‘Foolish Knavery’ Drives the Campaign Stunt To ‘Make Trump Great Again’—and Monetize His Looming Media Empire


With irresistible billions up for grabs, why get imprisoned in the 24/7 White House fish bowl —packed with restraints that stymy doing what matters most: growing the Trump brand? Losing billions, while detained in a virtual fortress until 2020, represent a very costly career choice for an empire-builder still on the make. Based on his negative learning curve since June, Trump’s quest appears less about Making America Great Again than spring-boarding our supreme political profiteer. Certainly, his recent series of jaw-dropping fiascos presage a White House disaster of epic proportions.  And now the stain of Brietbart toxicity defines Trump as permanently divisive force, for his party and the nation, if not the world.

Talk about your “extreme vetting,” oddly in this case AFTER locking up the nomination. Envision our first Fantasist-in-Chief, answering not to crony billionaire buddies but 320 million, their hopes and promises betrayed, shouting their countless, legitimate grievances. Consider him at international summits, “negotiating” with those already convicted as dishonest “cheaters,” plus offended allies who refuse the Donald’s payola demands. For the blustery billionaire, not only is the salary skimpy and the hours endless, but tsunamis of censure would batter his fragile ego.  Worst still, he’d forever be on the chopping block anytime 218 “crooked” House shills, horrified by erratic, autocratic, unRepublican “reforms,” cry impeachment.

Once upon a time, we had a simple dichotomy to distinguish incompetent or disreputable people as either fools or knaves. One implied irreparable, oblivious ignorance, clods who knew no better (Dubya on Day One). Au contraire, the knave knows exactly what he’s doing, bubbling with dark calculation, ulterior motives and hidden goals. Think Cheney. Behold this breakthrough: Trump merges this proverbial contrary, however paradoxical, by playing the fool (with 4th-grade diction and racist, demagogic harangues) while acting the knave (keeping his eye on the real prize —post-election self-enrichment).

Campaign Good, Election Dicey

Compared to elections, especially for the grossly unqualified , campaigning has controllable boundaries: one jets around, raises funds, and spouts self-serving speeches to roaring crowds. Free publicity suits frugal, predatory Trumpism perfectly. “Winning,” however, looms as an underpaid, four-year obstacle to amassing more treasure. Worse still, the presidency is incredibly frustrating, hard work: you don’t just bark orders and the world changes. One must learn scads of pointless stuff, spend hours reading alone and attend interminable, mind-numbing meetings and dinners. Insult added to injury, presidents closet major assets in blind trusts, beyond personal control. Well, that’s a non-starter for this control freak whose every scheme depends on chronic micromanagement. Worst still for Mr. Compassion, one must do sympathy tours when calamities strike.

As Trump “pivots” by embracing Brietbart extremists, he makes clear his objective isn’t the White House but corralling maximum suckers for the new Trump White Person’s Truth channel. Why not take on highly profitable Fox TV itself (so much for gratitude!), with even more outrageously entertaining conspiracy theories tossed off by even looser cannons? Wasn’t Palin, that featherweight hustler, impressive when monetizing her humiliating 15 minutes in the sun? Far greater marketing wizard, Trump has bigger dreams to “professionalize” the scams he’s been test marketing for a year. Compared to fickle, opinionated voters to whom you must promise pie in the sky, pliant consumers are far more predictable, opening their wallets for products and services here and now.

Speculations about a Trump cable and media empire make sense for, like permanent corporations, networks outlast any single campaign or office. Trump’s marketing launch, also called the GOP primary, demonstrated how a faux, never elected politician can openly hawk even failed products, like his defunct magazine, water or steaks. Pro wrestling and beauty pageants, here we come. If Palin the former nobody can grab millions, imagine the limitless haul for this celebrated mastermind.

Fattest Cats, Watch Out 

By now, Trump must be seething at polling, tracking so many resistant voters, let alone nasty, ratings-crazed cable shills. Thus, the “crooked media” is now proclaimed an enemy equal to Hillary. Why tolerate a rigged circus where your “genuineness” is slapped down by rote, replaceable hired hands daring to tell the Trumpster how to win big? What billionaire further loves permanently begging for funding while having to heroically defend willfully-distorted “counter-punching” against low-lifes?

Trump’s successful scam not only dupes the extremist hard right, anointed their “voice” because only his force-field is great enough to bash the totality of systemic corruption. In the process, he naturally had to predate a national party, happily managing to leave the once-shining generation of GOP leadership in shambles. Good show, Donald, the Republican bunker buster. Why not ride the wave, cynically shredding what remains of the decorum across national elections? All that involves is threatening national equilibrium, once buttressed by Constitutional limits, NATO, treaties and agreements, civil rights or historic tolerance for religious diversity.

Trump must know he won’t intimidate entrenched Pentagon brass or lead Senators, but he can ride his amplified celebrity towards a ruthless, post-election agenda. Perhaps he still harbors hard feelings that his failed TV show was terminated. Wouldn’t such grievances be answered by owning the entire network so that no dumb TV executive ever says, “You’re fired”? Why not rock Rupert Murdoch’s media world while gaining a narcissist’s dream: Trump delivers global orders, then smiles when thousands do somersaults.

Trump is already talking of life after he loses. Compared to stodgy politicians slavish to donations and peasants, Trump is the protean non-candidate who knows how to leverage whatever happens. Who needs top staff advice since being the most electable candidate was not the real goal? Trump wants to be the best known and richest impresario, not a handcuffed president who can fail, however less likely since his primary Pied Piper scam hits a hard 40% ceiling.

At 70, Trump realizes his career is closer to the end than beginning. He’s the ultimate gambler dying for one more epic bet, a last hurrah, with an equally big payoff. Why not extend what’s he done for years, grabbing attention by playing the fool — like sticking with discredited birtherism? What’s wrong with deception, propaganda and bizarre conspiracy theories when the end is fame, leverage and bankable winnings? Why would any control freak, unless quite mad, think he can jawbone ungovernable Washington — vs. readily fleecing couch potatoes?

The Pivot for Eternity

Then, after a few private years produce more unspendable billions, why wouldn’t Trump truly “pivot” to establish greatness for history. Wouldn’t it be a hoot to compete with your new-found arch enemy, the Clintons? Why not a self-funded, more or less, virtuous, more or less, Trump Foundation?  That would satisfy malcontents laughing at his zero community “sacrifice,” just like Robber Barons of old regained lost respectability. Why not pivot from a merely wealthy real estate magnet, having survived his whimsy as political temp, to join the world’s greatest philanthropists? He’d actually then have to donate to charity the specious millions yet to be confirmed.

A grateful nation erects statures for great public benefactors, not boorish fat cats. Can we imagine Trump, refused the keys to the political kingdom, making a show of “giving back” with enough PR flourish to enter the pantheon of generous, big-hearted Americans? And then, having long ago abandoned the phony quest to “make America great again,” Trump will achieve his deepest, most enduring objective, to make Trump and Trumpism great again.  Does any other scenario make better sense of the bizarre, yearlong Donald circus?


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.