The walls are closing in on Donald Trump.
The novelty of a bloviating billionaire disrupting the Republican presidential primary race can only put off the inevitable minute scrutiny of the political press for so long. Now we’re moving from the “Can you believe what Trump just said?!” phase of his candidacy into the “Okay, okay I’ll take him seriously enough to do some digging” phase. And that’s terrible news for The Donald.
Trump has had a good run so far, rocketing to the top of the Republican primary polls because of near-100 percent name recognition and a willingness to insult personally other candidates, journalists, and heck, that guy on the sidewalk over there, who might have looked at him funny just now. (“Hey, dummy! Yeah, you. You’re a loser, you know that?”)
The longer you look at Trump’s hairdo, the more you’re convinced that what actually is there has been carefully constructed to hide something.
The past 24 hours have confirmed what many observers already suspected: The Donald Trump candidacy is much like the Donald Trump hairdo. The longer you look at it, the more you’re convinced not only that there is much less there than meets the eye, but also that what actually is there has been carefully constructed to hide something.
Take Trump’s fortune. Yes, the guy is ridiculously rich, but Bloomberg on Tuesday released an analysis of his 90-plus page personal financial disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission suggesting that he’s nowhere near as rich as he repeatedly, relentlessly, claims he is.
Trump had claimed that his net worth is something north of $10 billion, but once Bloomberg’s Billionaire’s Index started peeling away The Donald’s extraordinarily optimistic assumptions about the value of his brand and his properties, the number began to look smaller. Bloomberg’s final verdict: $2.9 billion.
Still, a vast fortune by any measure, but for some reason, that wasn’t enough for Trump’s ego, and had to be spun up and puffed out, like a financial meringue, until he could claim to be worth $10 billion.
Fine. A little financial braggadocio might not be the end of Trump. But part of being a presidential candidate is having your past life wrung out by the press until every potentially embarrassing drop has been captured. Remember the book based mainly on the recollections of Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends? Or the story about George W. Bush trying to goad his father into a fistfight? The longer Trump hangs around, the more his past will begin to define him.
A story in the Daily Beast on Monday night recounted an allegation by Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana, that he assaulted her and raped her in a fit of (hair-related) rage in 1989 while they were married. It’s a disgusting story, now denied by both Trump and his ex-wife.
However, Ivana Trump, it turns out, as part of a legal settlement from their divorce, is legally barred from saying anything in public about Trump without his express approval.
Trump’s people, in particular his attorney Michael Cohen, seemed to think that this was off limits, and Cohen’s creative threatening of Daily Beast reporter Tim K. Mak, made some headlines of its own. (“So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”)
Then, The New York Times, on Wednesday, offered an analysis of Trump’s boorish behavior during a civil lawsuit deposition several years ago. In direct, undisputed quotes, he admits inflating the value estimates he makes of his properties when selling them. When a female attorney conducting the interview says she needs to take a break to pump breast milk for a newborn, Trump storms out of the deposition calling the woman “disgusting.”
Like a ship collecting barnacles, the S.S. Trump will slowly accumulate so much extra weight that for The Donald, things just won’t be fun anymore.
The thing is, this stuff is going to keep coming. And coming. Every person that Trump got the best of in a business deal or who feels he or she was wronged by the man is, even now, lining up to talk to reporters about him, and inevitably, some will have things to say that find their way into print.
Theoretically, at least, the Trump campaign could continue into November 2016. Nobody but Donald Trump can stop Donald Trump from running for president. As long as he doesn’t mind spending his own money, he can keep flying his TRUMP-branded plane around the country, stopping occasionally to yell about Mexicans and John McCain, until the Republican nominating convention. When he loses that, he could announce a run as an independent and keep this show running all the way to the general.
But like a ship collecting barnacles, the S.S. Trump will slowly, but surely, accumulate so much extra weight that for The Donald, things just won’t be fun anymore. The smaller and smaller crowds, packed into smaller and smaller venues to give the illusion of a full house, will inevitably start to grate. And then one day, the bookers from Morning Joe will stop calling, and Trump will start looking for his way out.