He's drawing a distinction here, which is that while various of his businesses may have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over the past two decades, Trump the person never has. In the early 1990s, for instance, after a decade of profligate spending — $3.8 billion worth, mainly financed by junk bonds and Trump-snookered banks — he came face to face with an economic downturn that forced four Trump properties — the Plaza Hotel and his three Atlantic City casinos — into bankruptcy. It happened again in 2004, and also in 2009, when Trump Entertainment found itself $1.7 billion in debt. Trump's way is to dismiss these financial catastrophes with a snarl and a shrug. As he said in his 2007 book, Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life, "I figured it was the bank's problem, not mine. What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, 'I told you you shouldn't have loaned me that money. I told you the goddamn deal was no good.'" Or, as he casually says today, "I play with the bankruptcy." Which is kind of a sad, dispiriting advertisement for his genius as a businessman. Do we really want that kind of guy in office? At least some people seem to think so.
"Look," Trump chuckles, "I'm number one in the polls already, and I haven't even done anything!"
Which is no longer true, since it was largely Trump's bellyaching that prompted the White House to release President Obama's so-called long-form birth certificate, proving once again that Obama was born in the U.S. (unless you're a birther, in which case it proves nothing). "I'm very proud of myself," Trump crowed the day it happened. Naturally, he made no mention of what his "investigators" in Hawaii discovered poking around about Obama's birth — "They cannot believe what they're finding!" he had said in early April — probably because they either didn't exist or they found nothing. Instead, in his quest for ever-bigger headlines and even more attention, he stooped to new lows, by bringing up Obama's college education and playing the race card. "How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" Trump said, the clear implication being that it was only thanks to affirmative action and never would have happened had Obama been white. It's despicable stuff, and yet, coming from Trump, not all that surprising. If nothing else, he's a master of smoke and mirrors, and so far has managed to keep anyone from focusing too tightly on his own past. Those bankruptcies. His marriage-wrecking affair and two divorces. His garish casinos that may or may not have had mob ties. The time he referred to his current wife, Melania, as "a young and beautiful piece of ass" (which he now denies ever having said). And let's not forget the whole abortion thing, where Trump has recently flipped to pro-life; the whole let's-invade-the-Middle-East-and-just-like-take-all-the-oil thing; and all the rest of those kooky things he spouts on a daily basis, keeping his name in the news in an effort, no doubt, to boost the ratings of his Celebrity Apprentice reality-TV show while appearing to be testing the presidential waters. He's one top-notch novelty act and a Barnum-type showman with an unerring instinct for what to say to appeal to the loonier segment of the electorate. He's good at catering to the lowest common denominator like that, decorum be damned.
But what about some Trump constants, some things that are unwavering in his character and nature?
For one thing, he goes to bed late, gets up early, usually wearing only "the undies," as he calls them, never "the formality" of pajamas, brushes his teeth first, takes a leak second, and only then steps into the shower, his hand reaching out through the steam to grab the shampoo and lather up that hair of his that has received so much attention over the years. How does he do it?
He steeples his fingers, purses his lips and launches right into it like it was some kind of major policy issue. "OK, what I do is, wash it with Head and Shoulders. I don't dry it, though. I let it dry by itself. It takes about an hour. Then I read papers and things. This morning I read in the New York Post about Jerry Seinfeld backing out of his commitment to do a benefit for my son Eric's charity. I've never been a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld — never dug him, in the true sense — but when I did The Marriage Ref, which was his show and a total disaster, I did him a big favor. Then he did this. It's a disgrace." He goes on, "I also watch TV. I love Fox, I like Morning Joe, I like that the Today show did a beautiful piece on me yesterday — I mean, relatively speaking. OK, so I've done all that. I then comb my hair. Yes, I do use a comb." He pauses, frowning, casting his mind back to capture the details of the event. "Do I comb it forward? No, I don't comb it forward." He pushes the leading edge of the flying wing of his hair back, to show where the hairline is. "I actually don't have a bad hairline. When you think about it, it's not bad. I mean, I get a lot of credit for comb-overs. But it's not really a comb-over. It's sort of a little bit forward and back. I've combed it the same way for years. Same thing, every time."
After that, he spends some time not saying what he doesn't want to say, in a very mulish, deeply parsed, Republican-president sort of way.
Does he have a Bible by his bed?
"I do," he says. Then: "I have a Bible near my bed."
"It's up in my apartment." Silence.
When was the last time he went to church?
"Two weeks ago. A church in Palm Beach, Florida. What was the sermon about? I'd rather not get into it, frankly."
Where does he stand on gun control?
"I'm against gun control for the reason, it doesn't affect the bad guys, because they're going to have guns. What kind of gun do I have? I'd rather not say. I have a gun. It's a handgun, OK?"
Is it Trump-sized?
"It's a gun. I have a gun. It's a handgun." Silence.
All this talk seems to be making him thirsty. He calls for a Coke, and a hot number in spike heels arrives with a Coke in a glass of ice. Trump sips, smacks his lips.
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