Abe Hirschfeld cups his hand over the phone, putting some poor sap on hold for the third time in the last three minutes, and slides a copy of a New York Times Magazine article across his desk.
“Read this,” he whispers, so the guy on the other end of the line won’t hear him. “It speaks so eloquently about why we need Donald Trump.”
The article says, in short, that the pointy-heads and the wedgebrains are governing the country, and that we are all therefore doomed. “One certainly feels a deteriorating ethic in many spheres,” the author, Barbara W. Tuch-man, says.
Hirschfeld at last hangs up the phone. He feels the deteriorating ethic in his spheres, too. But he does not think, as Barbara W. Tuchman does, that a “concerted national effort” is what we need.
What we need, he says, is Donald Trump, boy billionaire, in the White House.
“I think we have to elect a person who is a professional man” says Hirschfeld, 67, a longtime friend of Trump. “He really has the experience — the business experience — to lead us away from the mismanagement that is now in government.”
Hirschfeld, who owns the Castle Premier Hotel in Miami Beach and two luxury condos in Palm Beach, paid $11,000 last week for full-page advertisements in The Miami Herald and The Miami News.
The ads featured a letter Trump had published in paid advertisements in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. In the letter, the rich developer criticized President Reagan’s policy in the Persian Gulf and complained that “the world is laughing at America’s politicians.”
Hirschfeld simply reprinted Trump’s letter under this headline: “DONALD TRUMP for PRESIDENT.”
He’s serious. Hirschfeld sees Trump, 41, as John F Kennedy reborn, a man destined to lead. And he sees Trump’s wife, Ivana, as the next Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, a woman of style and grace and…
Wait a minute. Trump, who owns a Palm Beach mansion, several New York skyscrapers and a good portion of New Jersey, may be attractive and successful, but is he ready to negotiate with hostile foreign nations? Or even with Congress?
“You cannot run the country the way you run a business,” says David Adams, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida. “You can’t tell the Congress, ‘Hey, here’s my bill — and if you don’t pass it, you’re fired.’”
Trump, for his part, says he is not going to run for president. Then, like the politician he says he isn’t, he equivocates.
“I really do rule it out,” he says from his office in Trump Tower in New York. “But there’s a large group of people who are tired of seeing the country ripped off and laughed at. It’s hard to ignore them.
“But really, I have no intention of running for president.”
Hirschfeld, a multimillionaire developer, was not the first to suggest Trump run for president. Mike Dunbar, a New Hampshire Republican, began trying to draft the developer months ago. He has even persuaded Trump to speak to a Rotary Club next month. But Hirschfeld is without question the first to spend $11,000 of his own on a campaign to draft Trump.
Hirschfeld has known the Trumps for years. He used to play golf with Donald’s father, Fred. When Donald and Ivana Trump moved into their $7-million, 118-room Palm Beach mansion, Mar-A-Lago, Abraham and Zipora Hirschfeld were among their first dinner guests.
“That’s how he feels about us,” Hirschfeld says.
Hirschfeld, former treasurer of New York’s Democratic party, knows the dark side of politics. In the 1970s, he ran for New York City Council twice and for US Senate once — and lost each time. Last year, a judge removed him from the race for lieutenant governor of New York because he didn’t group his campaign petitions by Congressional district as he was required to.
New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has so little confidence in Hirschfeld that he once said he would not be able to sleep at night with Hirschfeld as lieutenant governor.
Still, Hirschfeld likes politics. It is 11 a.m. at the Castle Premier. To escape the constant ringing of his phone, he pops out of his chair and heads for the hotel coffee shop, trumpeting Trump all the way.
The last thing the White House needs, Hirschfeld says, is a politician — a fast-talking, media-made stud with plastic hair and reshaped cheekbones. We need someone, he says, who can balance the budget and eliminate the trade deficit — an Iacocca, say, or better yet, a Trump.
“We need the chairman of the board of a great organization. A doer, not a talker,” Hirschfeld says. “All Donald Trump has to say is, ‘I’ll run for president,’ and the whole country will be behind him.”
If he does take the plunge Trump will have at least one thing on his side — name recognition. Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau recently made fun of his presidential possibilities. (“That’s a great blessing,” Hirschfeld says. “He didn’t pick on any of the other candidates because they don’t mean anything.”) And Newsweek features Trump on this week’s cover.
But a recognizable mug isn’t enough says Adams of the Republican Party of Florida.
“I think if he was going to make the decision to run he probably should have done it months ago,” he says. “The other candidates are way ahead of him now in terms of staff, organization and support.
“Running for president takes a lot of time. And time is running short.”
In his office, Hirschfeld is asked if Trump approves of his Trump-for-President campaign.
“Ask him yourself,” Hirschfeld says, dialing the phone. A moment later, he is on the line with a secretary (“How is New York? So nice to hear your voice”), who immediately puts him through to Trump.
“Donald?” Hirschfeld says, “How are you Donald?”
Hirschfeld hands over the phone.
“Abe is a man I really like,” Trump says. “But he is doing something that is on his own. You’ve got to understand that this is unauthorized. I did not ask him to do it.
“If he wants to do it, that’s his prerogative. It’s completely up to him. That’s one of the things that makes this country great. You can do that sort of thing if you want to.
“I told him, ‘If you feel that strongly about it, go ahead and do it.’ One thing I know about Abe is that when he wants to do something, he’s going to do it.”
Trump hangs up. Hirschfeld grins. He is a mortal, but gods take his calls.
“In every generation, there are geniuses born,” he says. “Almost everybody who knows Donald Trump agrees with me that Donald Trump is one of these.”
September 24, 1987 — Two-man band parading Donald Trump as next White House drum major, by Steve Weller
The first time I ever saw the name, Trump, it was on an athletic supporter. Now it’s on half the buildings in New York city. If Sumner Baye and Abe Hirschfeld have their way, it also will be on the White House mailbox.
They have launched a campaign to make Donald Trump the first multi- billionaire president of the United States.
When they fired their opening shot last week, a full page ad in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other newspapers, they constituted the entire membership of the “People for Trump” movement.
While that might not sound like a full-blown groundswell, this is no fly-by- night operation. Baye and Hirschfeld have all the angles covered. If one of them changes his mind about Trump’s qualifications there is a back-up name for the organization, “Person for Trump.”
The campaign theme possibilities are endless. How about a fight song, Trump, Trump, Trump the Boys are Marching. Or a lapel button design, an ace of diamonds called a Trump card. And then there is the obvious bumper sticker, “Honk If You’re A Trump Supporter.”
Who is Donald Trump? He is the 41-year-old entrepreneur who owns edifices called the Trump Tower, Trump City and Trump Parc skyscrapers in New York City, gambling dens named Harrah’s at Trump Plaza and Trump Castle in New Jersey, and Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach.
Do I detect a pattern there? Is the man a hopeless megalomaniac or is he just a little short on imagination? Like a turnip. I vote for the former. And that won’t hurt him as a politician. They all have monster egos.
If they didn’t they couldn’t smile warmly and grip the hands of voters who despise them. They couldn’t go out on the stump and rattle off all those old cliches and come away thinking they had committed some great oratory.
Trump’s ego, however, may be a step beyond monumental. Consider the document featured in the campaign ad. It is an open letter “To the American People.”
In it, Trump tells us that Japan and other nations are taking advantage of us. Stop the presses. He talks about the sneakiness of Japanese industry during the weak yen-strong dollar days that helped turn us into a debtor nation. But he doesn’t say anything about the current weak dollar-strong yen that has helped make us a bigger debtor nation.
He demands that Japan, Saudi Arabia and other international parasites pay for their protection. Yawn. Then he closes with the exhortation, “Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.”
For that kind of dog-earred pap a note on the mirror of a comfort station in Trump Castle would have been more suitable than an open letter to all Americans.
At a press conference on Miami Beach Hirschfeld, a Democrat, said if Trump does decide to run for president he will do it as a Republican. That’s good. Right now the GOP field is Bush league. There’s a used quarterback, a preacher and a guy named Pierre. Bob Dole is legitimate but, in a tough primary fight, Trump could buy the Senate and throw him out on the street.
“If Donald Trump runs this country like he runs his business, said Baye, “we would be in much better shape.”
You bet. Think about the money that could be raised just by changing the name of the Lincoln bedroom to “Trump City South” and renting it out to transients. With a few closets here and bathtubs over there the Washington monument could easily be converted into the world’s tallest, skinniest hotel.
If you’re not into real estate and still can’t place Trump, he’s the guy who invented the United States Football League. The one with teams called Bandits, Gunslingers, Outlaws and Chain Saw Butchers. Obviously, the man is tough enough to deal with the Russians.
What’s the next step for the two-man band and their favorite candidate? According to Hirschfeld, Trump will now sit back and wait for millions of citizens to start chanting, “Run, Donald, run!”
I hope he does. But only if, after he checks out his campaign bank account, he promises to give the United States matching funds.
November 24, 1987 — Is Donald ready to play his Trump card? by Rick Hampson
NEW YORK — Shortly after dawn on Monday, a ringing bedroom telephone sounds the beginning of Blanche Sprague’s workweek. As she draws the receiver to her ear, the voice she hears is a loud one.
“What is going on with this ad?” demands Donald Trump, her boss. “How could this happen?”
Trump has spotted a small display advertisement in the back of The New York Times real estate section that resembles his own ad for Trump Parc, a condominium apartment building on Central Park South.
Both ads were placed by the same agent, and Trump wants to know why — now.
“To really experience Donald, you have to be there when he calls at 6 a.m.,” says Sprague, a Trump Organization vice president. “He calls at 6 instead of 8 because he wants the problem solved by 8.”
He wants it solved by 8 because by 10 there are many others; this developer is building the world’s largest gambling casino, planning the world’s tallest building and feuding with the mayor of New York.
When Trump isn’t exchanging insults with Mayor Edward Koch, he is running four casinos, five hotels and two skating rinks. He is completing a high-rise condominium complex in West Palm Beach and planning another on Manhattan’s East Side.
There is talk of a casino in Las Vegas, a hotel in Moscow — and a White House in Washington.
In September, Trump bought a page in three of the nation’s leading newspapers to complain that the world is laughing at the Reagan administration’s costly commitment to defend the interests of wealthy allies such as Japan and Saudi Arabia.
This did nothing to discourage speculation in some quarters that Trump might have his eye on running for public office — the White House maybe?
Hardly, says Trump; he’s not the type. “If you’ve been successful, if you’ve accomplished something, you may have stepped on some toes along the way, and that will come back to haunt you.”
The number and range of his interests is making some wonder if even Donald Trump — still signing the checks and searching corners of model apartments for dust balls — has too many chips on the table.
“Perhaps Trump’s biggest obstacle in becoming a businessman of international or national stature is himself,” Business Week said recently.
The magazine depicted Trump as addicted to detail and unwilling to delegate authority. It quoted a Trump associate describing him as “caught in a quagmire. He gets into stuff that takes too much of his time.”
If Trump does overextend himself, what would one big failure do to his reputation for invincibility, a reputation that attracts allies and intimidates opponents?
“Whatever you say about my style, it’s been good for me,” Trump said. “Nobody’s ever done what I’ve done at 41.”
At 41, Donald John Trump is probably a billionaire. Sitting behind a huge polished rosewood desk in his office overlooking Central Park, he explains why.
“People without a command of details go down the tube,” he says. “The day you can’t be involved in details, it’s time to do something else.
“I really consider myself the architect of my buildings. The architects draw what I tell them to draw. Trump Tower was designed by me: the views, the angles, the way the elevators are arranged.”
Someone else would have been happy, upon graduation from college, to run his father’s empire of low- and middle-income housing in New York City’s outer boroughs.
But Trump crossed the East River into Manhattan in the mid-1970s, a young Caesar in a chauffeur-driven Cadillac. Since then the value of Trump family holdings has grown from $200 million to as much as $3 billion. The Trump Organization, which once housed the anonymous masses of Brooklyn and Queens, now builds castles in the sky for the likes of Johnny Carson and Lee Iacocca.
Trump’s breakthrough was his transformation of the tired old Commodore Hotel into the shiny new Grand Hyatt Hotel. He did this by buying the Commodore from the bankrupt Penn Central Corp. in 1975 and persuading the city fresh from its own brush with bankruptcy and desperate for development to grant its first tax abatement for commercial property. The Hyatt opened just as the city’s economy revived.
For Trump Tower, a retail-office-apartment complex on Fifth Avenue, Trump used the same formula: buy land cheaply from an eager seller before most people know it’s for sale; line up backers to share the risk; secure generous tax abatements; monitor each detail of construction; promote the result as “one of the world’s great buildings.”
Trump was an early player in Atlantic City, where he built one casino, Trump Plaza, and bought a second, Trump’s Castle. In July he bought Resorts International, giving him a third hotel-casino and a fourth, the Taj Mahal, under construction. When it opens next year the Taj will be twice as large as any other Atlantic City casino and at least $600 million over its original budget of $200 million.
Trump also has been a winner in the stock market, where in the past year he made $122 million buying and selling shares in three companies. Since he claims to have $550 million in ready cash and appears to control about $1 billion in mortgageable real estate, few public companies would be safe if Trump started buying.
As of late, this unreconstructed capitalist has been emerging as a private savior of public works.
By 1986, New York City had spent more than six years trying unsuccessfully to rebuild Central Park’s Wollman Skating Rink with new techniques. Trump, using methods tried and true, did it in six months and under budget; he now operates the rink and another in the park. In Atlantic City, he is scheduled to renovate and operate the state marina, supervise construction of the convention hall and build public housing.
What drives Trump? He says he always was determined to avoid domination by his strong-willed father, Fred. Beyond that, his motivation is basic: “I like to build things.”
The sources of his success are equally elemental: brains, guts and hard work. He also is able to rely on relatives in his organization, including his wife, Ivana, and his brother, Robert, and on loyal, well-paid employees.
His world view makes Darwin’s look wimpish.
“Man is the most vicious of animals,” Trump has said. “And life is a series of battles ending in defeat or victory. You can’t let people make a sucker out of you.”
To some, Trump’s very name has come to suggest glamour, luxury and success.
“The name sells,” Trump says. It sells high rollers on his casinos, shoppers on his pricey retail tenants, and the rootless rich on his million-dollar apartments.
Part of the Trump mystique is his lifestyle, including three homes worth a total of more than $30 million.
The Trumps and their three young children live during the week in a triplex penthouse atop Trump Tower, from which dad rides the elevator 40 stories down to his office each morning.
The family weekends at a Greenwich, Conn., mansion or at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, which has more than 50 bedrooms, more than 30 baths, three bomb shelters and a nine-hole golf course.
And naturally there is the regular table at “21,” the stretch limousine, the helicopter, the 727 with two bedrooms and a sauna. Trump played himself in the television miniseries “I’ll Take Manhattan.”
As if the reality of Donald Trump were not amazing enough, a cloud of hype — origin uncertain — seems to have descended around him.
Trump, for instance, is commonly, and incorrectly, reported to have graduated first in his college class. Trump says he never made any such claim.
Similarly, Trump’s reputation for invincibility is exaggerated. His New Jersey Generals sank along with the United States Football League, and his plan for a domed stadium in Queens is stalled.
Trump’s dreams dwarf even his achievements, and his biggest dream is Television City, a proposed $5 billion complex of apartments, offices, stores and studio space on the upper West Side of Manhattan.
Situated on an old rail yard on the Hudson River, Television City would include the world’s tallest building and a dozen 58-story buildings. Together, these towers would have almost as much space as all the office buildings in downtown Philadelphia.
But almost two years after Trump announced plans for Television City, it still seems a long way off.
When Mayor Koch refused to grant the largest tax abatement in city history for the project, Trump called the mayor, to whose campaigns the Trumps had contributed more than $52,000 since 1981, “incompetent.” Koch called Trump “piggy, piggy, piggy,” and Trump called the mayor “a moron” and demanded his resignation.
Koch has unilaterally called a halt to the feud, saying that while he dislikes Trump personally, “We want him to build (in the city.) Anything that he wants to do will be considered on the merits.”
That could doom Television City. Community groups say it would swamp their already-crowded streets and subway stations, and environmentalists say the additional vehicles would kill the city’s attempts to meet federal air pollution standards.
The Trump camp sounds confident, however. Blanche Sprague says people who ask if Trump will really build the world’s tallest building just don’t understand.
“He has decided he’s going to have it. We don’t think in any other terms,” she says. “We never discuss the world’s tallest building as a possibility. It’s a given.”
November 19, 1987 — Democrats come courting Trump, by Phil Gailey
Donald Trump is tired of seeing the United States being used as a “whipping post” by Iran, which he described as “a horrible, horrible country.” He suggested that the United States should attack Iran “and take over some of their oil.” Trump wants a “tough, smart cookie” leading the nation.
WASHINGTON — The Democrats may be falling in love again. No, their latest heartthrob is not one of their own presidential candidates, but another Republican tycoon of almost mythical proportions.
This time last year some disenchanted Democrats decided that Lee Iacocca, the Chrysler chairman, was the answer to their search for the perfect presidential candidate. But Iacocca proved to be a heartbreaker. He quickly quashed the Draft Iacocca campaign.
Now Democrats are romancing Donald Trump, hoping the 41 -year-old Republican billionaire can be persuaded to help their party raise money. House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas and Rep. Beryl Anthony of Arkansas, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have asked Trump to be host at the 25th annual Democratic Congressional dinner in Washington next March, a major fund-raising event. The host’s job is to bring in as much money as possible.
Trump, who is usually described as a New York real estate magnate, casino owner and corporate raider, keeps saying he has no presidential ambitions of his own. But who’s to say whether charisma-starved Democrats would be able to restrain themselves if Trump came over to their side?
Trump said that although he is honored by the invitation, he doesn’t expect to switch parties, as Anthony is urging him to do. There are some gratifications that money cannot buy, so Trump has taken their fund-raising offer under consideration.
Why Donald Trump? Sure, he has a Midas touch. He has even given Lee Iacocca financial advice. But are Democrats so desperate for money that they have to beg Republicans to raise it for them? Perhaps the real reason is that Trump is both gold and glitter, bluster and hustle.
Anthony said he approached Trump because “he’s young, dynamic and successful” and projects the kind of image the Democratic Party needs to broaden its public appeal.
He may be right. There’s no question that Trump speaks the kind of language that would appeal to many Americans. But it’s the kind of language that the party would never tolerate among its own.
Take, for example, the speech Trump delivered last month to the Rotary Club in Portsmouth, N.H., where he drew a larger audience than any presidential candidate who has been through town.
Trump arrived in his sleek, French-made military helicopter and slipped into his stretch limousine bearing the New York license plate “Regal 5.”
Trump put the hay down where the goats could reach it, and the audience cheered and gave him a standing ovation. Sounding like the TV anchorman in the movie Network, Trump began nearly every sentence with, “I’m tired of . . .”
Donald Trump is tired of seeing the United States being treated like Rodney Dangerfield, getting no respect and “being kicked around” by allies such as Japan and Saudi Arabia. He said these countries have become “the world’s greatest money machines” because the United States has to pick up the tab for their defense.
He is an unabashed Japan basher. Trump said the United States should follow a simple rule: “Whatever Japan wants, do the opposite.”
Trump added, “The Japanese, when they negotiate with us, have long faces. But when the negotiations are over, it is my belief — I’ve never seen this — they laugh like hell.”
Donald Trump is tired of seeing the United States being used as a “whipping post” by Iran, which he described as “a horrible, horrible country.” He suggested that the United States should attack Iran “and take over some of their oil.”
Donald Trump, whose personal fortune is estimated at $3-billion, said he is tired of hearing politicians say higher taxes are the answer to federal budget deficit. His solution is to tax “these countries that are ripping us off left and right” and use the money to pay off the deficit.
“I don’t mean you demand it. But I’ll tell you what folks, there’s a way you can ask them and they will give it, if you have the right person asking.”
Donald Trump is especially tired of the “nice people” running things in Washington. He didn’t call them wimps, but he might as well have. Trump wants a “tough, smart cookie” leading the nation.
“Let somebody be in there who doesn’t just smile nicely, who’s not just shaking hands,” he said. “I want someone in there who knows how to negotiate, because that’s what it’s all about now. And if the right person isn’t in office, you’re going to see a catastrophe in this country in the next four years like you’re never going to believe.”
“I want someone in there who knows how to negotiate, because that’s what it’s all about now. And if the right person isn’t in office, you’re going to see a catastrophe in this country in the next four years like you’re never going to believe.”
Listen to this man. He bailed out of the stock market a week before the October crash.
Can you imagine what would happen to a Democratic presidential candidate who suggested military attacks on Iran and demanded that Japan and other allies pay off the federal budget deficits?
If speaker Wright and congressman Anthony are serious about wanting the Democratic Party to project a Donald Trump image, they shouldn’t just be trying to enlist his services as a fund-raiser. They should persuade him to run for president.
Trump has repeatedly denied that he is interested in changing his address from Trump Towers in Manhattan to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. But he wanted reporters to understand one thing: “I believe that if I did run for president, I’d win.”