Magazine | March 28, 2016, Issue

Trump’s Golden Ticket

Don’t worry, this won’t be as dorky as it sounds. Nerdy, perhaps, but not so dorky. In the fifth Star Trek movie –

Hey, come back! Sit down, don’t worry. This will be painless. In the movie, the USS Enterprise is hijacked for the 493rd time and driven to a remote planet where God lives. (Don’t ask.) God wants a ride to another star system and requests the use of Captain Kirk’s spacecraft. Kirk, detecting the work of some unfathomably vast con artist, asks, “Why does God need a spaceship?” Good question. Here’s another:

Why does a billionaire need to sell vitamin supplements?

Donald Trump did. One hesitates to detail the story of the Trump Network, lest the libel laws be “opened up” by a Supreme Court “bill” (signed by Trump’s sister) and critics of Trump find themselves in So Much Trouble, So Much, I Guarantee It. (This is worse than A Lotta Trouble, I Tell You.) But the details were described by the Boston Globe’s Stat News website, which covers health and science topics, and so far the Globe hasn’t been sued into penury.

It’s like the Trump U story, except you didn’t pay $35,000 to learn secret business tricks like “Buy low, sell high.” The Trump Network sold vitamins, which isn’t unusual — turn on the radio and you will hear someone offering mega-beet super-bee-pollen açaí-kiwi extract with pure cuttlebone-and-fish-oil beta-blocking antioxidant joint relief, packed in a pill as big as a lumberjack’s toe. The Trump difference, however, was his network’s uncanny ability to discern which vitamins you needed. Of course, they couldn’t diagnose you from a distance. You had to give them something.

You had to ship your urine to the Trump Network.

Don’t worry, they provided the vials. No one was expected to FedEx a sponge.

Is this not how all great fortunes are maintained? Pre-paid urine mailers?

It did not end happily, according to Stat News:

“The Trump Network had gotten in trouble financially,” said Bonnie Futrell, a former marketer and “diamond director” — one of the top-tier marketers in the company. “They weren’t being able to pay [the lab]. They weren’t paying vendors. They weren’t paying us.”

Of course, this says nothing about Trump’s business acumen; he just lent his name. (And his crest, which is your guarantee of genuine total Trumposity.) It says nothing about his huge fortune, because lots of billionaires decide that a sideline in multi-level marketing might be the ticket to the next pot of gold — in this case, given what people sent in for analysis, literally a pot of gold. We all know the story of Andrew Carnegie telling his board of directors it was time they branch out from steel into selling small battery-operated shock collars for cats, because “thae be verra, verra disobedient.” (He died, raving, the next day.) And of course there’s the famous story about Bill Gates, riding high on Windows money, deciding to diversify into ever-sharp knives sold at 3 a.m. on TV. This computer thing could go south any day now, but people need knives. Visionaries, all.

So it didn’t work out? It’s not like he was personally involved in the project — well, aside from speaking at the launch in Miami in 2009, where he told a roaring crowd that the product was tremendous and he was tremendous and they were going to be tremendous and you know what tremendous people who were successful had in common? They were tremendously successful. Thank you. He also made a personal testimonial on the Trump Network site, which had links to other great products, like Snazzle Snaxx. These were nutritional snacks for kids. Tremendous snacks, really something, I’m telling you. Not available in stores, as commercials used to say, as if that meant the product was too good for mere retail. You had to buy them from the most trusted source you knew: your sister-in-law, who signed up for this furshlugginer multi-level marketing thing, and now everyone had to buy the stupid snacks to humor her. Before this, it was cayenne colonics. 

Wannabe presidents Huckabee and Ben Carson aren’t exactly strangers to the Miracle Supplement game, either. But neither was involved in a multi-level marketing scheme to sell video phones, another Trump-endorsed business that was tremendous and really, really fantastic. Successful? Well, in some dimension, you can use your video phone to order Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and a seat on the Trump Shuttle, but not this one.

None of this matters, because Trump is strong and smart and will build a wall and activate the anti-Muslim force field and take oil. Mark his words, the oil, it’s going to be taken, okay? So much oil, you won’t believe it. But it is odd to see someone whose brand relies on towering financial success — it would make J. P. Morgan’s testicles wither in shame if he were alive, I’m telling you — be connected to these penny-ante rinky-dink huckster schemes.

On the other hand, if you learned that Bernie Sanders had come out with a line of black support-hose socks to be worn with sandals, you’d almost be relieved: At least he had some knowledge of the business world. At least he’d have learned a thing or two about the effect of high labor costs on the domestic sock industry. He might have realized that a country with 35 types of deodorant is a better place than a country that makes one type, and doesn’t have any, because the government nationalized the factory.

At least Trump tried! Anyway, it all answers the question Kirk posed: Why would God need to hitch a ride to some place? Because someone else paid for the gas, that’s why.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

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