Donald Trump is coming to Chicago to squeeze cash out of local tycoons who find it easier to give money than to think. Ron Gidwitz, whose family has been wealthy for a century, is heading up his local cup rattling effort, forgetting that while Trump will flash across the heavens and be gone in November, please God, the shame of supporting him will linger.
I, on the other hand, am in the rather comfortable position of having warned of Trump's unfitness to be president for ... gee ... 16 years now. I was wondering what the first column I wrote about Trump was, and dug up this, as true today as it was then, alas.
What would you take to a desert island?
I don't know why that question is supposed to be profound.
But each generation of journalists seem to find that this simplistic bit of fancy somehow probes the depths of a person's character, particularly a politician's character, assuming politicians have character. It shows what they value.
The first time it was asked, maybe it did. Now it's just another tiresome ritual in an election process that seems to become more tiresome and more ritualistic with every passing year.
The true idiocy of the question was driven home to me recently when I caught a snippet of the "Today" show on NBC.
There was Donald Trump, living out his current personal phantasm as political candidate.
Matt Lauer was trying to lob a few of Trump's inconsistencies back at him. First he addressed Trump's having lumped the presidential candidates into what Trump had called the "Lucky Sperm Club."
That's shorthand for children of pampered privilege who would be nowhere if not for the accomplishments of their parents (on the money for Bush and Gore, somewhat accurate for McCain, and not at all accurate for Bradley).
But isn't it true, Lauer asked Trump, zeroing in for what he thought was the kill, that your father was himself a rich real estate developer, just like you? Doesn't that put you in the same club of acorns falling not far from their paternal oaks?
Nah, said Trump, with the glib assurance of the idiotic. You see, he said, my father was a rich developer in Brooklyn. He never made it to Manhattan, like I did. Big difference. Lauer let him off the hook and moved on to the famous desert island quandary. Someone among this year's crop of ace political journalists had posed the matter to everyone running, and they had served up the requisite pious posturings: books, a Bible, the candidate's family.
Trump had answered: "a supermodel." That was certainly a change of pace, and the type of flip statement that passes as free thinking in our current sad political clime.
Lauer brought this up to imply that by claiming to want to pass the days before rescue cavorting with a supermodel rather than reading the Bible with his family somehow made Trump unworthy to hold the highest office in the land, and Trump backed away, claiming the whole thing was in jest.
In my mind, I find the supermodel answer on par with the Bible/books/family answer. Neither would do much good when it came to surviving on a desert island. The supermodel would just curl up in a fetal ball and whine about wanting Evian water and Benzedrine.* The Bible and books would be ruined in the first hard rain. And what kind of sick monster would wish his own family to be marooned with him on a desert island, to share his doom as provisions ran out and the elements overwhelmed them?
Why doesn't anybody ever answer the question with: a 55-gallon drum of water? Don't you want the leader of the free world to be the type of guy who would rather bring a desalination system or a short-wave radio to his desert exile, as opposed to literature? I know I do. Find the guy who says he would bring a 65-foot cabin cruiser with a full tank of gas to the hypothetical desert island. He's the guy we need.
—Originally published in the Sun-Times, Jan. 18, 2000
* And yes, the sexism of this line jumped up and poked me in the eye when I read it too. For the record, I'm sure there are many resourceful, dynamic supermodels who would rise to the task of surviving on a desert island, in a far more capable fashion than I would. In my defense, I was a callow lad, still in my late 30s, when I wrote this.