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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Donald Trump: 'Winning Isn't Everything; It's The Only Thing.'

by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Donald Trump’s defining characteristic is an obsession with winning. Trump makes no bones about this. This has been the theme of his life, his books, his ventures, and, now, his politics.

And yet few commentators, few of his rivals (to their detriment), and few of his adversaries seems to be paying attention. Their attacks on Trump have been aimed at places Trump does not much care about and thus do not rattle him. He cares about winning. Period.

Trump is determined to win at anything and everything. He is determined to win irrespective of the stakes, big or small. He is determined to win irrespective of his opponent. He is determined to win irrespective of the rules and is willing to commit infractions, even personal fouls, so long as they are likely to be advantageous to winning.

(As for personal fouls Ted Cruz could send Trump a box of chocolates and a thank you note, apply a little judo, and start referring to himself “Lion Ted” Cruz….)

Trump’s not a bad man.

Trump’s a man obsessed.

Obsessed with winning.

Many years ago, when I was a young lawyer in Albany, New York, I read an article in a legal newspaper about the controversial Roy Cohn. The reporter asked Cohn (with a certain innuendo) about his ethics. To which Cohen replied, “My personal ethics is to win.”

This was less cynical than it sounds out of context. The article described how often the plaintiff's and defendant’s attorneys would come out of the courthouse to go off to drinks together. Cohn stood aloof from such socialization feeling that it might cause him to pull his punches on behalf of his clients, for whom he held an unwavering duty, and commitment, to win.

Cohn was a key advisor to Trump during the crucial early stages of Trump’s emergence as a force to be reckoned with. Obsession with winning has its own costs. In Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrett’s magisterial 1992 biography of Trump, titled Trump, Barrett reports that Trump repeatedly, including to reporters, called Cohn his “best friend.”

And then Roy Cohn began to die.

Cohn was dying, covertly, of AIDS. This was an illness then with enormous social stigma. Not something that could add to one’s negotiating leverage.

Barrett:While Cohn told Trump and the rest of the world he had cancer, everyone knew, from the fall of 1984 to his death in 1986, that AIDS was killing him. Though Cohn was struggling to maintain his practice, Donald quickly began withdrawing work from him, wounding and outraging the bulldog lawyer who was using his vast array of connections to secure every form of experimental treatment. ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this to me,' Roy complained. ‘Donald pisses ice water.’Barrett’s Trump is an extensive, meticulously detailed, and mesmerizing account of Donald Trump’s obsession with winning. Whoever sat across the negotiating table from Trump — strangers, rivals, friends, allies, business partners, bankers, politicians, officials, relatives, even his then-wife Ivana, found him resourceful, relentless, and even ruthless in seeking to win everything at every turn.

An obsession with winning is Trump’s most fundamental characteristic. It has an elemental quality. Call him the “Red” Sanders candidate:Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.Where others might be constrained by social convention Trump accepts no such constraints. His obsession with winning is complete. Reprised here:As the Washington Post’s Francis Stead Sellers astutely reported in What Trump Learned On The Apprentice:

From the time they spent with Trump on and off the set, contestants recall a talented performer — and one who was deeply concerned with how he was perceived by others. Just as Trump today speaks frequently of his poll numbers, so, too, was he consumed by ratings.

On a morning after “The Apprentice” lost to a rival Fox show, “American Idol,” Solovey visited Trump to introduce him to his fiancee — and found the usually ebullient businessman slumped at his desk.

“It was the only time I saw him totally downcast and dejected,” said Solovey….
In some ways recognizing Trump’s obsession with winning (slightly) softens his persona. It might give solace (some anyway) to those afraid of or appalled by him. I elsewhere have described Trump to be, much like me, a galoot, not a hater. There is not a scintilla of evidence that Trump is a creature of evil who takes pleasure from inflicting pain. Rather the contrary.

Outside of win-lose situations Trump consistently is reported to be a good guy. When negotiating for advantage, however, he turns feral.

Trump’s rivals, such as Ted Cruz, and his antagonists, like MoveOn Civic Action (which has lost control of the narrative to Trump), would benefit by getting a better grip on who, and what, they are dealing with. As Saul Alinsky famously wrote in Rules for Radicals, “The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be.”

Trump is what he is. Anyone confronting him who does not recognize him for what he is puts himself, or herself, at a severe disadvantage.

Donald Trump's obsession with winning has political implications. It helps predict his likely next moves. He already is establishing a framework to question the rules of the Republican convention to attempt to de-legitimize them and rewrite new rules in his favor. As Karl Rove recently pointed out in his Wall Street Journal column:At the March 10 Republican debate in Miami, Donald Trump said “I think that whoever gets the most delegates should win”—meaning that if no candidate holds a majority at the GOP’s Cleveland convention, the nomination should go to whoever has a plurality.

A majority, The Donald said, is an “artificial number that was set by somebody.” But decrying the use of what he called a “very random number” is not just whining; it is a demand for radical change.

How radical? The rule that the Republican nominee must win a majority of the national convention has been in force for 160 years, since the party’s first convention in 1856 ….
Attack the rules? Donald Trump can be expected to be relentless in employing any tactics that he thinks will help him win. The Marquess of Queensberry Rules do not constrain Trump. Anyone who accepts such constraints will be at a tactical disadvantage.

Also it is useful to understand that an obsession with winning surely explains a large measure of Trump’s appeal, so far, to a plurality of Republican voters. It helps explain his draw with independents and blue-collar Democrats.

America is slogging through a second decade of what I have called “The Little Dark Age” of economic austerity. Trump describes this in more elemental terms: “We don’t win any more.” It’s a frequent leitmotif to his promise to “Make America Great Again.” The message “we don’t win any more” resonates with people, especially working families, who have been struggling to break even and, in many cases, losing ground for well over a decade.

People enjoy even vicarious wins — hence the multi-billion dollar NFL. They also, even more, wish to start winning again personally. A plurality of voters has chosen Trump in hope that his obsession with winning is transferable, as promised, to America and to them. The jury is out but it might be true.

This is a strong marquee campaign narrative. It is one that has gone unrivaled.

Trump’s narrative is unrivaled by Hillary Clinton’s campaign theme. Winning, in the minds of many voters, trumps “fairness.”

None of this predetermines that Donald Trump will gain the Republican nomination or the presidency. Advantage Trump but that nomination isn’t in his pocket yet. Cruz, who has experienced one of the most meteoric rises in politics, is formidable. He has shown that he too can be resourceful, relentless, and ruthless in pursuit of the presidency.

Recognizing his obsession with winning does not vilify the elemental Donald Trump. Trump makes no pretense otherwise. Politics, for all its usual pretense of aspiration to service, always has been about winning or losing the prize of office.

The presidency is the big prize (although one that Trump might more enjoy winning than owning). Donald Trump is obsessive about winning every deal, small and big. For better or worse Trump’s defining characteristic is his obsession with winning.

Game on. Campaign accordingly.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Donald Trump, Winning Isn't Everything, It's The Only Thing To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 10:31 AM - Post Link


Anonymous Josie Atkinson said...

My husband says THAT all the time!!!


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