Donald Trump: The art of himself
"I'm really rich," Donald Trump informed supporters at his presidential campaign announcement.
"I'm proud of my net worth. I've done an amazing job."
"I'm really proud of my success. I really am."
"I have the best [golf] courses in the world ... I have one right next to the White House."
"One of the big banks came to me and said, 'Donald, you don't have enough borrowings. Could we loan you $4 billion?' I said, 'I don't need it.' "
"I have ... the greatest assets: Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump Building ... many other places all over the world."
And why, pray tell, was he reciting all of this in a presidential announcement speech?
"I'm not doing that to brag," he said (heaven forbid!), "because you know what? I don't have to brag."
But he can't seem to stop himself. Trump's announcement (from Trump Tower, 'natch) that he is seeking the Republican presidential nomination was a veritable festival of the first person. A search of the transcript finds that he uttered "I" 195 times, "my" or "mine" 28 times, "me" 22 times and "I've or "I'd" 12 times — for a grand total of 257 self-references. This compares with seven mentions of "America" or "American," most of which were references to his holdings ("I own a big chunk of the Bank of America Building at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, that I got from China in a war — very valuable") and his declaration that "the American Dream is dead."
If the American Dream weren't already dead, it would have killed itself listening to Trump's 45-minute greed-is-good speech at a time when the gap between rich and poor is wider than it has been since the Great Depression. But don't blame Trump, the doughy showman President Obama dubbed a "carnival barker" for his role in the birther movement. This reality TV star is simply exploiting the political system as it exists.
Trump is the Frankenstein monster created by our campaign-finance system in which money trumps all. The Supreme Court has equated money with free speech (by letting first candidates and then contributors spend unlimited sums), which means the more money you have, the more speech you get. Trump may be preposterous, but there are 8,737,540,000 reasons we have to listen to him — the figure Trump claimed is his net worth.
So let's hear about Trump's qualifications to hold the nation's highest office.
"I beat China all the time — all the time."
"I have so many websites, I have them all over the place."
"I have lobbyists that can produce anything for me. They're great."
"I did a lot of great deals, and I did them early and young. And now I'm building all over the world."
"I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China."
"We're building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Old Post Office. ... It's going to be the best hotel in Washington."
"We need a truly great leader now. We need a leader that wrote 'The Art of the Deal.' "
Trump's speech had the feel of a lonely bar patron's monologue to the captive saloon keeper. He bounced among stray thoughts about China, the Islamic State, conversations he had with friends, Obama's golf game, John Kerry's bicycle accident, Bowe Bergdahl and a fanciful negotiation between President Trump and Ford Motor Co. At one point, music started up as if Trump's speech had ended, but the candidate kept going — invariably returning to his favorite subject.
"I give a lot of money away to charities and other things. I think I'm actually a very nice person."
"I love my life. I have a wonderful family."
"I love the Saudis. Many are in this building."
"I love China. The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower."
"I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created."
"Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump. Nobody."
"Rebuild the country's infrastructure? Nobody can do that like me."
"I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me ... on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay."
"I know the smartest negotiators in the world. ... Believe me, folks, we will do very, very well, very, very well."
We? Unlikely. But certainly Donald Trump will.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.