I am not going to say a word about Donald Trump's breath-taking, windswept coiffure. The Donald has long occupied a special place in my life. I once wrote an entire book about him, appropriately titled Trump. It was the first biography ever written about Donald, published in 1985, and it went on to sell about half-a-million copies — by far the biggest commercial success of my writing career, which now spans four decades. So I am forever grateful to Mr. Trump's outsized personality and his penchant for self-promotion that launched me onto the best-seller lists.
But Trump for President?
Let's get real. This is not the first time Donald Trump has announced his intentions to run for the highest political office on Planet Earth. A few years back he all but shanghaied the Reform Party before party notables recognized his ploy as a publicity stunt, booted him out, and settled instead for Ross Perot. It was a great headline-grabber then, and it is now. What is most surprising is how short the media's attention span is. Once again they are showering the Donald with all the headlines he covets as though he is serious about actually getting his hands dirty in a real campaign and exposing the more private corners of his life to intense public scrutiny. Astoundingly, Trump is tracking second in the Republican sweepstakes as I am writing this, which tells you more about the quality of his competition than you need to know.
Let's see. Also in the running are a Mitt, a Newt, and a Huckabee — the last name only a satirist on a par with Mark Twain could have made up. Huckabee Finn anyone? You'll notice there's not a real American name in the lineup, like, say, Nunzio Sappienza for example. Newt looks as though he's been feasting on the anti-Weight Watcher's diet since we saw him last — or perhaps he's discovered Mike Huckabee's old feedbag before the formerly rotund ex-governor dropped a hundred pounds or so. The only refreshing note on the Republican side of the ledger so far is that Ron Paul is also being touted as a serious candidate without anyone questioning his age. When Ronald Reagan ran in 1980, the media were aghast that he was, hold your breath, 69 years old at the time. Ron Paul was born in 1935, which makes him almost two years older than I am. And last time I looked, I'll be turning 74 on my next birthday. But as everyone knows, 74 is the new 64, or 54. Right? I surely like to think there are a few more innings left in the game before I have to be yanked out for a pinch hitter.
It's during the political silly season such as the one that's just getting under way that I miss my old friend Murray Rothbard the most. Murray and I had our differences along the way, but no one had a better sense of the absurd in politics than Murray did. My fondest memories of the old days are sitting around with Murray and a few others, quoting Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken, chuckling (no one could chuckle louder than Murray with his bowtie wagging under his chin) about the lunacies of the moment. There were always plenty to go around.
And there is no shortage of them at the moment. One of the biggest lunacies in recent weeks was the notion that either major party would let the government shut down for anything longer than a microsecond. The last thing the entrenched political establishment wants to advertise is that the absence of most government services, and the corresponding layoff of some 800,000 federal employees, would be a nonevent for the body politic. Business would go on as usual, investors would continue to trade shares and commodities in the marketplace, and all the other essentials of modern civilization would be provided by one entity or another. People would soon learn that it would be a better bargain for them if most of the government did, in fact, go on an extended vacation along with its revenue-collecting agencies. Can't pay the troops overseas? Bring them home. Can't conduct the war on drugs? End it now. Can't stop citizens from cohabitating with whomever they prefer? Decriminalize their lifestyle arrangements. The only groups with a vested interest in prolonging the status quo are those receiving subsidies in one form or another: large corporations, rich farmers, special interest and advocacy groups. They were the ones screaming loudest about the threat of even minor cuts in government spending.
So it is fun to speculate that a Ron Paul or a Gary Johnson can enter the presidential sweepstakes and emerge victorious, that they have a chance to sweep the Mitt, the Newt, the Donald, and Huckabee Finn off to the sidelines. Ron Paul changed the nature of the debate in 2008 when he hewed to his libertarian principles on the major issues, refused to dilute or compromise his positions, and still was regarded as a man in possession of a full bag of marbles. Ron Paul set the stage for a Chris Christie to go as far as he's been doing in New Jersey. Even Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York and son of one of the most liberal governors in recent history, has begun to sound more like Barry Goldwater than Teddy Kennedy.
It all makes for an interesting diversion as we go about our business and attempt to hang on to as much of our money as we can before the politicians give it away and otherwise misspend it. Meanwhile, 2016 is just around the corner. Ron Paul will be only 81 then. And, let's see, I'll be 79.
Eighty is the new 60. Isn't it?