Ask most politicians why they run for president and you are likely to get an answer that sounds something like, “I wanted to do the most good for the most people as possible,” or something similar.
Donald Trump is not most politicians.
Trump, in an interview with the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman for her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,” revealed the “why” behind his past and (likely) future bids for the nation’s highest office.
“The question I get asked more than any other question: ‘If you had it to do again, would you have done it?’” Trump told Haberman. “The answer is, yeah, I think so. Because here’s the way I look at it. I have so many rich friends and nobody knows who they are.”
OK. So, just to be crystal clear here – Trump is saying that if he had it to do all over, he would run for president again because it made him more famous. That the key motivation for him to run for president was to be well-known – and it worked.
That’s a startlingly honest admission – even for Trump. He didn’t even attempt to go for a more traditional answer like, I don’t know, helping people or seeing policies he believed in enacted and executed. Just right to the purely personal.
Which, knowing what we know of Trump, probably shouldn’t be all that surprising. He is someone who is uniquely self-centered and spent much of his presidency running the government like his own private fiefdom. There were “my generals” and “my military.” The expectations that the Justice Department would pursue his political enemies and act at his behest.
(Sidebar: Trump, as president, would regularly riff on how much money being president was costing him. “This thing is costing me a fortune, being president,” he said at a rally in Pennsylvania in 2019. “It’s probably costing me from $3 to $5 billion for the privilege of being – and I couldn’t care less – I don’t care. You know if you’re wealthy, it doesn’t matter. I just want to do a great job.”)
For Trump, the presidency was a means to a personal end: to make him more famous, more marketable, a bigger deal.
Which is how Trump viewed everything that happened to him in his life – a chance to go bigger, get richer. Always more, more, more. “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere,” he told Playboy magazine all the way back in 1990, in one of the most revealing quotes of his life.
At the start of his presidency, there was an active debate as to whether Trump would bend his way to the conventions of the presidency or whether he would force the presidency to warp to his will. Looking back in hindsight, it’s clear Trump did the latter, forcing his desire for fame and power onto the White House for four years.
To think anything would be different if he gets four more years in the job after the 2024 election is a fool’s errand.