America has done the unthinkable, electing a man who may run the White House like a casino. Hillary Clinton was the common sense candidate, but democracy is not a logical game. Shell shocked, the media carried out an exhaustive soul searching to explain the cause of this unexpected and against nature election and figure out why their projections were so wrong. Let bygones be bygones. At 70, Donald Trump will become the 45th and oldest president of the United States. He is also the strangest and most oddball of the lot, even by US presidents’ standards.
Trump was elected because a sizeable segment of the American people, mostly living in the flyover states is fed up with the Washington establishment, which is regarded as out of touch, uncaring, and doing nothing for them. In other words, being a political novice was Trump’s comparative advantage. Ironically, to compensate for his lack of political savoir-faire, Trump is now busy recruiting a team of Washington insiders.
If Trump is not the first oddball to move into the White House, he is first real estate tycoon and billionaire to do so. As a brash, ostentatious and tasteless billionaire, one wonders whether he and his extended family will enjoy the quaint coziness of their new abode.
At this stage, only a fortune teller with a crystal ball can tell what the future holds for America and the world. For clues, one can look at some former unconventional American presidents and consider experiences from other countries which were once run by billionaires.
The Trump election brings to mind the case of John Tyler, the 10th American president better known as His Accidency. Unaligned with any political party, his moving into the White House was an accident of sort due to the death of the incumbent, William Harrison after only one month. Lawmakers wanted a new election. Historians consider him in low esteem and his legacy insignificant. He is mainly remembered for escaping an impeachment and having a veto overridden; the first overridden veto of any American president. His claims to fame are his 15 children and the annexation of Texas in 1845. Ironically, His Accidency is responsible for the first Latino migration into America.
Warren Harding is also seen as one of the worse US presidents. Before entering politics at his wife’s urging, the 29th US president was a wealthy newspaper publisher. The Republican candidate won the election in a landslide promising to roll back the progressive legislations of his predecessor; he favored pro-business policies and a limit to immigration. He launched a tax cut program which benefitted the richest segment of the population, and imposed protective tariffs on imports. His presidency was tainted by corruption in his cabinet and by his extramarital affairs. He was a consummate poker player and in one night lost the White House china set. His presidency (1921-23) was cut short by a fatal heart attack.
Chile, Italy and Ukraine have experience in billionaire leaders.
Chile elected Sebastián Piñera (net worth US$ 2.5bn, 2016) in 2010 for a four year term. Piñera comes from a patrician family and Huayna Capac, the last Inca emperor, is one of his ancestors. The soccer club, airline and television tycoon made his fortune in the credit card business. Before taking office he sold his stocks and placed the rest of his business in a blind trust. His term started inauspiciously with a 6.9 earthquake shaking his inauguration ceremony. In 2012, the Economist, the British weekly labeled him an “inept president.” He was famous for his lapses and gaffes. In the United States, he is remembered as the guy who sat down at Barack Obama’s desk in the Oval Office. Apparently the first person to do so. Actually, Piñera could offer Trump his unique expertise in mine rescue. Trump wants to revive the West Virginia run-down coal industry and coal mining is notoriously accident-prone. Piñera is the man who stood on the spotlight while 33 miners were pulled alive to the surface after spending 70 days trapped underground in October 2010.
In 2014, Ukraine elected Petro Poroshenko, the Chocolate King (net worth US$ 1.3bn, 2014) as its president. Pro-western Poroshenko promised to resist further Russian aggression after Putin snatched Crimea and supported the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Putin closed Roshen confectionery factory in Russia and seized its assets. Trump’s bromance with Putin doesn’t augur well for the Ukrainian leader who will certainly be persona non grata in Washington. To aggravate his case, Poroshenco visited Hillary during the campaign. To break the ice, Poroshenco phoned Trump and invited him to visit Ukraine, a greenfield country for luxury hotels.
The third billionaire is Silvio Berlusconi (80 and asset valued at US$ 5.9bn, Forbes, 2016), the on and off Italian prime minister during the period 1994-2011. After Trump’s surprise election, the disgraced former prime minister claimed that they are both cut from the same cloth. There is some truth is this statement as both are consummate salesmen, narcissists with oversized egos, bullies, gaffe prone misogynists and have tacky tastes in everything from women to buildings. Finally, both used their wealth to force the doors of politics without having any formed ideology. The media plaid a critical role in both men’s ascent to power. Berlusconi depended on the support of his media conglomerate, while Trump’s victory stems from the relentless and counter-productive bashing from the media establishment. Under Berlusconi’s leadership Italy became a reality television show. Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s anti Establishment party was more a vehicle for political permanence than political ideology. At the end, Berlusconi lost popular support because he could not deliver on his job creation promises, and Italians got tired of his scandalous lifestyle (remember the infamous bunga parties) and the corruption surrounding his business. There was no fire wall between public goods and Berlusconi’s business interest.
A Berlusconi clone has become the president of a respected democracy relishing its own Brexit moment.
Trump may have outfoxed Hillary, but the chicken usually come home to roost.
P.S. These fellows do not deserve any additional promotion, no pictures.
 Actually there are only 44 presidents, as Grover Cleveland was twice elected for nonconsecutive terms.