Perhaps more interesting, Mr. Trump ascends to the most powerful job on the planet with the lowest approval ratings in recent history, including by comparison with such losers as Bush 43. (See "Takeout Window.") The latter was quite popular at the time, while we at SNS became the first to predict he would become the worst president in US history - a call which, unfortunately, was more than realized.
During this invective-laden campaign season, I have consistently found a different view of Mr. Trump than have either his supporters or detractors, a view based not on his tweets (yes, the prime source for most opinions, or so it would seem), but on his actions.
For the above reasons, it seemed this would be a great time to share the patterns we've seen in Mr. Trump's behavior to date, as a possible lens for those who want to skip the emotional level and move forward to a deeper understanding of his past and our potential future.
Here are the facets of Donald Trump's behavior patterns which may seem contrarian to many, but that appear to provide a very good fit with actions and outcomes to date.
If we wanted to shorten today's discussion to a single sentence and still retain a complete description of Donald Trump, it would be easy: Trump is a deal guy. Anyone wishing to understand his thinking, his behavior, his self-image, need only go back to his first (ghost-written) book, The Art of the Deal. It's all there.
While many choose to look at Trump as evil or good, the devil or the ultimate liberator of freedom, the real Trump, we think, is much more straightforward: he lives to make good deals. He is a man who has spent his entire business life (following a father who did the same) buying, selling, and developing real estate.
That's it. He isn't a Democrat or a Republican (he's been both, like Reagan); he isn't "pro" this or "con" that. He isn't particularly religious, spiritual, or political. But he loves to negotiate and to make "good" deals.
After all the hate and fear speech, wouldn't it be interesting if his prime directive were making the best deals, one by one? This, alone, fits all of the major patterns in Trump's behavior, from building "the wall" and having Mexico pay for it to his pro-Putin tweets to dumping current trade deals - and to getting China to stop stealing our jobs and money.
It would be hard to argue that Trump's greatest enemy is not himself. Whether because of harsh midnight (or 2am) tweets or his famous haircut, or his brash (and often insulting) manner, most people (including a large number of supporters) find his general language and attitudes off-putting - or worse. Most "coastal elites" in either party are on a different cultural and social planet than that of a tough-talking real estate developer from Manhattan.
Worse, no one has ever considered electing someone of this background to be president of the United States, a job usually taken by Beltway folks who have spent a lifetime learning to be inclusive of everyone in the room, to speak softly, never to offend, and generally to curry favor as widely as possible.
Most observers see Trump as a disastrous attempt to be a politician, but it is clear that he is not one. To judge him as one, particularly since he is running against the idea, will provide inevitable failure.
Much has been made by radio hosts and chat panels regarding Trump's over-obvious narcissism: after all, everything around him is named Trump, so this is an easy claim to make. And it is not likely to be wrong.
But one might ask if any past president, other than a few (Eisenhower? Carter?), were not also full of themselves. Would anyone, particularly in the last 30 years, run for such an office if they were not a narcissist? Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon - the list is long, and likely weighted toward the majority of presidents.
Like all good attack claims, this one is true, but - does it matter, and is it unusual? The only difference here may be that Trump blares it out, while almost all politicians pretend to be humble public servants. (And yes, some even are.)
This is the point at which most elites will start arguing. After all, how can someone who sounds, looks, and behaves like Donald Trump be considered smart? If you asked anyone who has run against him in the last two years, they would likely give you the same advice: watch and learn.
Trump is fond of telling his audiences that he graduated from Wharton Business School. This is one of the toughest MBA programs in the US, if not at the top. And no, stupid people in general don't get accepted, much less graduate.
If one is objective and judges Trump purely on the question he is likely to be using, the answer to "Is Trump smart?" is obvious. So, is the question rather: "Has Donald Trump achieved everything he set out to achieve?" While he has no doubt lost plenty of deals, danced with bankruptcy, spent too much time in the courts, failed to pay deserving subcontractors, etc., none of this eliminates the clear answer: Yes, he has.
If the measure of intelligence (not ethics) is getting what you want in life, Trump has done it, where many others have not.
Like it or not, Trump is smart. In fact, he's likely very smart, or wouldn't be about to take office as president. Just ask Jeb, or Marco, or Ted, or Hillary, or --
And, regardless of what one thinks of Trump, it is provably disastrous to put someone stupid (such as Bush 43) into the most powerful office on the planet. Better a smart person you disagree with, but can deal with, than a buffoon who doesn't realize what he's doing or why.
One thing Trump understands deeply is how to work today's mass media. Almost against their will - and certainly against their professional ethics and charters, and the public interest - in the leadup to the election, the owners and reporters of mass media gave Donald Trump more attention than all of the other candidates combined.
This was no accident.
Trump's election victories came in no small part through his understanding of how to get free airtime on mass-media channels. While other GOP candidates were initially intended to be intimidated by Jeb Bush's massive fundraising prior to the primary, Trump dominated the airtime battle in every contest.
His understanding of mass media was acute enough that he would tell individual television programs what their ratings bounce would be should he be on their programs - and what it would be worth to them in advertising dollars. Since he was right, they played along, both showing the nasty truth about today's media behavior and proving Trump's ability to manipulate them.
How good is he?
Moderator Megyn Kelly, who Trump took to task in the first presidential debate, subsequently made up with him, wrote a bestseller, quit her job at Fox, and now has her own news program on NBC. And that's what happened to someone who fought with Trump. Wow.
It's fair to say that no one in modern election history has had a better or deeper understanding of how to manipulate the mass media than Donald Trump. Again, demonstrating that, in this arena as well, he is smarter than many have been assuming.
Trump gets a lot of heat for his rude or nasty late-night tweets, and for his time hosting the top-rated The Apprentice reality television program. Neither of these are politically mainstream - in fact, they are unique. So let's look more closely.
There is no question that, like it or not, Trump has made the most extensive, and the most successful, use of social networks of any candidate in history. I have no doubt that books will be written about these tactics and practices, so others may use them in the future. Are they pretty? No. Do they work? Absolutely.
When Trump uses social networks, he is combining three skillsets: 1) his abrasive negotiating skills; 2) his awareness of how these headline-making statements will manipulate the mass media; and 3) direct contact with the voting public, something which has been every politician's dream since the nation's founding.
The combination has been devastatingly effective.
The irony here is that while the educated class mocks him for exactly what he is doing, it works.
If we add in Trump's creation of The Apprentice, and what he learned in over five years at the top of that ratings competition, it isn't hard to understand the outcome. For better or worse, the world we live in is not driven by Hamilton - even in rap form. It's a celebrity culture.
There are people - apparently a lot of people - who, in late night comedy "man (woman) on the street" interviews, cannot pass the most embarrassingly simple civics or news tests. They cannot name the vice president, don't know who their governor is, can't do math, and don't understand anything beyond US borders.
But they can talk all night about Brangelina, Chris Pratt, Lady Gaga, or Kim Kardashian and Kanye. They know all about sports, clothes, weight loss, lipstick shades, hormones for bodybuilding, which drinks are in fashion, and where the hottest clubs are.
Trump knows we live in a celebrity culture; he made his share of celebrities on his show, and became one himself, and then began using it to license his name, changing his company's business model from the laborious work of building and buying and developing properties to licensing his celebrity name.
Those who are repelled by his commercialism are missing a deeper point: most of America is slurping soda and watching TV. He is a product of celebrity culture, as much as Everett Dirksen (my favorite political orator) was a product of a past political era of intellectual debate and rational thought.
Most people love New Yorkers because they have that endearing, if at times off-putting, habit of telling you exactly what they think of you. Trump does the same - after all, he is nothing if not the quintessential New Yorker - but, in a political race, the result is shocking.
Whether the subject is China or immigration, Trump says things that are either provably true (and "politically incorrect") or that everyone knows but doesn't want to be the one to say.
Examples: Should China be allowed to build and militarize islands in international waters? No. Of course not! So, Trump will challenge China.
Can the US afford to have completely porous borders, when border control has emerged as the defining issue for national sovereignty? No. Of course not. So, Trump will build some kind of wall.
Trump's willingness to say things that are true, and politically incorrect, is probably the prime reason he is hated or feared by many, and elected by the rest. Of course, that leaves up for debate all the things he says off the cuff (e.g., tweeting something about climate change being "a Chinese hoax") which are just plain wrong.
It is likely that most political observers either misunderstand or just don't like Trump's process. They may not even realize that he has one.
Trump is a negotiator, and that's the pattern of his process. He will stake out a position likely to benefit him in the outcome of the deal, and then let the process run as a negotiation.
It's very simple, and it works like this, in an imaginary conversation. (Try substituting your favorite cause or shibboleth, like The Wall, or Radical Islam, or ---)
Trump (to me): You have the ugliest car in the world. No one would be seen even near that car. You must be a real idiot to drive a car like that.
Me: Wow, that's offensive.
Trump: If I were to buy that ugly car that no one wants, how much would you take for it?
Me: Well, I was thinking $50 grand, but given your view, I guess I'd take $45k.
Trump: By the way, I'd like to invite you down to my new resort in [fill in the blank]. We're having a fabulous party, and I happen to know that [fill in name of celebrity you care about] will also be there. How about $35k?
Me: I had no idea that you and [the Pope, or ---] were friends. That's very generous of you. OK, $40k.
Trump: Let's call it $37.5 and we're done. I'll throw in tickets to the Super Bowl.
And then, the crowning touch, and the part that his critics seem to miss:
(Later, onstage at some event):
Trump (with his arm over my shoulder): I want to introduce my new best friend, a guy who is a real expert in the automotive world. In fact, I just bought a really great car, one of the best cars in the world, from this guy, and I could not be happier.
Get it? I hope so, because more than half the US audience seems to be missing this part.
This series of tactical patterns feeds directly into the larger process of what will have to pass for policy, at least until he takes office and we can see him at work as president.
In almost every single policy or position announced during his two campaigns, Trump has now moved from the usually radical populist position (which gained him massive media attention) to a moderate position.
To be clear: he has rolled back almost everything he has said during the campaigns. From turning The Wall into The Fence, from threatening to deport 12 million Hispanics to deporting only the 300k or so with criminal records (already a regulation), from repealing the Affordable Care Act (inevitable, given the rabid GOP stance) to preserving the headcount and the pre-existing conditions clause - for those paying attention, it would seem that Trump has pulled off one of the most brilliant political maneuvers of recent times. He ran against a field of rabid right-wing candidates and won, and then ran against a moderate Democrat and won.
He isn't either.
The risks of electing Donald Trump are obvious: he has no political experience, domestic or foreign. He is easily offended, shoots from the hip, changes positions often, and has a mercurial personality. All of these attributes offer nothing but increased risk when exercised from the highest office in the land.
He's also a bit outrageous, for its own sake. At SNS, we have started referring to Trump Tower in NYC, where all of the real Cabinet interviews and business have been taking place, as the "Gold House." It's a moniker I expect will stick.
Life under President Trump will not be boring; I expect extreme volatility, lots of unexpected changes, and a rainbow of love it / hate it decisions, regardless of who is asked. The Tea Party should be terrified of Trump, and so should party hacks who are willing to trade off national good for private benefit. This may sound strange when describing the billionaire's club just invited into the Cabinet, until one considers that Citizens United, the Supreme Court action most despised by Democrats, has put the nation at risk by allowing companies virtual infinite financial control over the government.
Who is immune? Well, without putting too fine a point on it: rich people. They're just harder to bribe - or else it just takes more.
Overall, the risks of a Trump presidency are terrifically high. He may outshine Bush 43 and take his place as the worst president in history. Or for an even greater surprise, it may turn out that having a rich maverick owned by no one and willing to both challenge the status quo and change his position toward the center is just what the doctor ordered at this pivot point in US and global history.
In the end, Donald Trump is a New York real estate developer who just became president of the United States.
What does the world look like to Donald Trump?
Every day is a new deal, and a good deal is a good day.
Your comments are always welcome.
Mark R. Anderson
To arrange for a speech or consultation by Mark Anderson on subjects in technology and economics, or to schedule a strategic review of your company, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also welcome your thoughts about topics you would like to suggest for future coverage in the SNS Global Report.
"Innovation is one of our guiding principles at Amazon, and it's created hundreds of thousands of American jobs." - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, on announcing the hiring of 100,000 new US workers; quoted in USAToday.
Amazin' is now at a headcount of a rather staggering 306,800.
"I do not believe that climate change is a hoax. Science tells us the climate is changing and human activity in some matter impacts that change. The ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue." - Scott Pruitt, Trump nominee for EPA chief, in Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday; quoted in USAToday.
"I believe the EPA has a very important role in regulating the (carbon) emissions." - Scott Pruitt, when asked by Sen. Bernie Sanders whether he believes the US must transform its energy system away from fossil fuels to protect future generations from climate change; ibid.
"It will be a big shock to all of these publishers that someone was selling inventory supposedly on their sites." - Michael Tiffany, founder and CEO of White Ops, on the widespread practice of selling ad impressions on fake news sites that are fraudulent copies of well-known media properties, including Fox News, CBS Sports, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Facebook, and Yahoo.
Welcome to the Internet, Home of All Smart Criminals.
"Russia has been the dominant actor in state-sponsored espionage in cyberspace for the past two decades. Cyberespionage and cybercrime are being seen as a strategic imperative for the regime. It will be employed not only to facilitate propaganda, but it could also be used to manipulate data. Russia has the luxury of using their cybercrime proxies to create a fog of war." - Tom Kellerman, of the cyber-security firm Strategic Cyber Ventures; quoted in the Christian Science Monitor.
"A globally co-ordinated cyber attack has hit 500 industrial companies in 50 countries in the past few months, according to security company Kaspersky. The worst affected were companies in the smelting, electric power generation and transmission, construction, and engineering industries." - From a Jan. 5 article in Robotics and Automation News.
"The Russians are the peer competitor to us, but I look at other nations. You look at China for example and the level of capability and investment they're making. I'm watching their abilities rise significantly." - Admiral Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency and commander of the US Cyber Command, last Thursday before the US Senate Committee for Armed Services; quoted in SC Magazine.
"If you disagree with someone on the Internet, there is no need to have a public-policy debate. Just go destroy them." - Eric Rabe, US spokesperson for the Italian cyber intrusion and surveillance firm Hacking Team; quoted in the New York Times.]
"The combination of Nantero's technology with our design and production capabilities promises to meet the longstanding needs of our customers for non-volatile memory that is higher density, faster, more energy efficient and with a higher rewrite cycle." - Masato Matsumiya, VP of Fujitsu Semiconductor, regarding graphene memory chips made by SNS FiReStarter Company Nantero.
And they said it couldn't be done.
"It is rare to see a technology catch fire after so long in development, but NRAM appears poised to do just that. In fact, your next smartphone could be a carbon-based lifeform." - BCC Research Editorial Director Kevin Fitzgerald, on Nantero's NRAM chips.
"It is pretty common when you announce a big deal or do something that all kinds of people just kind of come out of the woodwork and claim that they own some portion of the deal." - Mark Zuckerberg, in court this week, under charges that Facebook stole IP in its Oculus VR headset from ZeniMax Media, parent of id and Bethesda Game Studios; quoted in the New York Times and the Verge.
Uh oh, not another one.
Presidential Approval Ratings Prior to Inauguration
A poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post compared voter rankings of presidential candidates and their transition performance over a number of past administrations.
Here are some of their charts:
ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Trump Inaugural
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE AFTER 7 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017
The Unusual Trump Slide in Popularity Since the Election
Quinnipiac University National Poll Illustrates Donald Trumps Approval Nose-Dive. Credit: Daily Kos
For those of you wondering whether: a) self-confessed murderer and current President Duterte really did those things, and b) what he was like before becoming president, we offer the following photo taken during his time as mayor of Davao City. Our thanks to SNS Asia Editor Scott Foster for the photo:
Trump on China
As SNS members are aware, our INVNT/IP division has been described by the current Department of Justice as having provided the most accurate description to date of the Chinese national business model. So, we understand how China makes money.
More than any other candidate, Donald Trump has made accurate (and powerful) statements about China's illegal (in light of WTO regulations) trade practices. More important, he has appeared unafraid of China, and (despite having business exposure there) has been willing to stand up against these illegal practices when others are silenced by greed or fear.
Trump has taken on both parties over the failures of past free-trade deals to protect US workers and has publicly recognized the threat to the US and global economies if China is allowed to continue its damaging practices. While President Obama eventually took a strong public stand against China's theft of crown jewel intellectual property - INVNT/IP's core mission - Trump has gone beyond IP alone, promising, for example, to list China as a "currency manipulator" on his first day in office.
Of course China is a currency manipulator - it is the most egregious violator on the planet. But no other president has had the nerve to say it publicly, something required by US law.
From fake banks to party-driven (and -financed) M&A purchases in the US and elsewhere, from illegal subsidies to unfair blocking of foreign M&A purchases of Chinese firms, from the forced disclosure and outright theft of foreign IP, to dumping of all manner of goods on global markets - the list is long, provable, and causing ongoing terrific damage to the companies and countries that make money honestly, usually related somehow to inventing things.
In the view of INVNT/IP, in the post-Information Age, the global economy is driven by technology, and IP is its asset. This is the source of modern economic success, including jobs, money, and national security.
To the best of our knowledge, Donald Trump has not made a single misstatement regarding China, its practices, or their impact on Inventing Nations.
RE: "SNS: SNS: Killing the Killers: A Leading indicator of Planetary Ecological Destruction" and
"SNS: Protecting Your IP Flows: A FiRe 2016 Panel"
Subject: Re: Opportunistic (??) Xi speaks at Davos
To Mark and Scott Foster:
Is Xi being opportunistic or just scared of Trump following through on his threats?? Probably a good bit of both.
Still no mentioning though of massive damages to the U.S. by relentless Chinese IP theft.
John and Mark,
It's a great opportunity for China. Most of the world outside the US agrees with Xi.
Mark and Scott,
Yes but, at the end of the day, pretty much everything involving human interactions, whether business or personal, comes down to trust and only the stupid / self-destructive country leaders (e.g. N. Korea and Philippines) trust Xi / China (or at least pretend to).
There is no way in Hell that the majority of major country leaders will ever truly trust China (see where it got Brazil), hence, I think most of the public China support is rhetoric to desperately try and reign-in Trump. Hopefully Trump moves quickly and doesn't force them away from the U.S. by being even more stupid.
John and Scott,
When you look at China's amped-up use of foreign-aid programs in return for votes, influence, and access to resources, commodities, ports - and governments - it's pretty clear that China needs to preach globalization, even as it practices economic warfare.
At a time when the Chinese domestic economy is collapsing, when the yuan is collapsing so quickly that the Party has to actually reverse course and prop it up, when the elites (and the government itself) are redefining the meaning of "capital flight" - China can least afford to lose its captive markets and corporate stooges.
Trump has done a great job of warning China that he will no longer stand for its anti-WTO practices, and consequently, China's leaders are terrified of Trump. They message him constantly, through open and veiled threats out of Xinhua, and no doubt privately.
If the Chinese are forced to finally trade fairly, they will have to change their business model, and, while nothing could be better for their nation in the long term, this would reduce the level of international illegal and criminal activity to a level that might well threaten Party control.
Yes, Mr. Xi is afraid of Donald Trump.
He should be.
Subject: Based on your NYC Apple comment/prediction
'2016 was the year the tone changed [at Apple]'... G
This blog piece tends to address the same concerns expressed in my first prediction for 2017, but in a more detailed, and milder, way. For instance:
This has been the winter of our discontent. 2016 was the year the tone changed. There's always been a lot of criticism and griping about anything Apple does (and doesn't do - it can't win) but in 2016 I feel like the tone of the chatter about Apple changed and got a lot more negative.
This is worrisome on a number of levels and I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm used to watching people kvetch about the company, but this seems - different. One reason: a lot of the criticisms are correct.
I continue to think that Apple has run its course.
Today, all of the most exciting innovations coming out of companies seem to be centered in Google, Amazon, and (amazing!) Microsoft. OK, add Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and maybe HP Inc.
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* On March 19-22, Mark will be attending and speaking at the Dent Conference, Sun Valley, Idaho. * On April 18, he will be speaking at the Microsoft Analysts' Day on the Redmond campus. * October 10-13, he will be hosting the 15th annual Future in Review conference at the Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. To register for FiRe 2017, go to www.futureinreview.com. * And on November 15, he will be keynoting the Radar Co. annual conference in Stockholm.
In between times, he will be asking himself a simple question: at whatever "reasonable cost" means, which (new or used, make, year, and model) convertible is the one to get next? Replies are encouraged --
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