President Trump: Today's Outrage

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Bodies have been washing up on the south shore of Long Island recently. Police are flummoxed as to who might have been the perpetrator of this dastardly crime. They're worried, but I'm not. Any day now, I expect Donald Trump to hold a press conference and issue a public confession.

After all, that is what the Trump 2011 Presidential Tour is all about: publicity, with a kind of Charlie Sheen-style self-inflicted humiliation thrown in for good measure. People around the nation are appalled by Trump's adoption of the "birther" psychosis that claims President Obama really stowed away on a merchant vessel as an infant after he was born in Kenya. I'm not.

Sure, we all know what is happening here. Trump is engaging in this determined effort to boost the ratings of his latest "reality" show, Celebrity Apprentice. But what hasn't been explored in the media is the "why" factor. Why is Trump doing this? Why would a man of his age and ancestral wealth -- depleted as it is by his historic record of business failures -- why is he behaving so meshugah?

Let us strap on our seatbelts, friends, and begin our journey into Donald Trump's America.

We all know the Donald's humble beginnings, as a barefoot boy in Queens, his father a humble workingman who only built a couple of dozen thousand apartments and row houses. His New York Times obituary says Fred C. Trump "helped change the face of Brooklyn and Queens with thousands of homes for the middle class in plain, but sturdy, brick rental towers, clustered together in immaculately groomed parks." But you know how the Times exaggerates in obituaries. My information is that the elder Trump was actually a building superintendent, and that his genius offspring actually put up all those buildings.

The Trump progeny strove to do something better of his life than be a mere landlord. Donald decided that he wasn't just going to be another guy sitting in an office, collecting rents and filing vacancy-decontrol forms. So he decided where his real talents lied: self-promotion. He became a master at his chosen profession.

Headline, Nov, 22, 2004: The three Atlantic City casinos run by Donald Trump have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. And for the second time! It takes a dedicated businessperson to run a business into the ground even once. To do so twice requires true talent, especially when nobody seems to care. See, Trump is not a casino operator, he is a celebrity. "I don't think it's a failure, it's a success," he told the Associated Press. "In this case, it was just something that worked better than other alternatives. It's really just a technical thing, but it came together."

Besides, it was just a "technical thing." I guess "technical" is a good enough explanation for the $1.8 billion in debt he had taken on. (I'd love to see President Trump call the multi-trillion national debt a "technical thing" on his watch, as it rises in the quadrillions.) Not to worry. "The future looks very good," he said in 2004. It must have looked that way at the time, as the company passed out of his control and then glided into bankruptcy for a third time in 2009. "Well, Atlantic City was hit very, very hard, as was Vegas, as is the world, to be honest with you, this country in particular," he told Fox news. Fast-forward to President Trump in 2013: "America was hit very hard, as is the world," he says, as Air Force One goes to auction on eBay ( EBAY).

Some other glorious highlights from the Trump era of American capitalism:

1. He sold junk bonds to finance his casinos and, by 1991, was so overleveraged that he was seeing his empire stripped by the banks. "Already more than $3.8 billion in the hole and sliding perilously close to a mammoth personal bankruptcy, the brash New York developer had no choice but to accept the dismantling of his vast holdings," Time magazine reported. Leave it to Trump to fail in a business that became a money machine when run by high school dropouts like Meyer Lansky.

2. In January 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed cease-and-desist proceedings against Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. for making misleading statements in the company's third-quarter 1999 earnings release. "The Commission found that the release cited pro forma figures to tout the Company's purportedly positive results of operations but failed to disclose that those results were primarily attributable to an unusual one-time gain rather than to operations," said an SEC release at the time. I view this as one of Trump's most towering achievements: He actually got Harvey Pitt's SEC to do something! Just think of the kind of motivator he would be as president of the United States.

3. Trump sued journalist Timothy O'Brien for libel after his book TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald claimed The Donald was worth between $150 million and $250 million, and not the $5 billion to $6 billion he had claimed. In a deposition, he said his net worth "fluctuates."The suit was thrown out of court, and Trump reacted to this triumph by telling the New York Post that "we've proven our case."

4. He married a few times.

5. He got on TV a lot in his reality shows.

Which reminds me: Wouldn't it be great to have reality TV within the White House? Think of the ratings a Celebrity White House Apprentice would provide to any lucky network. And when George Washington rolls over in his grave, cameras will be present at Mount Vernon to record the moment.


Does Donald Trump have a chance of becoming the president of the U.S.?

Absolutely!
Maybe.
No chance!

Gary Weiss has covered Wall Street wrongdoing for almost a quarter century. His coverage of stock fraud at BusinessWeek won many awards, and included a cover story, �The Mob on Wall Street,� which exposed mob infiltration of brokerages. He uncovered the Salomon Brothers bond-trading scandal, and wrote extensively on the dangers posed by hedge funds, Internet fraud and out-of-control leverage. He was a contributing editor at Conde Nast Porfolio, writing about the people most intimately involved in the financial crisis, from Timothy Geithner to Bernard Madoff. His book "Born to Steal" (Warner Books: 2003), described the Mafia's takeover of brokerage houses in the 1990s. "Wall Street Versus America" (Portfolio: 2006) was an account of investor rip-offs. He blogs at garyweiss.blogspot.com.

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