Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency is no laughing matter

With his billions and brash lifestyle, he is the living embodiment of the Republican ideal

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The Independent Online

Pity Jeb Bush. No sooner does the Florida Governor and son of one US president – and brother of another – announce his candidacy for the White House in 2016, then along comes Donald Trump.

There’s Bush, ending speculation, with a carefully choreographed declaration, aimed at reaching out to all communities – even speaking in fluent Spanish. And here’s Trump, also finally trying after 30 years of threatening to do so, and saying so seemingly without any of the personal qualms that have afflicted Bush.

Trump also had something to say about the Mexicans, but not in Spanish: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”

If elected, the billionaire would require Mexico to build a “great, great wall” on America’s southern border, and to pay for it.

In a rambling, nearly one-hour, address The Donald covered the waterfront. How about this for an opening, after coming in to a number from Neil Young (a song the Canadian, liberal musician has reportedly said he did not have permission to use): “It’s great to be at Trump Tower. It’s great to be in a wonderful city, New York. And it’s an honour to have everybody here. This is beyond anybody’s expectations. There’s been no crowd like this. And, I can tell, some of the candidates, they went in. They didn’t know the air-conditioner didn’t work. They sweated like dogs. They didn’t know the room was too big, because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat Isis? I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.”

The Trump push for the presidency is up and running. But why should Bush and the other 10 Republicans who’ve declared so far be remotely bothered? After all, 70 per cent of those polled in a recent survey said they would never vote for him. That still leaves, in Trump’s irrepressible “can do” way of thinking, 30 per cent that would. And that puts him far ahead of the rest.

 His popularity means that he is guaranteed to be one of the 10 Republicans to take part in TV debates – Fox is restricting the line-up in the first encounter because there are too many candidates (the expected total is 15). So, already others are making way for him.

 Not only will the spotlight inevitably be on him, as the best-known of all the hopefuls, but he is a seasoned TV performer. His answers may be ridiculous, but there are bound to be plenty of Americans who won’t listen to the detail. All he requires is a few choice words and that’s what they will take from the contest.

 Now, it’s possible to see why Bush and the rest may be irritated. It’s worse, though, because of the nagging thought that Trump is the Republican ideal personified. In a party that holds up the opportunity to get rich as its traditional aspiration, Trump, with his towers, resorts, and brash lifestyle, is the living, breathing, speaking embodiment of that goal.

Indeed, Trump, who has filed for bankruptcy four times in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, only to bounce back and rebuild, so that yesterday he could claim his worth to be $9bn (£5.7bn), presents himself as the epitome of the American dream.

We’ve been here before with Trump. But this time, he appears to be genuine. He’s a in a fragmented field, with no standout candidate. If he wins the Republican nomination, he will be up against Hillary Clinton, a Marmite politician if ever there was one.

It’s not as if tycoons have not gone on to hold high office. Michael Bloomberg is the obvious recent example, founding his own financial information service and becoming mayor of New York. Bloomberg, though, is a much more cautious individual, certainly in public, than Trump.

 In one respect, Trump can make a boast that resonates loudly both in the US and in the UK. By electing him, Americans are guaranteeing a government not influenced by lobbyists and donors, without favours, not for cash anyway. In that sense, Trump can argue he would be incorruptible, that sleaze would have had its day.

 Trump, though, would be president – and there’s the rub (even writing it makes me laugh). On the first day of the race, he managed to offend not just the Mexicans and Neil Young, but the Chinese, President Obama and other American leaders who he derided as “losers”. The first 100 days in the White House don’t bear thinking about.

 The awkward truth, though, is that he’s only saying what plenty of earnest, oh-so PC politicians are thinking but too afraid to say. Certainly, he is voicing what many Americans believe.

God forbid, he may, pardon the pun, have a trump card to play. He’s told ABC television’s George Stephanopoulos, that Oprah Winfrey would complete the dream ticket. “I think Oprah would be great. I’d love to have Oprah,” Trump said. “I think we’d win easily, actually.” He’s mooted her in the past, when he considered a bid for presidency in 1999.

Trump on his own is one thing; Trump and Oprah is quite another. Jeb must be praying that what may turn out to be little more than a joke, albeit an irritatingly disruptive one, does not become a nightmarish reality.