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Will Donald Trump Run for President? My Prediction: Yes, But...
May 6, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump irritated President Barack Obama into releasing a longer-form birth certificate to quell absurd yet persistent questions about his country of birth. Last week, Trump scowled as Obama shot back with one-liners at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The next night, Obama coincidentally pre-empted the climax of Trump's Celebrity Apprentice with news of his successful raid on the compound of Osama bin Laden. So what will Trump do, if anything, to regain the spotlight? And, if so, for how long?

I have a prediction...

A few weeks ago, Trump presented a two-hour Celebrity Apprentice that, on broadcast network television, was the most blatant example of unbridled, unbroken wall-to-wall self-promotion in about 50 years. Fifty-seven, actually -- since Walt Disney launched Disneyland on ABC in 1954, promoting a self-named theme park that would open the following year.

On this particular recent episode of Celebrity Apprentice, the task at hand, given to all the celebrities competing for money for their respective charities, was to create a four-page ad layout for Trump's various hotels. Trump would make the final decision on which team's efforts most effectively promoted the Trump name and hotel image. The losing team manager would bring two team members into the board room, and Trump would dismiss one of them with his TV catch phrase, "You're fired."

On this task, Trump was judge, jury and executioner -- and, as product placement goes, the beneficiary. You could hardly magine a more bold-faced use of prime time to feed one person's ego and image.


But the Donald could, which is why he's the Donald. Before the task even began, Trump gathered his contestants and spent a few minutes selling something other than his hotels.

"Everybody's saying I should run for President," Trump informs them. "Meat Loaf, should I?"

(If you're not a fan of the show, perhaps I should make clear, at this point, that Trump is questioning an entertainer, not an entree.)

Then Trump asks for a show of hands.

"Who would NOT vote for me?" he asks.

No hands are raised, and Trump, with a smile, salutes the intelligence of his celebrity apprentices. At home, with a smile, I saluted the intelligence of the people who invented blackout shades around voting booths.

In the board room sessions, which have gone on for nearly a dozen cycles now since the 2004 launch of The Apprentice, Donald Trump has been flanked by offspring and assistants who defer to his every remark, and faced by contestants desperate to win his favor. When he pronounces a course of action or a final verdict, it's irrevocable.

He could be forgiven for fantasizing that this is what White House Cabinet meetings are like, and that he has the Right Stuff to run a campaign and win the vote. And the fact is, the Republican field, at this point in 2011, is so uninspired and uninspiring that Trump has been drawn into polls, and politics, almost as if being sucked into a vacuum.

When he began to lead in the highly hypothetical polls of Republican candidates, why wouldn't he launch a test balloon by stoking the "birther" issue? Without declaring himself a candidate, he's gotten more attention from the sitting President, and the media, than anyone who IS a viable candidate.

So whether or not he has a chance of winning, or would be a good leader, or even wants to lead, may all be besides the point. The point, to Donald Trump, probably will boil down to what it's usually boiled down to: What's in it for Donald?


There's no denying that his use of television, since the launch of NBC's The Apprentice, has been more savvy than that of most politicians over the same time period. This season, ratings for his show are up since he attacked Obama and started dropping hints about his own candidacy -- and he's already announced that on his show's May 23 season finale, he'll reveal his political plans, or lack of same.

Until he announces his candidacy, Trump doesn't have to worry about any Equal Time provisions or concerns, so, to this point, he's gotten a free ride. But if, on May 23, he says he WILL run, then he's got to stay off Celebrity Apprentice so long as he's got an active candidacy. And the show itself, most likely, would be on hiatus for the duration as well.

NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd was just quoted by TV Guide about what I suspect is the key fact in all of this. Four months after Trump declares his candidacy, Todd noted, he'd be required by law to file detailed financial forms.

Given that Trump clearly didn't like being the butt of Obama's jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and that Obama, right now, has just pulled a trump card (sorry, couldn't resist) by erasing bin Laden from the FBI list of Most Wanted terrorists, Trump could read the tea leaves and prudently announce that he was declining to run for President at this time.

But prudence, dear or otherwise, is not Trump's hallmark. And the math works in his favor. He can announce his candidacy on May 23, ride the election promotion and media attention for 119 days without spending much or any of his OWN money, then withdraw on the very eve of having to open his financial books to outside eyes.

That would take him to September 22. The day after, on Sunday, Sept. 23, he and NBC could rush out a white-hot Celebrity Apprentice special, just in time for the start of the new fall season. Then NBC could dispatch Trump to start filming a new Apprentice series for midseason.

All that publicity. All those campaign ads. All that news coverage. And all of it coming out of someone's pockets other than Donald Trump's.


He COULD say no, and stay out of the race. He could say yes, and remain IN the race.

But my guess is that he'll throw his hat in the ring for a little more than 13 weeks, then pull out to reap the rewards.

It'll be an early withdrawal... but only after gaining lots and lots of self-promotional capital.

Meanwhile, the circus continues. The season's penultimate installment of Celebrity Apprentice is televised Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, occupying three full hours of prime time.

Trump THAT...




Eileen said:

Thanks, David, for your brilliant analysis of The Donald.

I'm sure he will run; his ego is too large not to go forward. But at what price? Already the NYC reporters are starting to sniff around, and one can only wonder what they'll dig up. There is such a tremendous dislike for this man, that we New Yorkers are all hoping he gets taken down a few pegs.

On the world front, he is not the person you want dealing with foreign countries. It's his way or the highway -- no middle ground whatsoever. His recent diatribes regarding any celebrity who doesn't kiss up is just beyond the pale. Dissing Robert DeNiro? The very man who started the Tribeca Film Festival to encourage growth and tourism in Lower Manhattan following 9/11? And Seinfeld, and David Letterman and Whoppi Goldberg? This is clearly a man who really doesn't play well with others.

"Celebrity Apprentice" shouldn't even be on the air. It's awful, degrading, embarrassing, and on and on. It's become simply a two-hour Trumpathon making all the participants look like fools. Asking them if they were going to vote for him was just the lowest point all season. And the fact none of them responded negatively was even sadder.

Opportunity is knocking, and The Donald will definitely be answering the door. What follows that should be enough to entertain all of us for the entire summer. Who needs Apprentice when we can have The Donald huffing & puffing all on his own?

Comment posted on May 6, 2011 12:20 PM

Mac said:

One remark heard this week was that it seemed like weeks passed from Sat. night (the press corps dinner) to Sun. night. After Sun., at least for a few hours, we got serious again. The President looked, well, presidential. The idea of Trump making any decision at this level seemed outrageous. As one political cartoon mused: Who cares about a long form birth certificate,when Obama was holding a long form death certificate. Trump probably has trouble deciding on the bottled water served in the boardroom: Can he get a bigger kickback from Coke, Pepsi, Nestle, or the municipal tap?
I may just be hoping, but it seemed Trump became an asterisk this week.

Comment posted on May 7, 2011 5:08 AM

Jim said:

Trump, with his embrace of white supremacist nonsense, has ruined his own brand and he is well on the road of ruining the Republican brand. I never have thought much of his business acumen -- he has gone bankrupt a couple times running casinos, for God's sake! -- and it doesn't look like his political acumen is much better. But my only interest in "Celebrity Apprentice" now is to find out what businesses will sponsor this disgrace, so that I can withhold my patronage of their products.

Comment posted on May 8, 2011 12:51 PM
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