How Different Is Trump From Other Politicians?

This was an interesting profile of Trump featuring his ghostwriter on Art of the Deal.  Frequent readers will know that even years before he came on the Presidential stage, I was never taken in by the Trump-is-a-great-businessman meme  (most recently here).

In the New Yorker article, Trump's ghost says that Trump is not nearly as smart as he is made out to be, he is petty and childish and vain and self-absorbed.  He apparently makes promises he never keeps and has made a mess of a number of his businesses.  He has a short attention span and a shallow understanding of most issues.

Which all leads me to ask -- how does this make him any different from most other politicians, including the one he is running against for President?  Is he unique in these qualities or merely unique in his inability or unwillingness to hide them?  Does he have more skeletons in his closet, or does he just engender less personal loyalty so that more of his insiders speak out?

Don Boudreaux quoted a great bit from H.L Mencken the other day:

The state – or, to make the matter more concrete, the government – consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me.  They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.  Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them.  Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing.  The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B.  In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.


  1. MJ:

    Which all leads me to ask -- how does this make him any different from
    most other politicians, including the one he is running against for
    President? Is he unique in these qualities or merely unique in his
    inability or unwillingness to hide them? Does he have more skeletons in
    his closet, or does he just engender less personal loyalty so that more
    of his insiders speak out?

    I think this is the crux of it. I don't think he has more skeletons in his closet than most politicians his age (just look at who he's running against), he's just less concerned about hiding them. He has a string of failed marriages and businesses, but he proudly puts them on display rather than running from them.

    And this is, in my opinion, a big part of his appeal to his base. What he lacks in intelligence he makes up for with hubris and self-confidence. Someone who is unsure of themself and doesn't feel like they have a great deal of control over the world they live in is naturally drawn to someone who exudes confidence and speaks with absolute certainty, even when such certainty is impossible.

    For her part, Hillary is quite self-assured as well. But she lacks the brashness of Trump, and I wonder if she will be able to handle herself when the campaign ramps up and the mudslinging really starts, which it almost certainly will. I can easily see Trump putting her on the defensive, especially during debates, in a way that would make her really uncomfortable.

  2. John Moore:

    It varies a lot. For example, Ronald Reagan was a conservative intellectual, widely read and who had written many major speeches. He was also honest. Richard Nixon was a foreign policy expert with a high IQ (147) but dishonest. George H. W. Bush had vast experience in government and foreign policy, and was deeply honorable.

  3. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    MJ: Be sure of this: Hillary knows what is coming in the debates, and she will be well-practiced. And she will employ focus groups to determine the best reaction. Will being brash in return turn more people off to her? Or will being defensive turn more people off? I do not know. I would think that the people who could be turned off by Trump's brashness have already been turned off to him. But for Hillary, the question is very much unanswered. Again, we are talking about a relatively small 10 to 15% of the population that can be persuaded. If Hillary appeals to them, she wins. If she appeals to her base, she loses.

  4. kidmugsy:

    There's not much point focusing on Trump's weaknesses: politically he's as much an unknown as O was eight years ago; voting for Trump would be a gamble just as voting for O was. But you know for certain that Hillary is a bloody (literally, bloody) menace; much worse than even the dreadful McCain.

    Moreover, Trump would be constrained by The Establishment's control of Congress and Scotus. In four years you could replace him.

    Hillary would be effectively unconstrained, would stack Scotus for years to come, and could be replaced only if her health broke down - and perhaps not even then.

  5. ErikTheRed:

    I see Trump from a weird perspective that resulted from me generally hanging around with a lot of Eastern European immigrants: Trump supporters in the US are basically the same as Putin supporters in the USSR. Both nations have lost a lot of their luster, and these people derive much or all of their esteem from being part of a "great country." But these people are not philosophic; they don't understand what created the actual (in the US) or perceived, aside from military might (in the USSR) greatness. What they want is a strongman, an ultra-paternal figure who will promise to make them feel proud again. They also tend to be remarkably nationalistic and xenophobic when it comes to other people and cultures. And, no, I don't subscribe to the "all cultures are equal" nonsense - clearly they are not - but that doesn't necessarily justify the overall propaganda of revulsion thrown around by these groups, mostly driven by problems that these groups created themselves (stirring up Islamists in both nations, and creating a welfare state followed by crippling employment opportunities for immigrants in the US).

  6. Thane_Eichenauer:

    Given the media conception of the presidential election as being Clinton vs. Trump (e.g. no Johnson and no Stein), I would ask myself if I would prefer a President with a shallow understanding of the issues that doesn't bomb and murder innocent civilians or a President with a deep understanding of the issues that does bomb and murder innocent civilians. It seems like an easy choice to me.

  7. Bruce Zeuli:

    The most financially successful people I have known are "not nearly as smart as he is made out to be, he is petty and childish and vain and self-absorbed". Maybe these are the prerequisites necessary for financial success today. Certainly these are necessary for success as an elected official. The smart, generous, mature and self sacrificing folks I know follow other pursuits.

  8. Corky Boyd:

    "He apparently makes promises he never keeps and has made a mess of a number of his businesses."

    Sorta like "You like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," or "you like your plan, you can keep your plan." Can't have any of that in the White House. Why do liberals keep throwing hanging curve balls that conservatives will hit over the fence?

  9. jdgalt:

    A bit off topic for this post, but I asked the boss first.

    There is a new Twitter alternative -- -- which doesn't ban or silence people for being conservative or libertarian. I thought our community deserved to know, especially since the people who run Twitter and Facebook will ban you for even mentioning it there.

  10. PA32R:

    Huh? Reagan honest? "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." This admission after the proof was out.

  11. Mercury:

    "Which all leads me to ask -- how does this make him any different from most other politicians, including the one he is running against for President? "

    Um...he's actually had a real job?

  12. herdgadfly:

    Tony Schwartz's comments on The Donald matched my perception of the man from all the reading and video watching that I did on the man. What as surprising that Donnie has not changed since the '80s. Back then he was known in the NY papers as Young Donald and they knew his foolishness well. Schwartz wrote a New York Magazine story entitled "A Different Sort of Donald Trump Story" concerning Trump's purchase of 100 Central Park South, a 15-story, rent-controlled tenement overlooking Central Park and his effort to get the tenants out in order to build a luxury condominium building in its place. When the dust settled 15 years later, the tenants finally settled, but the original building was converted to luxury condo status and the tenants - most stayed on, continuing to rent. In this tale, Trump's poor business acumen and disregard for people is evident. Schwartz also wrote a version, from the made-up Trump perspective, is included in "Art of the Deal".

  13. herdgadfly:

    How do we know if the casualties were innocent and how do we know Donald wouldn't do the same thing? Making choices without data is really silly.

  14. herdgadfly:

    Trump would be constrained by The Establishment's control of Congress and SCOTUS - but Hillary wouldn't? Crystal balls are wonderful, aren't they?

  15. Jim O'Neil:

    No crystal ball needed, just look at the news.

  16. Ray Van Dolson:

    I'm pretty disgusted that my party nominated Trump. What an opportunity we had against such a flawed candidate like Hillary...

    However, I'm not so much #nevertrump these days (though it's mostly irrelevant since I live in California) due to the simple fact that Trump is the lesser of two evils.

    I will say I've been mostly impressed with Trump's family, however (kids). For all his bluster, maybe he actually ended up being a pretty good father.

  17. Thane_Eichenauer:

    I personally believe that Clinton advocates bombing now, bombing later, more bombing on top of that. Trump may (just MAY) not be as awful as that. I make no claim that he can be relied upon to be consistent. I would hope based on their public statements that Johnson and Stein would be less likely to bomb. All any of us have to go on is our impression. My impression is that Clinton would be as awful as her past performance indicates. All others might be better. The data IMO indicates no thinking person would want eight more years of George W. Bush's third and fourth terms.

  18. obloodyhell:

    }}} how does this make him any different from most other politicians, including the one he is running against for President?

    Ummm... He doesn't have absolute disdain for the Constitution? He didn't train at the ankles of Alinski? His College Thesis didn't support Cloward-Piven?

    No, nothing that MATTERS.

    Sometimes, Warren, you say the most fucking stupid things imaginable.

  19. obloodyhell:

    }}} Trump would be constrained by The Establishment's control of Congress and SCOTUS - but Hillary wouldn't?


    But Trump CONCERNS me in this regard.

    I already KNOW wtf Hillary will do.

    kinda sorta almost maybe FUCKIN A DUHHHHHH.

  20. obloodyhell:

    It's not a question of wanting Trump.

    It's a question of knowing that it would be almost utterly impossible for him to be worse than Hillary.

    If you can't figure that out, you should stop voting. For ever.

  21. BobSykes:

    Are you serious? Do you actually think you can get any information from the New Yorker? No serious personal has watched that clown show for decades. Next you'll be telling us that you get your reading list from the NYT Review of Books and you economic advice from Bernie Sanders.

  22. wreckinball:

    If he was such a bad businessman how is he still rich? Yes I know he inherited the original business but it has grown and he is richer than his dad.
    Its like saying some pitcher with a 2.0 ERA is bad and is just lucky or was given a position because his dad owns the team or whatever. But not looking at the 2.0 ERA.
    ?? Yes he's got some temperament issues. He's certainly not dumb. The New Yorker and apparently Coyote are ignoring his ERA. All that really matters actually.

  23. kidmugsy:

    Really: Nixon had a nearly 2*SD advantage over Kennedy? I doubt you learned that from the NYT. Or is this one of those invented IQ scores?

  24. jdgalt:

    The voters don't like candidates who are substantially smarter than themselves. Example: Adlai Stevenson. This is why Trump will win.

  25. Ann_In_Illinois:

    I'm going through the same thing. Trump certainly wasn't my first choice, but so many of those around him say he values loyalty and searches out people's opinions before making decisions. I think he will listen to Pence and Paul Ryan, and to Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Mike Flynn.

    I agree that his kids say a lot. I liked hearing that he took them to construction sites (Ivanka as well as the boys), and they poured concrete, hung sheetrock and drove bulldozers, rather than hanging out only with Harvard and Wharton money guys.

  26. mx:

    Honestly, how his kids seem is pretty near the bottom of my list. Sure, it's nice, and perhaps it reveals a little bit about his character, but there's plenty to judge him for on the actual words that come out of his mouth that takes precedence for me. As Ron Paul put it today: does Trump want to be chief of police of the entire country?

  27. mx:

    He inherited a bunch of money and happened to invest it in New York real estate a few decades ago. Not exactly a hard way to become rich. Find me a plot of land in Manhattan that's lost value. It's hard to compare Trump's performance to the S&P for a bunch of reasons, but those who have tried generally conclude that, at best, he's modestly outperformed the index. And then there are the bankruptcies.

    If he's such an amazing businessman, why did he spend so much time on two-bit operations like Trump Wine and Trump Steaks and Trump Bottled Water?

  28. mx:

    "You like your plan, you can keep your plan" turned out to be completely false, though it was also a promise Obama never should have made since keeping it depended on insurance companies he had no control over. Meanwhile, "the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to
    an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored" is utter lunacy. When a man who's job would have no authority over local law enforcement, state/local laws, or judges tells you he will literally end crime, it's not hard to see that's a promise unlikely to be kept.

  29. jdgalt:

    BS. Keeping that promise would have simply meant grandfathering in the existing plans, rather than imposing needless "minimum essential coverage" requirements that make affordable insurance illegal. The bill completely controlled that, insurance companies are 0% to blame for it.

  30. J_W_W:

    To be honest I find how someone raises their kids to be one of the most important indications of their character.

  31. J_W_W:

    Yep. Hillary is going to move mountains to take my guns away and remove my rights to group together with others to criticize her politically.

    She will make every effort to make me a stranger in my own country. I will not comply.

    Trump is a horrible shitty candidate, but Hillary to me marks the beginning of the subjugation of conservatives and libertarians to leftists forever.

  32. J_W_W:

    The data on Hillary is complete though. She has no problem destroying nations. She already destroyed Libya.

    Millions of immigrants in Europe from North Africa are literally her fault.

  33. J_W_W:

    There are lots of stories out there about Hillary's ineptitude at debate. I think it's an inherent flaw in her character she won't be able to overcome.

    I.e. she's to damned stupid to be anything but a fawning progressive moron.

    Bill is smart, whip smart, Hillary is a moron.

  34. mx:

    We also know he has many times refused to pay small businesses for the work they've done for his properties. Does that say something about his character?

  35. JLawson:

    What does a businessman do but take chances?

    If it doesn't pan out, then you dump it and write it off.

  36. wreckinball:

    A lot of conjecture on how much he inherited. It seems reasonable that he has at least tripled his money and possibly times ten. That's not dumb luck.

  37. wreckinball:

    You write off losses. He has expanded his fortune.

  38. Nehemiah:

    The democrats are in for a rough ride. They now have an opponent as dishonest and underhanded as they are. We'll find out if they can play defense against their style of offense.

  39. JLawson:

    And he wrote off the losses. Other things he tried didn't fail. You don't quite get this whole 'expanding business through taking chances' concept, do you?