The political wit and wisdom of Donald Trump

The presidential contender once said he was too honest to run for office.

Published October 21, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

If New York real-estate developer Donald Trump decides to run for president as a candidate for the Reform Party, he'll no doubt be facing some formidable antagonists. As it turns out, though, Trump may be his own worst critic.

Only two years ago, the 53-year-old modern-day Ozymandias admitted in his book "The Art of the Comeback" that he would not make a good politician. While Trump, a microbophobe, has long professed his dislike for shaking hands, he admits he suffers from an even greater political liability: honesty.

It seems every so often there's some unfounded rumor that I'm considering seeking office -- sometimes even the presidency! The problem is, I think I'm too honest, and perhaps too controversial, to be a politician. I always say it like it is, and I'm not sure that a politician can do that, although I might just be able to get away with it because people tend to like me. Honesty causes controversy, and therefore, despite all the polls that say I should run, I would probably not be a very successful politician.

So has Trump become less honest, or has he developed another strategy to capture the White House? While Trump fans will have to wait until December for Renaissance Books to publish his campaign book, "The America We Deserve," in the meantime they can turn to his previous bestsellers for a taste of his political insight.

How, for instance, would Trump relate to such major trading partners as the Japanese? In "Comeback" he extols the virtue of the germ-free Japanese practice of bowing in greeting, but in his No. 1 New York Times bestseller, "The Art of the Deal," Trump indulges in a favorite '80s pastime -- Japan-bashing. "They rarely smile and they are so serious that they don't make business fun," he writes. "Fortunately, they have a lot of money to spend, and they seem to like real estate."

And would Trump reform the judicial system? You bet. In "Comeback," Trump observes that the legal system has been abused, exacting hundreds of millions from American taxpayers. "The saddest part of all is that this problem should be easy to solve, and everybody, including the American Bar Association, knows exactly what I'm talking about. The simple answer is this: The loser pays all costs related to the case including, but in no way limited to, the legal fees of the winning party."

And the women's vote? What kinds of wooing words can we expect from Trump, who has named Oprah Winfrey as his vice-presidential candidate on his dream ticket? "There's nothing I love more than women, but they're really a lot different than they're portrayed," he writes in "Comeback." "They are far worse than men, far more aggressive, and boy, can they be smart."

In Trump's opinion, only the press -- more specifically, bad press -- will motivate a politician. "If there's one thing I've learned from dealing with politicians over the years, it's that the only thing guaranteed to force them into action is the press - or, more specifically, fear of the press," he writes in "Deal."

And if Trump's exploratory campaign fizzles or if he decides against running, which of his opponents will earn his vote? "It's a lot better to side with a winner than a loser," he writes.

By Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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