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Scot Lehigh

Hot-air buffoon

Trump’s antics are amusing pre-campaign, but he’ll never be president

(Globe Wire Services; Photo Illustration/ H. Hopp-Bruce/ Globe Staff)
By Scot Lehigh
Globe Columnist / April 20, 2011

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AS A boy, George H.W. Bush learned a simple lesson from his mother: Don’t brag about yourself.

I think it’s safe to say that same admonition didn’t govern the Trump household when Donald was a lad.

Indeed, a Trump bid for the Oval Office would represent something new in national affairs: The arrival in presidential politics of a braggart in full bloom.

Until the mid-’60s, rodomontade was rare even in sports. Then came Muhammad Ali. His exuberant braggadocio was what made Ali so different — and, to his fans, so captivating. Imagine having the audacity not just to declare oneself the greatest fighter of all time, but to predict the very round in which you would dispatch your next opponent.

However, a boastfulness that was playful and fun in a charismatic young fighter has become tiresome in today’s swagger-laden sports world. And it remains jarringly out of place in presidential politics, where good form dictates that ego and ambition be cloaked in the respectable garb of humility and public service.

Not for Trump, however, the mores of false modesty. No, indeed. He’s high on the drug called Charlie Sheen. That is, unabashed, unadulterated — and completely unfiltered — narcissism. Donald considers himself truly extraordinary, and he’s eager to share that view — in between offering up the sort of belligerent banalities one more often hears from a tedious taxi driver.

But let’s let Trump tell it himself, using quotes from recent interviews.

His education? “I went to a great college. The best. I was a very good student. I’m a very smart guy.’’

His career? “I am a much bigger businessman and I have a much, much bigger net worth’’ than Mitt Romney. “My net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.’’ Trump has “built a great company,’’ one that’s “much bigger and much more powerful and much stronger than anyone really knows.’’ What’s more, “my finances are phenomenal. . . I’ve done a great job. I’ve made a lot of great decisions.’’ (Never mind the various trips Trump businesses have made into bankruptcy.)

Oil prices? King Canute couldn’t command the tides, but Donald could order crude prices lower. “It’s the messenger. You tell OPEC, ‘fellas, that price is going down.’ Let me tell you, it is going down, if you say it properly.’’

Libya? “Either I go in and take the oil or I don’t go in at all.’’ That neo-imperialist notion surprised CNN’s Candy Crowley.

“You just take their oil?’’ she asked.

“In the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation’s yours,’’ Trump explained. Aha!

But isn’t Trump worried about media scrutiny of his own problematic past?

“I look at the problems of this country and I just think that we have more important things to discuss.’’

Like, say, the oft-debunked looney-tunes theory that Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii.

“I don’t like to talk about this issue too much,’’ Trump told Crowley.

What?!?! It’s been his conversational lead-off batter for weeks. Why, he even claims to have sent a team of detectives to Hawaii to investigate the matter. (Coming next: Trump helps O.J. find the real killer.) He’s also taken up the claim that Bill Ayers, former Weather Underground radical-turned-academic, is the true author of “Dreams from My Father.’’

Now, Trump obviously knows that this idiocy is a dog whistle for kooks looking for someone to lead them to the pixilated promised land. Indeed, his cynical pandering is virtually the only thing that leads one to wonder if his trial balloon contains something beyond self-promotional hot air.

But whether he runs or not — and the betting here is that he won’t — Trump will never be president. His novelty act has filled a pre-campaign vacuum, but he is simply not a serious political figure. Over time, that would become blindingly apparent.

Being a braggart and a buffoon isn’t a hindrance to wealth, and may actually abet celebrity. But those aren’t qualities intelligent voters want in a president — or ones they’ll reward in a candidate.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com.