What would you guess sentient Internet comment and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would say is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world?
Real Estate is, of course, Trump’s primary business. It is the keystone of his fortune and his greatest claim to fame (which is, of course, his secondary business). His 1987 book The Art of the Deal, an apocryphon of his prowess in negotiating multimillion-dollar deals like the one to build the garishly appointed Trump Tower, climbed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, knocking the formidable Dave Barry Is Still Definitely Not Making This Up and Garfield Gets Feline Diabetes down to #2 and #3 and stayed there for 14 weeks until it was knocked out by Losing Weight the Oprah Way. He is a self-professed expert in his field.
After squirming his way into the New York tabloids through his big Real Estate deals in the ’80s and his affinity for bejeweled bottle blondes, Trump was able to parlay that small bit of fame into bigger fame, and that bigger fame into a bigger brand. It’s often said that for all his triumphs in Real Estate, Trump’s true genius lies in Brand Marketing, having slapped his name on everything from steaks to bottled water to an online university.
So what is Trump’s dearest real estate asset? Is it Trump Tower? The Trump Taj Mahal? His Mar-A-Lago Florida estate? His winery? One of his many golf courses? The high-tech underground lair where his hairpiece is constructed anew each morning?
Given Trump’s well-known affinity for social media, his boundless vanity, and his demonstrated compulsive need to win at all costs no matter how small the stakes, I’d submit that the most important real estate to Trump is the virtual kind: the @donaldtrump handle on Twitter, with a little blue √.
As you, one of Trump’s 8.3 million followers, are probably aware, he uses the handle @realDonaldTrump. And this, I believe, calls all of Trump’s claims of negotiating skill, good judgement and foresight into question, and should be a central issue in the coming general campaign.
Because there is no plausible explanation for the fact that Donald Trump, Brand Marketing Genius, is settling for using the decidedly gauche, off-brand, aftermarket @realDonaldTrump, except that he was outnegotiated, quite possibly by the kind of cybersquatting shut-in who couldn’t negotiate a four-way stop sign.
It all seems so straightforward: Trump discovers Twitter. After 1.4 seconds’ deliberation, he decides it is his Destiny, and begins to create an account. But wait! @donaldtrump is taken!
This is the moment where any self-respecting Master of Negotiation would crack his knuckles over his head and start barking into the nearest gold-veneered speakerphone until @donaldtrump was his. More than likely said Master would wrap it up before lunchtime with a check that wouldn’t even buy a parking space in one of his cheaper buildings.
But that is not what @realDonaldTrump apparently did. One presumes that he made some kind of offer, and one further presumes that it was turned down by whoever held @donaldtrump. As Trump himself would be the first to tell you, this is the normal course of negotiating: in the natural order of things, Trump would counter with a slightly higher offer, the seller would fire back with something a bit higher, and on it would go until an agreement was reached. The evidence would suggest, however, that at some point in the back and forth Mr. Trump walked away from the table, either because he thought the price was too high or because he was too proud to pay it, or maybe the seller insulted his hair or his hands or god knows what.
Trump claims to be worth $10 billion. He tweets roughly a million times a day to an audience of over 8 million. The psychic value of having your exact name be your Twitter handle, to a person like Trump, cannot be overstated. If he paid a million dollars for it, I would consider that reasonable, and I think it’s fair to say that if he had offered it, that offer would have been accepted.
(Just to be clear, I don’t think a million dollars would be reasonable for me to pay for @alexcastle, because I am not famous, I only have 300 Twitter followers, I don’t have any product lines with my name on them, and I only remember to tweet once or twice a month. For me, it would be a ridiculous waste of money. For a billionaire who would probably live tweet his own impeachment, who never misses an opportunity for crass self-promotion even in the context of a presidential campaign, a million dollars seems right in line.)
I did a little googling on this and one of the high-water examples of someone paying top dollar for a Twitter handle and found that Chase bank — you know, that Chase bank — paid a dude named Chase Something O’Rother the shocking sum of $20,000 for @chase.
I saw someone buy a meatball sandwich from Geraldo Rivera for $20,000 on Celebrity Apprentice once. It’s really not that much money is what I’m saying.
And it’s not as though he got outhustled by some kind of well-funded social media genius: whoever holds @donaldtrump only has 5,500 followers and has never tweeted from the handle; @donaldjtrump, which is the way Trump appears to prefer his name be presented (that J. really confers gravitas) is a suspended account.
Is this really the savvy dealmaker we want negotiating with Putin? How are we to believe he would be able to get any concessions at all from China or Mexico, as he has ceaselessly promised, when he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) secure his own Twitter handle? Say what you want about the other candidates, run down their business or foreign policy cred all you want — at least they didn’t settle for @theberniesanders802 or @clintonhillaryclinton.