(Update: see counter-comment from Donald Payne's old college classmate, Lee M. Cassidy, after Payne's comments.) Takeover artist Carl Icahn, real estate investor Thomas J. Barrack Jr. and Texas banker Andy Beal are among the big-league private investors who are backing Donald Trump for President, arguing that America needs a businessman, and a lack of Washington experience could prove a virtue.
Yesterday's results, in which Trump swept Republican voters in rich as well as poor communtiies, suggests there are a lot more Trump supporters among corporate managers and professionals -- people like Donald J. Payne, former President of Dunbar, the largest U.S. independent armored-car service; EVP at Brink's, the largest corporate armored-car company worldwide; he is also a former IBM manager and three-time start-up CEO. (Corrected)
A New York native and registered Independent now retired to Maryland, Payne claims "no intimate knowledge of Donald Trump." Rather he's drawn to Trump by disgust at the Bush and Obama Presidencies -- and by "what Trump represents," or doesn't represent: "He's not a political hack," unlike candidates of "both parties in Washington, D.C."
Trump articulates Payne's own disgust "as far as what's going on in our country. I saw the demise of the banking system, and I see nobody has paid anything, as far as incarceration and penalties, in terms of what they did." Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have forced banks to pay back billions for bad loans -- but, unlike in the S&L crisis of the late 1980s and other financial shocks, this time the individuals who lied about the bad loans in the first place haven't been prosecuted: "It doesn't make any sense to me."
Payne is likewise shocked by the failure to hold leaders accountable for the false pretenses that led us to war in Iraq and neighboring countries: "I remember seeing Colin Powell at the UN with a chalkboard saying 'Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.' It was complete fraud."
He is disgusted by the Obama adminstration's promises of healthcare-cost containment, and subsidies to favored industries like solar energy: "I have no use for the Bush Adminstration or the Obama Adminstration" or what he regards as their "broken promises. It's crazy."
Will Trump be any better? "Trump represents someone who is a fresh page of history. I see him as somebody who can go in and do things differently and make things come back to normal again. It's what he represents."
Not necessarily Trump "the person," Payne adds. "There are things he does that I'm appalled at. The language he uses.
"But I understand what he's doing. He's appealing to the hearts and minds of the people. He's brought out more people than Romney and McCain.
"I think he's going to clean up his act and become more Presidential."
Do hotels, casinos, reality TV really prepare a leader to run armies, force favorable trade arrangements with foreign powers, reform entrenched bureaucracies, streamline taxes and smarten job-creation incentives? "I see the empire he's put together," Payne said. "Having been in business and created jobs for people, I know what it is to create jobs and to negotiate contracts. He's doing better than I could.
"He built an empire. You can't do that without having people who you trust and who have a lot of talent.
"I don't know that he, personally, can do it. He can assemble a team that would be very benefiical to the country."
I reminded him how Obama had met, soon after his election, with Dow Chemical boss Andrew Liveris, DuPont chief Ellen Kullman and other manufacturers who said they could move factories back to the U.S. in exchange for corporate tax cuts and simiplifications, health insurance and pension rationalization and other reforms.
Obama advocated some of those changes, but they mostly haven't happened; after 2010 the Republican Congress has fought Obama's every major move; what makes him think Trump would be more successful?
"Obama had a chance with his Senate and House in his first term. He didn't do it," Payne said. "Bush made promises," but failed to prevent investment banks from overextending themselves, failing, and dragging down employees, borrowers, investors, the 2008 economy.
"If I'd managed like that, my Board of Directors would have had me outside in a heartbeat," Payne said. "People should have lost their jobs and pensions for that," and Trump is right to say so.
The way he sees it -- the way some other business people see it -- the current generation of mainstream Democrats and Republicans have wrecked too many things and failed to punish anyone. So Payne is for change, which looks like Trump, who has at least managed to build his personal fortune by finding and managing reliable people.
"I hope change is good," Payne concluded.
As noted above, I met Payne through Lee M. Cassidy, a longtime reader. Now retired from DuPont Co. and living in Haverford, Pa., Cassidy respectfully but firmly disagrees with his old classmate about business as a training ground for the Presidency, and about Trump. Cassidy writes:
My friend Don Payne , like many current and former businessmen, believes that business principles translate to better government.
My experience in both business and government, including running a White House exchange program (Carter Administration) between business and government, tells me that few business executives really understand that government is very different.
Herbert Hoover, for example was a highly successful businessman, [but] a disaster as President. Eisenhower complained that, as a general, his orders were immediately followed, but as President, his staffs
pointed out that laws, Congress, and the bureaucracy stood between his orders and action.
Don [once] told me that reducing expenses was a simple business decision. I pointed out that Presidents do not have that power, and the opposition to Obama of the Republicans in Congress represent... that limit.
There is little question, certainly not in my mind, that the country is not operating well for a majority of its citizens.
Bernie Sanders has drawn huge crowds telling that message. But the messenger is not necessarily the best person to carry out his programs, and I believe Sanders is not qualified by experience or personality to be President. Donald Trump is even less qualified. Sanders at least has been an elected official [mayor and U.S. Senator] for many years.
There are legitimate questions about Hillary's style and even her truthfulness. But as to being prepared by ability, training and experience, she is almost certainly the best qualified person to be President since John Quincy Adams.