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Dear Donald, It’s Not You, It’s Me

By  |  February 26, 2016, 11:23pm  |  @stevengberman

Dear Donald,

I’ve been meaning to write you since Christmas, when I (and probably ten million others) received your personal Christmas card, with your wonderful picture on it sporting a “Make America Great Again” ball cap. Thank you for the card, and I apologize that we did not reciprocate this year. I had thought I’d have my kids make you a card because they were so excited that Mr. Trump thought of us, but time just got away from us.

I’ve been following you since the late 1980’s when I was a business school student in New Hampshire. You know, we’re all political types up there: I had Bill Clinton speak almost literally in my back yard in 1991 (the Secret Service wouldn’t let me leave my back porch). In 1988, I met then-Vice President George H.W. Bush when I crashed his New Hampshire primary victory party in Nashua. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but those dratted Secret Service guys sealed the room before I could escape, drink and chicken leg in hand. Gov. John Sununu recognized me (long story) and insisted I meet the veep. He was very charming for the three seconds I met him.

In 1990 I was a 25-year-old business school graduate who wanted exactly what you wanted, to rule the world, and had the same drive and determination to do it, less the $200 million fortune from my dad, who didn’t have a 23-room house in Jamaica Estates. I grew up in a series of apartments in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. They were nice, but not ritzy. But you were someone to be admired.

The way you bought and sold properties, using other people’s money, and convinced them to pay overinflated prices for them as you walked away with the profits is legendary. You really stuck Merv Griffin, a real loser, with Resorts International Inc. and made a cool $264 million while he held the bag with a nearly billion dollar mortgage. And the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, it was the greatest thing ever, until it went bust four times.

I wanted to be just like you, Donald.

I read in Playboy Magazine in 1990 that you believed in two things: innate ability, and positive thinking. I wanted both.

The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son. If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination-or whatever-to leave their mine. They don’t have “it.”

“It” is an ability to become an entrepreneur, a great athlete, a great writer. You’re either born with it or you’re not. Ability can be honed, perfected or neglected. The day Jack Nicklaus came into this world, he had more innate ability to play golf than anybody else.

And Donald, you have “it” for making deals and getting people to do what you want. It’s like Fast Eddie that Paul Newman and Tom Cruise did in “The Color of Money,” you’re a student of human moves. It’s not about pool, or real estate. It’s about the art of knowing what the other guy is going to do and getting there first.

Human moves, Donald. They study your Brazilian-rosewood desk. You study them. They end up paying. The yacht, the jet, the tower, the casinos, they’re all just props for the show.

The show is “Trump” and it has sold out performances everywhere. I’ve had fun doing it and will continue to have fun, and I think most people enjoy it.

I started my first business in 1991. It never really got off the ground. My business partner was a coke addict and his father’s collateral (he owned a cement mixing plant) evaporated in the savings and loan collapse, so there went my investment. I lost $40,000 cash and my lawyer said I could get it back, with two years of my life and countless court depositions. He said walk away. So I did. You wouldn’t have. I know you would have pursued that bastard to his last cement truck.

I saw people really taking advantage of Fred and the lesson I learned was always to keep up my guard one hundred percent, whereas he didn’t. He didn’t feel that there was really reason for that, which is a fatal mistake in life. People are too trusting. I’m a very untrusting guy. I study people all the time, automatically; it’s my way of life, for better or worse.

Human moves.

After selling everything I owned and taking a job to get out of hawk, I recovered in time to start my next business. I was gun shy but convinced by some friends to get into the Internet business. What the hell did I know about real estate? I could have bought a house on a lake in southwest Florida in 1987 but bought an overpriced condo in New Hampshire instead. The house would triple in value within 10 years; I never made a penny on the condo.

We started an Internet service in 1995, when AOL was still king. We had $52,000 in capital. Five years later, to the day, we sold for $2.5 million. I ended up losing a friend or two along the way who didn’t trust me. I wasn’t enough like you, Donald. I was too trusting.

I am very skeptical about people; that’s self-preservation at work. I believe that, unfortunately, people are out for themselves. At this point, it’s to many people’s advantage to like me. Would the phone stop ringing, would these people kissing ass disappear if things were not going well? I enjoy testing friendship …. Everything in life to me is a psychological game, a series of challenges you either meet or don’t. I am always testing people who work for me.

You can never tell until you test; the human species is interesting in that way. So to me, friendship can be really tested only in bad times. I instinctively mistrust many people. It is not a negative in my life but a positive. Playboy wouldn’t be talking to me today if I weren’t a cynic. So I learned that from [my brother] Fred, and I owe him a lot. . . . He could have ultimately been a happy guy, but things just went the unhappy way.

Then something happened with me. We parted ways. In 1999, I had an encounter and it changed my life. It didn’t change me like your brother Fred’s death changed you—from the outside. It changed me from the inside. You see, I met Jesus Christ. I mean really met him. Snotty, crying, repenting from sin, crumbled-on-the-floor-at-the-foot-of-the-cross met Jesus. I was a basket case for about 5 months before I accepted my fate as a servant of the living God. As a Jew, Jesus wasn’t in the cards, but I either had to acknowledge what I experienced or I had to decide I was crazy. Crazy lost and Christ won.

I used to have a big ego.

Every successful person has a very large ego.

Every successful person? Mother Teresa? Jesus Christ?

Far greater egos than you will ever understand.

Absolutely. Nothing wrong with ego. People need ego, whole nations need ego. I think our country needs more ego, because it is being ripped off so badly by our so-called allies; i.e., Japan, West Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, etc. They have literally outegotized this country, because they rule the greatest money machine ever assembled and it’s sitting on our backs. Their products are better because they have so much subsidy. We Americans are laughed at around the world for losing a hundred and fifty billion dollars year after year, for defending wealthy nations for nothing, nations that would be wiped off the face of the earth in about fifteen minutes if it weren’t for us. Our “allies” are making billions screwing us.

You said all that in 1990. I understood you then. I got it. But now I think you’ve got things very mixed up about what sacrifice, statesmanship, and leadership is about. It’s one thing to talk to the janitors and doormen at your buildings and wish them good morning. It’s another thing to think you’re the answer to America’s problems.

You said Winston Churchill was a figure from history who inspired you. Churchill, who said “Great and good are seldom the same man,” would hate your guts. He stood for something and inspired his people to fight against evil because it was evil. You would have made a great deal with Herr Hitler.

You’re running for president and you haven’t really changed your tune. It’s about ego. It’s about human moves. It’s about getting what you want and getting the other guy to give it to you. You’ve really thought a lot about running for president.

Well, if I ever ran for office, I’d do better as a Democrat than as a Republican-and that’s not because I’d be more Republican-and that’s not because I’d be more liberal, because I’m conservative. But the working guy would elect me. He likes me. When I walk down the street, those cabbies start yelling out their windows.

I guess the working man must be a Republican now. Not sure what else changed, other than you seeing the right opportunity to run.

Another game: What’s the first thing President Trump would do upon entering the Oval Office?

Many things. A toughness of attitude would prevail. I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.

And then there’s nuclear war.

I’ve always thought about the issue of nuclear war; it’s a very important element in my thought process. It’s the ultimate, the ultimate catastrophe, the biggest problem this world has, and nobody’s focusing on the nuts and bolts of it. It’s a little like sickness. People don’t believe they’re going to get sick until they do. Nobody wants to talk about it. I believe the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing it will never happen, because everybody knows how destructive it will be, so nobody uses weapons. What bullshit.

Umm. Jesus. And I don’t mean that as a cuss word. I mean Jesus, please help us if you become president.

You were 43 and I was 25 years old in 1990. You haven’t changed a bit, Donald. You’re still Fast Eddie studying human moves and playing the next rack for a good hustle. But I guess I’ve changed.

I don’t think nuclear war is a thinkable thing. I think if we could abolish the idea of it that would be wonderful. But Kim Jong Un has those bombs now, and you could find yourself with the authenticator codes (the “football”) to launch America’s nuclear arsenal, as someone who thinks it’s “bullshit” to believe we won’t use those weapons.

I don’t think it’s bad to trust people, to choose to trust them. I don’t think it’s good to consider everyone out for themselves, because I see people every day who live sacrificial lives. I’ve met missionaries who ask themselves, as they drive through suburban America on break from their lives in dangerous countries, “I wonder how I’ll die? Will they torture me first?”

I think that the Japanese, like everyone, want to live life, love their families, and do well for their country. The Japanese have a different society, built on different values (such as “harmony” which you wouldn’t understand, Donald) that cause them to keep America at arms-length. The Chinese have suffered under 70 years of the Communist boot, including re-education camps, purges, and incredible cruelty. The Russians have a peasant mentality and can’t conceptualize citizen government. Fatalism is a tough master for them.

Yet you, Donald, want them all to be American, positive-thinking Norman Vincent Peale-loving entrepreneurs. They’re not and never will be. Vladimir Putin is a cold-eyed killer who’d just as soon poison your drink with Polonium isotopes as shake your hand. Or make you vanish from the Earth without a trace. You’d be perfect negotiating with him, and of course you accepted his compliment. He meant it genuinely. He’s studied you also.

Donald, I’m convinced there’s a deeper power in this world, that the One who designed an “eye for an eye” is also the one who showed us the way to turn the other cheek. He died to show us a more excellent way.

You have to be strong. You have to be sweet. You have to be ruthless. And I don’t think any of it can be learned. Either you have it or you don’t. And that is why most kids can get straight As in school but fail in life.

A strong, sweet, ruthless person. I am pretty sure that’s a recipe for being a sociopath. I was definitely on that road at one time, as you are, but I changed.

This is what St. Paul, who you’d probably call a loser because he allowed himself to be whipped, beaten, arrested, and ultimately beheaded when he could have had it all as a Roman citizen and lawyer, wrote.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:35-40)

I don’t believe a Christian must be in the White House, or that you shouldn’t be able to live your life the way you want. But Donald, as a middle schooler would say to break up with an infatuation: It’s not you, it’s me. Your vision of success, of a cold, testing, ruthless winning, goes over with many people. It’s what they believe America needs. I believe you believe it.

But when somebody tries to sucker-punch me, when they’re after my ass, I push back a hell of a lot harder than I was pushed in the first place. If somebody tries to push me around, he’s going to pay a price. Those people don’t come back for seconds. I don’t like being pushed around or taken advantage of. And that’s one of the problems with our country today. This country is being pushed around by everyone.

I don’t think America needs a president who thinks like you do.

We used to be on the same page, and I see a whole lot of people buying into what you’re selling, but I’m not buying it. It’s bad medicine, and will only help you fulfill your dreams and ego of how America should be. From your nice tower in Manhattan, that may be nice to discuss as we sit at your Brazilian-rosewood desk, but being the leader of the free world requires a bit more listening and a lot less hustling for an advantage.

I wish you well; all the best, a long life, prosperity, friendship, love, and peace. But the White House, you shall not have, not by my consent. Thank you for listening, and please don’t take this too hard (I know you won’t). I know you feel like you’re the only hope for our country, which is “going down the tubes,” but Donald, you’re only going to unclog the drain and hasten our swirling decline to the cesspool of ruthless, heartless, soul-crushing every-man-for-himself bully-worship.

If only you would condemn the white supremacists, KKK members, neo-Nazis, Jew-haters, conspiracy kooks and other dysfunctional fringe dystopians who adore you, I might be more inclined to think you want the best for this country. But I really think you want what’s best for Donald Trump’s vision of America, and whosoever disagrees with that vision will get the crap beat out of them without mercy or pity.

The Trumpian call to action is one of violence and venom. It poisons our society with an evil that cannot easily be separated out and cleansed once it’s running in our national veins. Even Marco Rubio took joy in mean-spirited battle with you. Revenge feels good, and you’re a maestro in the vengeance philharmonic and would infect our entire country with your evil bacteria.

You’ve already done that to politics this year, and should you win the GOP nomination, you’ll continue your poisonous march to satisfy your own inflated ego and insatiable cupidity. I used to share your goals, but now I’ve changed. And though I probably cannot convert you to my way of thinking, or convince one solitary supporter of yours to change his or her mind, I do know who can change people from the inside. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

Enjoy the world, Donald. Oh, and thanks for the Christmas card. Very classy.

Cheers,

You pal Steve.