THE BLOG
11/28/2016 10:53 am ET Updated Nov 29, 2017

Separating Trump From His Brand Is Like Separating A Shark From The Ocean

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Call it a unique presidency, even before it begins, and look on the bright side: should President Donald Trump ever have to pay a visit to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he'll be able to put up his feet and relax at the soaring Trump Towers Istanbul. He'll undoubtedly be joined there by his national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a paid lobbyist for a Turkish-American business group, who recently wrote a column (without mentioning that gig) calling for closer ties to Erdogan's Turkey and for the deportation of a cleric living in the U.S. whom the prime minister accuses of launching a coup against him.

Better still, such advantages from a Trump presidency won't be restricted to Turkey. Take India, where Trump Towers Mumbai ("a jewel not just in the city's skyline, but in the Trump Crown") is now under construction. Only last week, the president-elect met with the three developers of another Indian project, Trump Tower Pune: "23-story black-glass pillars" housing $2 million apartments in "a quiet industrial city in the west of India." Those Indian businessmen flew to New York and met The Donald at Trump Tower to celebrate his election victory and the likelihood that it would increase the project's value. ("'We will see a tremendous jump in valuation in terms of the second tower,' said Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Mr. Trump's organization make inroads into the Indian market five years ago.") In that meeting, the president-elect also reportedly praised the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After all, why not mix business and global politics? And mind you, those are just two of the five Trump projects (worth $1.5 billion) in that country.

There are also, of course, the elite golf courses in Ireland and Scotland, not to speak of the luxury resort now under development in Indonesia and the possible hotel project (little is known about it) in Saudi Arabia's second largest city, Jiddah. And don't forget other branded projects in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the Philippines, South Korea, and elsewhere, to say nothing of the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, which the candidate plugged hard during the campaign and which is already a roosting spot for foreign diplomats.

And then, of course, there was that $10,000 bracelet, part of her jewelry line, that daughter Ivanka wore to the president-elect's post-election interview on 60 Minutes and which was soon being plugged as a must-buy by her business associates. But look, none of this should be surprising. Trump is a family man in every sense of the word. His business is a family business. No matter what anyone tells you, there's no more way to separate him from his brand, with his kids running it, than there is to separate a shark from the ocean or Ivanka from her line of jewelry. There's no way this administration can be anything but a walking, talking conflict of interest of a kind never before seen or even imagined in this country. It's easy, in fact, to guarantee one thing: that foreign business and political interests will have a field day when it comes to applying pressure to the new American president. (The Clinton Foundation? Hey, you're talking chicken feed or shark bait by comparison!)

And here's a sign of the times: the president-elect has taken to calling his latest cabinet and other appointments "deals." ("We made a couple of deals, but we'll let you know soon.") Trump clearly doesn't even want to move into the White House full time, so count on Manhattan's Trump Tower, the crown jewel of his empire of towers, being the real White House, with his Mar-a-Lago and Bedminister golf clubs as his true homes away from home. In fact, the new first lady (or perhaps we should call her the "first lady once removed") doesn't plan to move to Pennsylvania Avenue any time soon, if at all, an act unparalleled since the days of Martha Washington when the White House had yet to be built. But don't think that means that august building will be useless. After all, hasn't it always looked to you like some kind of elaborate TV set? Under the circumstances, it probably won't surprise you that, even before he launched his bid for the presidency, Trump was already dreaming about (and had consulted at least one NBC executive about) continuing The Apprentice there, which in a way is what he's done during his administration's ongoing staffing spectacle. ("You're hired!")

With all this in mind, TomDispatch's Nick Turse took a little trip to New York's version of the White House to get a taste of what the new age of Trump might feel like firsthand. Check it out in "The Manhattan White House, the Secret Service, and the Painted Bikini Lady."