Donald Trump will soon take up residence in the White House. For some, this would be a life-changing event. For Donald Trump, this is just another property acquisition in the game he’s been playing his whole “adult” life – Monopoly.
To his credit, The Donald understands that game very well. And although he’ll deny it to his last hot-aired gasp, he knows it depends hugely on luck – the dice you throw and the squares you land on. The Donald got off to a great start because his old man gave him “a small loan” of a few million dollars, with which he was able to go into business. Other people aren’t so lucky; The Donald calls those people “losers.”
Success in Monopoly hinges hugely on (a) the luck to land on desirable properties when they’re unowned, and (b) the good fortune of having cash in hand to buy them on the spot. Capture enough of those properties, along with a few utilities, and you can operate a cash cow empire that milks everyone else as they circle the board.
Admittedly, luck can’t give you control of the entire board, so you do have to make a smart deal every now and again. Even though a broken clock still gets the time right twice a day, let’s give The Donald credit for that. But the core teaching of Monopoly is that, once you’ve captured control of a desired neighborhood, eg, Boardwalk and Park Place, you can double your rents.
We can already seeing this playing out very nicely for The Donald. Before he captured the White House, he’d first acquired the Trump International Hotel Washington. Now he can steer every diplomatic mission into that hotel and charge them astronomical rents every time they come to town to kiss his ring. Because that’s the way the game is played, losers. That’s the way you make America great again, keeping score with money.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, President Vlad “the Impaler” Putin has cut his teeth on a very different game. Admittedly, he enjoys his own game of monopoly (the media, the military, the banks, the government), but he’s also an excellent chess player.
Russians love chess and have fielded more grandmasters than any other country in the world. Kids learn how to play it in grade school, and continue to hone their skills, right up until they graduate from university and go into the KGB or politics. History doesn’t call it “the game of kings” for nothing.
Chess doesn’t thrive on luck, unless you count being pitted against some dummy who can’t think beyond his next two moves, which he will in any event broadcast in advance on Twitter. Winning at chess requires thinking very far ahead. Grandmasters can envision their options, and their multiple-branched consequences, sometimes as many as a dozen moves ahead. The best players know more about their opponent’s potential moves than the poor sucker on the other side of the chessboard.
As of next month, these are the two games we’ll watch unfold over the next few years. The Donald will concentrate on building out his Monopoly empire, holding down Pennsylvania and North Carolina while vainly trying to strike a deal to close on Pacific Avenue. Meanwhile, he’ll dole out the utilities and railroads to his crony Cabinet, and keep a Republican Congress quiet by allowing them to raid the Community Chest. Jail will continue to thrive under the burgeoning prison-for-profit industry model.
We know what The Donald will be doing, because he’s as transparent as a used car salesman on the hustle to meet his end-of-month quota. As for Putin, however, we scarcely have a clue. Between his poker face, his disinclination to telegraph his intentions on Twitter, and his chess-like contemplation of every possible move, both for himself and every other major world player years down the road, he will only reveal himself when the time is right.
Winston Churchill had the same problem with Josef Stalin: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”
Donald Trump, in the world of international politics, is like an out-of-town rube who’s just walked into a “friendly” poker game run by a band of brigands. He’ll be lucky enough to walk away from this with his pants still on, but he’ll leave America on the table…