The Apprentice and The President

On November 23, 2016, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

maxresdefaultWhile I’m trying not to let the dismal tide of American political regression and the nasty, nasty turn in our discourse dominate my thinking and writing, from time to time I believe it will be productive, and therapeutic, to throw out new ideas and view events in America from various angles as a means of gaining perspective.

I’m also finding it challenging to dig deeper into the issues without stepping on toes. Politics, like religion, is so deeply personal. It’s just not easy to analyze or discuss these topics without treading upon someone’s deeply held beliefs. I apologize in advance to anyone who’s offended, or strongly disagrees.

Of course, it’s my right to express my ideas and opinions. And I absolutely welcome thought from all points of the ideological spectrum. Though it’s easy to say, “Don’t take it personally,” beliefs are, first and foremost, personal. Despite this, I hope we can engage in dialogue in the spirit of openness, understanding and earnestness with the intention – my intention, at least – of advancing the greater good.

Though it’s impossible to set aside the recent election and discount all that was said on the campaign trail, I’d like to consider a different Donald Trump for the moment. Over the next four years we’ll find out whether Candidate Trump was truly sincere, or if he was just saying shit to get elected.

That the things he said actually worked may or may not be related to his own perceived likelihood of winning. By the shocked look on his face late on Election Night, Donald Trump seemed as surprised as the rest of us. The reality of the Presidency brings with it a world of considerations that apparently never crossed his mind while he scorched Earth on the campaign trail.

Yes, he’s considering a Wall, or maybe it’s a fence, mass deportation, and a Muslim registry, along with a handful of odious staff and cabinet nominations. As offensive and just wrong as all of that is, Trump also appears to be backpedaling on “Lock Her Up,” total repeal of Obamacare, climate issues and maybe more. We shall see.

The Trump I’d like to take a closer look at right now is the Donald Trump of “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” I watched the better part of four seasons of the show, finding it instructive to observe corporate business while not being subject to the petty bullshit. How real this reality show really was is open to debate. But it does provide a window into Donald Trump’s leadership style and values. To the point where it may be valuable to re-run some of those shows to show our new President in action. It might even be reassuring.

Am I saying Donald Trump will be an excellent President because as the Boss of The Apprentice he did some good, maybe even very good things? Not necessarily. But he does seem capable of running a small to mid-size boutique business and may also have the makings of a decent curator and developer of talent.

I have no idea if his strengths as exhibited on a television reality show will translate into anything positive in terms of world leadership. And I do believe his willingness to give quarter to a vast array of misanthropic, racist and sexist ideologues is going to be a problem for all of us in the next four years. Does every one of his appointees need to be chosen from the dregs of the Republican Party? But here are a few things I do find interesting:

In The Celebrity Apprentice, Trump watched everyone closely and carefully. Maybe it made for good TV, or it’s just a part of his management style, he had a way of finding the good in people who were different and even helping them develop their talent. Some were unpopular. Some were just plain odd. Dennis Rodman, La Toya Jackson, Gary Busey, and Piers Morgan come to mind. With characters like Rodman and Busey, Trump genuinely tried to develop them into a better version of their selves, in spite of, and sometimes even because of, their shortcomings.

Take a look at some of the casting choices. Jose Canseco. Darryl Strawberry. Andrew Dice Clay. Rod Blagojevich. Trump took on some hard cases. Of course, he also enabled some truly wretched personalities and deplorable behavior. Omarosa, a Trump protégé, is a revolting human being. She is a vicious, conniving cheater, one of those people who make going to the office a demoralizing chore for even the most idealistic, chipper employee. NeNe Leakes was a bully and a brat. And Gary Busey is clearly insane on one or more levels.

On the other hand, Trump spotted something in Lil Jon, Trace Adkins, Rodman, La Toya Jackson, Bret Michaels…and he invested. There are examples of Trump getting it right on The Apprentice, too, pulling players out of obscurity and into opportunity. He also knows the value of having and hearing a team of advisors he trusts. Undoubtedly, Trump ran with a team of questionable-to-lousy characters – Steve Bannon, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, KellyAnne Conway, Newt Gingrich – and was elected President of the United States. The Bad News Bears Go to Washington.

Is any of the above germane? Does The Apprentice translate? Might there be a sliver of a chance that Trump has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough and polishing them up? I am doing my best to hold my nose and hold out hope. Because while I’m repulsed by the vile racist, sexist, threat-laced hate-speech spewed by President-Elect Trump and so many of his staff and supporters throughout the campaign, here we are once again with a fully Republican government.

The last time that happened, eight short years ago, things got historically bad. And though a million and a half more voters and counting chose Hillary Clinton, the electorate, and a clear majority of the States, gave us Trump. Like it or not, it’s his government until he loses it. Perhaps Trump will even find a person or two from across the aisle to help him round out his cabinet and provide a little balance to his vision. A truly great businessman would do that. How about Trump?

I’m willing to make psychic space for Trump to exceed my low expectations. Maybe he can stop being a petty blowhard, inciting hate-mongers in his constituency to pit them against all who disagree. Hoping that enormous ego will keep him on his toes as Chief Executive of an infinitely more intricate and challenging constituency of stakeholders, apprentices and just plain America citizens who need this President-Elect to be as great as he says he is.


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