If you’re like me, you’ve suspected all along that Donald Trump’s campaign was a long and luxurious con job, the kind of con job only a once-in-a-generation bullshit artist could execute. Not that any confirmation was needed, but that’s what we now have in the form of an open letter from Stephanie Cegielski, who signed on last year as communications director of the pro-Trump Super PAC, Make America Great Again.
Cegielski recently walked away from the Super PAC after realizing what she should have understood from the beginning: She was a mark and Trump is a huckster.
The letter itself is amazing. Every uncharitable assumption you’ve made about Trump is validated: He’s unserious; he’s doesn’t really want to be president; he never intended to make it this far; he’s a megalomaniac; he’s a brand hustler – it’s all there. And while it’s a little late, it’s a pleasure to read.
Cegielski writes: “Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it. The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.”
So the whole charade began with limited ambitions: make some noise, come in second or third, and walk away with a bigger brand and plenty of momentum for the next season of “The Apprentice.” But then things got serious as the stunt succeeded in ways no one expected.
“I don’t think even Trump thought he would go this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all,” Cegielski writes. “He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters. The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weaknesses. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.”
This is what happens when a man drunk on his own press gets a whiff of real power. Surrounded by sycophants, Trump appears to have lost sight of his original goal, which was to promote Trump. “What was once his desire to rank second place to send a message to America and increase his power as a businessman,” Cegielski says, “has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks.”
No one knows what’s floating around Trump’s bulbous head. Perhaps he thinks he really does want to be president. Cynical as he is, I bet even Trump underestimated the credulity of the American voter. Now that it’s clear he can win the Republican nomination without a coherent vision or platform, the presidency seems all-too-real.
Cegielski insists that’s not the case: “He doesn’t want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some…Trump is about Trump. Not one of his many wives. Not one of his many ‘pieces of ass.’ He is, at heart, a self-preservationist.”
Who can quibble with that? What’s true in any case is that Trump, whether he wants to be president or not, is playing a character. His entire candidacy is, as Cegielski puts it, “a work of fiction.” And that’s essentially what Trump’s brand is – a work of fiction. What makes him so dangerous is that he actually believes the bullshit he’s peddling. He’s internalized his platitudes about “cutting deals” and “winning.” “The man does not know policy,” Cegielski writes, “nor does he have the humility to admit what he does not know – the most frightening position of all.”
These are the conclusions of someone who knows Trump, who worked behind the scenes on behalf of his fraudulent campaign. She considers herself “part of the silent majority” that led to his rise. If there were any doubts about Trump’s fitness or intent, this should remove them.