Trump is Who We Thought He Was

That which worked for petty business disputes was never going to work on this big of a stage.

Source: The White House

NFL fans may recall an infamous rant by then Cardinals Head Coach, the late Dennis Green, after a Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears. “They are what we thought they were!” he declared.

The phrase resonates with the Trump administration, because Trump himself is what we thought he was.

He is an amateur. He is a spoiled child. He is a rich man from a privileged background who has never been held accountable for anything (in any way that mattered). A combination of lawyers and his father’s wealth has bailed him out time and time and time again.

It is almost cliche to point out, but this is a man who had a casino go bankrupt. Mythology aside, he is no great businessman. He is a con artist and any objective assessment of his presidency demonstrates this fact. His understanding of governance is near zero, his hiring practices a farce, and his theories of international affairs utterly ridiculous.

All this is directly manifesting in these ridiculous claims of electoral fraud in the recent election. He is playing the same game he always has. He is pouting and assuming that he can gripe his way through the whole thing via lawyers and conning his followers.

After all, his views on not getting an Emmy for The Apprentice should sound familiar:

“I got screwed out of an Emmy,” he recalled during a 2015 episode, when it was revealed celebrity contestant Leeza Gibbons does, in fact, have an Emmy. “Everybody thought I was gonna win it. Like, in fact, when they announced the winner, I stood up before the winner was announced.”

“I started walking for the Emmy,” Trump continued. “And then they announced the most boring show on television, piece of crap. I literally stood up and started walking out.”


“The public is smart. They know it’s a con game. I remember when I was originally nominated, everybody thought that ‘The Apprentice’ was going to win. It was the hottest thing on television, virtually,” Trump said in 2011. “Well, it didn’t win. They picked another show that frankly has been nominated many years and it’s like, an irrelevant show. I’m not talking about myself. I’m not talking about ‘The Apprentice.’ I’m just saying the Emmys have a become boring, boring, boring show, totally predictable, and they’re picking the wrong people.”

Then the tweets began. For two days after the 2012 Emmys, he fired off a series of them. “‘Amazing Race’ winning an Emmy again is a total joke. The Emmys have no credibility — no wonder the ratings are at record lows,” reads one.

Source: WaPo (2016), “Donald Trump’s long feud with the Emmys: ‘The public is smart. They know it’s a con game.'”

These are the rants of a child throwing a tantrum. They are the words of a petty, self-centered manchild. Note, also, the ever-popular “According to many” rhetorical approach.

But, of course his behavior is hardly limited to television award shows. Note when he lost the Iowa Caucuses in 2016 to Ted Cruz:

Or his claims after his Elecroral College win in 2016:

The man has clear, public record of making unsupported claims about his public loses.

He is who we thought he was. He is who he has always been.

As I have watched the attempts by Team Trump to try and exploit the legal system with court filing after court filing, I am struck by a number of things. The most important of which is that utterly anti-democratic nature of it all. But also, on a lesser level, this is all just Trump being Trump.

First, the whole situation underscores how is in over his head, and always has been. He doesn’t understand his job at POTUS nor does he understand the vast legal system of the United States nor the complex elections system.

He is just a wealthy man who has been insulated from consequences his entire life who has been able to throw money at problems (often manifesting at throwing lawyers at said problem) to make them go away. This works with relatively small issues, like contract disputes or petty scams like Trump University, but it is not a strategy for overcoming a clear electoral loss.

Second, he is so insulated from reality that he really believes his own bullshit, and doesn’t seem to understand that his hand-picked henchman are paid to agree with him and his family members have been raised to do so (not to mention they know where their bread is buttered). Moreover he doesn’t understand that a lot of people on Fox News, NewsMax, and OAN are all deliberating kissing up to him to garner favor and ratings.

He is, in many ways, captive to his own cons.

Third, he is trying to deploy his conman/carnival barker skills to get himself out of this jam, and they will in the sense that those who are buying the con are contributing money to his “defense fund” and will follow him to his next media circus, whereever that it and however it may manifest.

At the end of the day, however, he is a failed president by any objective measure. And the parallels between his business endeavors and his time in office are stark–and I expect there will be far deeper analyses along these lines to be written.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2020 Election, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    I’ve said this before, but Trump thought he could run the presidency the exact same way he ran his shabby, corrupt, bankrupted fiefdom in New York.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Yup, that sums it up.

    The amazing thing is that R politicians, especially at the Federal level continue to kowtow to him. If an a states’ R Sec of State and state legislative leaders can stand up to him and speak truth, why can’t US Reps and Senators?

  3. DrDaveT says:


    Trump thought he could run the presidency the exact same way he ran his shabby, corrupt, bankrupted fiefdom in New York.

    And he was right — and he did. With pretty much the same result.

  4. de stijl says:

    I thought GWB was the worst President we could produce.

    Crikey, was I wrong!

  5. CSK says:

    Yes. I was going to add that precise same point, worded much the same way. He behaved exactly in character.
    He projects himself as the greatest businessperson ever as well as the greatest president ever. What’s sad is how many of his fans agree so enthusiastically.

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    I thought that when I won (the election) I would go to the Oval Office, sit down at my desk, and there would be a healthcare bill on my desk, to be honest. And it hasn’t worked out that way. And I think a lot of Republicans are embarrassed by it.
    President Pud
    Sep 10, 2017

    No Republican legislators were embarrassed ever by what this slug has done from before he was elected. All Republican Man has ever admired and supported him for to this day is that he “grabs them by the pussy” and screws porn stars to commit adultery.

  7. Scott F. says:

    Trump is Who We Thought He Was and +74M of our countrymen voted for him despite that or even because of that.

    Our Country is Not What We Hoped It Was.

  8. gVOR08 says:


    He projects himself as the greatest businessperson ever as well as the greatest president ever. What’s sad is how many of his fans agree so enthusiastically

    That is what’s so maddening. It’s so bloody obvious what he is, and almost half the country refuse to see it.

  9. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: my brothers seem to bounce back and forth between not seeing it, and being delighted that it pisses off the libs.

    I feel like I finally understand Schroedinger’s paradox — the cat isn’t alive or dead, it’s both. Except there, you can only measure once and it resolves, and you think the cat has been alive or dead the whole time.

    Here, each of my brothers occupy both states indefinitely.

  10. de stijl says:


    Each brother sees a different box. Each morning those boxes are re-instantiated.

    Or un-instantiated. Both. Neither.

    Quantum theory makes my brain hurt.

  11. JohnSF says:

    Trumpinger’s cat:
    The pussy is both grabbed and un-grabbed until you open the box.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    He is just a wealthy man who has been insulated from consequences his entire life who has been able to throw money at problems (often manifesting at throwing lawyers at said problem) to make them go away.

    Oh but Steven, he is a fighter

    trump has never been in a fight he couldn’t pay somebody else to to take the punches for him.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Nice. I’ll likely steal that if I can find a way to use it.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    he really believes his own bullshit

    A conman is like a method actor.

  15. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Actors, even method actors, assume a new role / persona with the next gig.

    Trump is stuck playing Trump for his whole life. No wonder he is insane.

    I had a one line role in The Mouse That Roared when I was 17. I fucking killed! I did not pretend to chew gum, I actually chewed gum – I was that method as fuck.

    Actually, I did get a pretty cool gf out of it.

  16. de stijl says:


    With @Reynolds. Totally going to steal that.

  17. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    @de stijl:
    “Talent borrows. Genius Steals!”

  18. Kathy says:

    It’s hard to believe this quote from Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves,” published in 1972, is not about Trump today:

    “He believes his own fantasy and fights for it with a diseased fury. He’s a pygmy with only one talent, the ability to convince others he’s a giant.”

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    I had a one line role in The Mouse That Roared when I was 17.

    Was it “Yea” or “Nay”?

  20. de stijl says:


    I was a passer-by commenting on the proceedings. I cannot recall the line.

    The director had me walk down the center aisle of the audience up to below the stage, pause, speak, exit right.

    It’s embarrassing. I was terrible.

    I actually did chew gum, though. Strasberg Method, totally.

  21. de stijl says:

    Theater kids throw awesome parties.

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnSF: Have to quote the following from Tom Lehrer:

    I am never forget the day
    I first meet the great Lobachevsky
    In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics:
    Let no one else’s work evade your eyes
    Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
    So don’t shade your eyes
    But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize
    Only be sure always to call it please ‘research’

    “….index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory…”

  23. de stijl says:

    I always liked Denny Green. He was a good guy.

  24. al Ameda says:

    We have a winner.
    Schrodinger, if you’ve ever read any biographical material, would definitely be proud

  25. de stijl says:

    I’m gonna make through this year if it kills me.