraper containing a seven-storey atrium dominated by pink marble, enormous mirrors, lots of shiny brass and a waterfall.
Fastidious people who deplored Trump as a braggart rejoiced in 1991 over his corporate bankruptcy, but he bounced back. America is relaxed about business failures, so few get censorious about him having had even more bankruptcies than wives. These days he claims to be worth $8.7bn. I believe him. The other day, for research purposes, I purchased for almost €3 the Kindle edition of Donald Trump Greatest Quotes and Life Lessons which at 28 pages was a total rip-off - so he needn't expect me to invest in Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.
However, DTGQALL does give some insight into why Trump is leading the 15-strong field of Republican candidates. Yes, I know that seems like a ludicrously large number, but Americans love choice, and politics is made vibrant by having platoons of candidates turning up in town halls all over the country begging for votes in the primaries. At the moment, what Trump is offering is the American Dream. As the blurb for his pamphlet says, he's "a man who's lost it all, suffered great adversity, and then gone on to rebuild everything again. That's what makes him a legendary example of what is possible with the right attitude and mindset".
Here, absolutely free - which is why he's a billionaire and I'm not - are a few of his lessons: "What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate"; "I like thinking big. If you're going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big"; "Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game"; "It's very important that people aspire to be successful. The only way you can do it is if you look at somebody who is."
Now who might he be talking about?
But Trump is offering more than aspirational mumbo-jumbo. He's also delighting the punters by saying all sorts of things his competitors think unsayable lest they off-end some constituency or other. For a start, he's savagely critical of everyone in Washington, denouncing big-state sell-out Democrats and wimpish, ineffectual Republicans.
Then there are the policy issues. There are more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, of whom about half are Mexicans. The government seems unwilling or unable to stem the flow, but the political elites avoid the issue. If you want Hispanic votes, you're careful what you say about Mexicans. But not Trump, who caused delight as well as consternation when he said that Mexico was "sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems to us. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people".
How will he deal with it? "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall."
Unemployment? "I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I'll bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places."
Obamacare? It must be repealed and "replaced with something much better and much less expensive for people and for the government".
Denounced as racist, he says he's fine with Mexico, whose leaders are "much sharper, smarter and more cunning" than their American equivalents. He's fine with the Chinese too. "I love China! I sell apartments for $10m, $15m, $25m to people from China."
"Donald just says it like it is"; "He's fearless"; "He's not politically correct" and "He loves America and he wants it to be better" are typical reactions from ordinary people.
The Huffington Post, which is typical of the snooty liberal elite that such people hate, has announced that in future it will cover Trump's campaign in the entertainment section.
Might Trump become President? Not a chance. In fact, when the novelty wears off, he should quickly crash and burn. Quite apart from his general flakiness, his record as a Republican doesn't bear much scrutiny. In 2012 he was in favour of giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. In 1999 he was pro-choice; now he's pro-life. In 2008, outraged that Obama didn't choose Hillary Clinton for vice-president, he described her as "terrific".
For now, even if all he's saying is what he thinks people want to hear, he should be listened to. Even by the patricians of The Huffington Post.
There is more to him than peculiar hair.