Trump Wanted to Win the Presidency, Not Be President

Let’s remind ourselves of a few things we’ve learned about Donald Trump over the last year or so. First of all, from Tony Schwartz (the ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal), we learned that the president-elect has no attention span for anything unrelated to himself.

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

That probably has a lot to do with why Paul Manafort – who was acting as his campaign manager at the time – said this in response to a question about what Trump would be looking for in a running mate:

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

During the campaign we also saw how the driving force for what motivates much of Trump’s behavior is his worldview that he must either dominate or is dominated.

Taken together, what we can assume from this is that Trump has always been more interested in running for president and winning (i.e., dominating) that he is in actually being president. We witnessed that in his so-called “thank you tour,” which Steve Benen summarized this way:

Trump reflected on his exit polls, his contempt for his critics, his favorite moments from the campaign, his disgust for journalists, how many counties he won, how hard he worked. “I don’t think anybody has ever worked harder in the last month of a presidential campaign than I did,” he told his Mobile audience. “Nobody.”

This event, like the previous eight, was a rally organized by Trump, for Trump, about Trump.

Based on what he is tweeting about today, you can also tell what is getting under his skin lately: the fact that Clinton won the popular vote.

In other words, the guy who can’t sit through a daily intelligence briefing is spending his time obsessing over the results of an election that happened six weeks ago. It will be interesting to watch how long this obsession lasts. But it’s clear that for Donald, running and winning is the game. The job itself is of no interest to him.

As someone who lives in the state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor (who is a scaled-down version of Trump in many ways), I’ll remind everyone that he got bored with the job after four years and didn’t run for re-election. It might be too optimistic to think the same thing will happen with Trump. But it’s not out of the question. I am reminded of something Garrison Keillor wrote last August:

What the fans don’t know is that it’s not much fun being a billionaire. You own a lot of big houses and you wander around in them, followed by a waiter, a bartender, a masseuse, three housekeepers, and a concierge, and they probably gossip about you behind your back. Just like nine-tenths of your campaign staff. You’re losing and they know it and they’re telling mean stories about you to everybody and his brother.

Meanwhile, you keep plugging away. It’s the hardest work you’ve ever done. You walk out in the white cap and you rant for an hour about stuff that means nothing and the fans scream and wave their signs and you wish you could level with them for once and say one true thing: I love you to death and when this is over I will have nothing that I want.

He was wrong about Trump losing. But even with the win, Trump will eventually have to face the fact that it gave him nothing that he wants, which Keillor nailed with this:

The fans in the arenas are wild about you, and Sean Hannity is as loyal as they come, but Rudy and Christie and Newt are reassuring in that stilted way of hospital visitors. And The New York Times treats you like the village idiot. This is painful for a Queens boy trying to win respect in Manhattan where the Times is the Supreme Liberal Jewish Anglican Arbiter of Who Has The Smarts and What Goes Where…In Queens, blacks were a threat to property values — they belonged in the Bronx, not down the street. To the Times, Queens is Cleveland. Bush league. You are Queens. The casinos were totally Queens, the gold faucets in your triplex, the bragging, the insults, but you wanted to be liked by Those People.

Winning doesn’t change the fact that Trump is nothing more than a narcissistic bully who depends on intimidation to elicit fake respect. That is what he was before the election. When the glow of that victory wears off, it is what he will have to face again.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly and frequently blogs at Political Animal.