By ZACH NOBLE
You might be tempted to believe that Donald Trump, the de facto Republican presidential nominee, is a visionary leader and smart man.
“Donald is one of the smartest and most astute businessmen I have had the pleasure of knowing," said one endorser, praising Trump's "mastery of financial, political and economic intellectual complexity combined with his charm and emotional intelligence." Other backers have made the case that because Trump is rich, he must be a capable leader.
But the available evidence renders those claims absurd.
Trump's wealth is no proof of anything. The man has refused to release his tax returns (despite previously saying he would) so we can't be remotely confident about the size of his fortune. Given his penchant for hyperbole and boldfaced lies, I'm willing to bet it's a lot smaller than the $10 billion he has claimed.
It's very possible that Trump could have earned more from his multi-million-dollar inheritance by plopping it in an index fund than he wound up earning through his active career.
(The analysis is rough, but the point remains that Trump's touch is more pyrite than true Midas.)
Trump went so far as to unsuccessfully sue a reporter who tried to calculate his net worth. "I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about,” Trump quipped in a reveal of his "charm and emotional intelligence." The failed suit indicates that maybe, just maybe, Trump is embarrassed about the relatively modest scope of his wealth.
But whether he's rich or mega-rich, Trump's leadership skills are evident from his choices.
Those choices have led to failures numerous and stupid:
- He hawked steaks through the Sharper Image, a store that has basically nothing to do with food products. The Sharper Image's then-CEO confirmed after the venture failed, "[W]e literally sold almost no steaks."
- He attached his name to the vitamin-selling "Trump Network" without investigating the pseudo-scientific product the company sold.
- He launched Trump Mortgage in 2006, predicting, “[T]he real estate market is going to be very strong for a long time to come.” It was not.
In the end, I can only confidently say Trump is good at two things:
- Carpet bombing self-promotion. He'll appear on any show, slap his name on any product, say anything for some spotlight.
- Twisting the law to his advantage. He has navigated Chapter 11 and eminent domain ruthlessly.
Neither of the above skills make for a good leader or capable president.
If anything, they reinforce the picture that others have painted of him: A man with a fragile ego who relied on daddy's co-signature to get his gilded turd of a career off the ground.
Zach Noble is a journalist who has covered everything from the OPM hack to a rescue dog's retirement party. He's been wrestling to reconcile his bleeding heart Catholicism with his pragmatic libertarianism since that freshman year love affair with Ayn Rand. He tweets erratically as @thezachnoble.