Sunday, June 16, 2024


June 18 will be the publication date for a new book about Donald Trump and his years on The Apprentice. In The Washington Post, Ron Charles recently reviewed the book, Apprentice in Wonderland: How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass by Ramin Setoodeh. The review suggests that while Trump may have run for president twice since his first victory, he didn't particularly enjoy his time in office.
Any other former president would surely be eager to wax eloquent about his tenure as leader of the free world. But Setoodeh says that Trump “just wants me to understand how he made great TV.” Every time they meet, he asks, “Do you think I would have been president without ‘The Apprentice’?” ...

“In our days together,” he writes, “Trump is happiest when he talks about ‘The Apprentice’ and crankiest when he relives his years as the commander in chief.” ...

Trump’s memory of what happened in the Oval Office is muddled, but he can recall the details of every battle on “The Apprentice.” His face flushed with excitement, “he sounds like a retired high school football coach, lounging in a diner.”

Among the book’s most pathetic scenes — and there are many — is one that shows Trump standing before “his wall of egotism,” gazing upon a framed page of his Nielsen ratings from “The Apprentice.” ... the former resident of the White House says, “This is my whole life.”

“He doesn’t dare touch this valuable document, something that seems to carry as much value to him as the U.S. Constitution, if not more.” And yet, even as they’re both looking directly at the Nielsen stats, Trump exaggerates the number of viewers as reflexively as he lies about his vote counts.
It's obvious why Trump is running again: He wants to use the powers of the presidency to get himself out of legal trouble, and he wants to go out a winner rather than a loser. But in some ways, he seems to be running for president because it offers the possibility of feeling like the king of the world again -- the way he felt when The Apprentice was a ratings hit (and apparently didn't feel when he was the Leader of the Free World).

So he wants to be president, but it's clear he doesn't want to do the job of president. He has happy memories of The Apprentice, but he doesn't seem to have happy memories of his presidential term.

I've been arguing lately that what might save us if there's a second Trump presidency is Trump's lack of interest in much of what his advisers want to do, i.e., the mad schemes of Project 2025. The counterargument is that these advisers will set their sinister plans in motion and merely ask Trump to sign off on them. He doesn't need to do any of the work.

That might be what happens. On the other hand, Trump likes to feel as if he's in charge. He wants his underlings to focus on his priorities. He might look at their plans to, say, use the Comstock Act to ban the abortion pill and say: Wait -- what's in this for me? It might really piss him off if his people are prioritizing policy goals that, in his opinion, don't make him look good.

On The Apprentice, by contrast, everything was designed to make him look good. That's what he wants. He'll pick a lot of fights with his subordinates if he feels he's not getting that. In some policy areas, at least, this could be what saves us.

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