Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 9, 2016, p. A7
Donald Trump says we don’t understand him. “These politicians, they don’t know me. They don’t understand me.” He’s right. Politicians, reporters and voters have had little to go on beyond speculation about his motives.
Some armchair psychiatrists think he displays evidence of classic narcissism. Others believe he’s just naturally mean-spirited and crude when he disparages captured military personnel, women, people with disabilities, Muslims, Gold Star families — whoever’s in view when his mouth opens.
There’s speculation he’s never been serious about running, surprised he won the nomination, and is already preparing for a loss — blaming a hostile media (“the lowest form of life”) and “rigged” voting.
But wait; there’s more.
There are at least three ways to get the goods and services for a political campaign: pay for them yourself, solicit and spend others’ campaign contributions or get what you need without paying.
Given the proportion of campaign advertising dollars spent on radio and TV (80 percent) getting it free is the preferred option.
So how has Donald Trump made out with free media? Like a bandit! Two billion dollars’ worth by March this year.
Which brings us to a possible understanding of Trump.
One of his wildest and most recent assertions is that ISIS was created by President Barack Obama, its “founder.”
Many, including myself, have noted that our entry into Iraq, exit, and then re-entry have increased recruitment of terrorists and attacks on American military. When Trump appeared on conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program, Hewitt tried to use this analysis to help Trump. Trump was having none of it:
Hugh Hewitt: You said the President was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.
Donald Trump: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS.
HH: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.
DT: I don’t care. He was the founder.
HH: But by using the term “founder,” they’re hitting you on this again. Mistake?
DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. Do you not like that?
HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say…I’d just use different language to communicate it.
DT: But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?
HH: Well, good point.
“They do talk about my language.” Trump’s six words tell the tale. Maybe Trump’s strategy is that there’s no bad publicity — especially when it’s a $2 billion value for free.
And recall his brag Fortune reported, “I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” Already roughly 20 percent of his campaign expenditures involve payments to his own companies.
Plus, since much of his “property” is his brand, his name, he will continue to make money post-election — not to mention larger royalties for ghost-written books, lecture fees and a higher rated TV show.
His is a win-win strategy. If his loyal followers deliver 270 electoral votes, he’s president. If not, the value of his brand, his name on his properties, will have increased by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.
And all because, as he says, “they do talk about my language, right?”
Nicholas Johnson, a former FCC commissioner and media law professor, lives in Iowa City. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org