Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It is suggested by the tabloids and cable news that he may be Donald Trump, although I have another candidate, me. I started thinking about Donald Trump yesterday, something I try not to do too often, but since he first appeared on the scene the Donald has been my private addiction. I managed to control it throughout his television glory days when he went about firing aspiring Trumpeteers. My way to stay Donald free was by never watching the show. But you can't avoid him and his works if you live in New York City. He is the force behind all those Trump Towers that look like hotels in Dubai built to hold Michael Jackson in exile, all brass, glass, and crass. He alone gives classy a very bad name, although I doubt if it ever had a good name. First, let me admit, I am deeply jealous of this man. He has a genius for making money denied to me and my kind. If he goes broke banks turn into forklifts, filling the hole by pouring millions into his enterprises, lifting them up to solvency and profit by the sheer power of his indebtedness. You and me, we go broke, and we get broker. But it cannot be denied that there is something about this man that engages so many otherwise decent, sentient people in America. He is that old rags to riches story with the new twist, inherit a lot, and with enough cunning become a billionaire. The New York Times has been obsessed of late with the new billionaires who put the old millionaires to shame, giving them more ink than Brangelina. It is, I suppose, a new form of penis envy on the part of its editors. They are telling us that size does matter when it comes to wealth. All of which brings me back to Trump.
It appears that Trump is the owner of something called the Miss USA franchise, a competition dedicated to taking gorgeous, blond, intellectually fragile Southern girls with a predilection for public blubbering, and giving them fancy gold crowns, thereby making them the spokeswomen for their generation of gorgeous, blond, intellectually fragile Southern girls who also like to blubber. This year the current reigning beauty, one Tara O'Connor, was reportedly caught indulging in some Hilton-Lohan-Spears type antics when the world knows that she should have been ruling her subjects with the austere dignity of Queen Elizabeth II. Let us leave it to the tabloids to hint at the kind of snorting and cavorting that put Miss O'Connor's title at risk, but now after a tearful press interview, in which the Donald mercifully allowed a repentant Tara to keep her crown, she is banished by him to celebrity rehab - that world somewhere between Oz and Kansas where Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and probably Judith Reagan will assist the fragile beauty queen in regaining her sobriety and her kingdom. Her home town rejoiced at the Donald's compassion for a sweet young girl led astray by the big city, and America is rooting for a happy outcome for this beleaguered beauty, while honoring Donald for his kindness.
What is most remarkable about this is to find the Donald the new arbiter of American manners and morals. The much married Trump, he of the big hair, the chubby cheeks, the snazzy suits and the shiny ties, has never concealed his own predilection for pretty young women, and more millions. No crime in that, or in his pursuit of more and more wealth. But now, at Christmas, he presents himself as the mentor and savior of the young, rather than their exploiter, and America appears to be buying it. All of which proves that there is no such thing as too much greed, bad taste, or lust...for publicity.
By contrast, I spent the morning visiting my nephew John who is recovering from cancer surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering. John, a new, first time father, was one of the firemen heroes who worked at the cleanup of the World Trade Center, and later volunteered to help in New Orleans after Katrina hit. Still a young man, his illness resulted from his exposure to the pollutants at these sites. John is modest, brave, and for me the anti-Trump, one of the many who are capable of doing good works without a spotlight shining on them. Very few of us could stand up well in contrast to John, and I know I am not being fair to the Donald, but if Donald Trump is now considered the George Bailey of our time, saving poor souls like Miss USA, then I am obliged to finally confess that I am Santa Claus. And it's a wonderful life. Happy Holidays.