There seems to be no limit to former president and current candidate for president Donald Trump’s narcissism. Nor does there appear to be any limit to his quest for cash. In a video posted last week on Truth Social, Trump promised that he would soon make a “major announcement.” Speculation regarding the announcement ranged from his possible return to Twitter, a run for speaker of the House or the formation of a third party to compete with Republicans and Democrats. But the consensus was that the “major announcement” would have something to do with Trump’s announced candidacy for president in 2024.
But that wasn’t it. Instead, the very next day Trump announced an online store to sell $99 digital trading cards of himself as a superhero, a sheriff, an astronaut, a fighter pilot and a mix of other fantastical figures. The 45,000 Trump action figure nonfungible tokens (NFTs) sold out in one day. The estimated haul was $4.45 million, plus a percentage of any later sales on secondary markets. But not a penny of sales proceeds will go to the Trump campaign. Instead, the revenue will go directly into Trump’s pocket.
His NFT sale announcement was classic hucksterism, peppered with traditional Trump self-aggrandizement. Ranging from claims that his years as president were “better than Lincoln, better than Washington” and promising buyers of his NFTs that they would be entered into a series of small-print limited sweepstakes to meet Trump one-on-one, golf at one of his properties or receive a ticket to a gala at a Trump resort, the sales schpiel had all the charm of a Ronco late-night TV pitch for a Vegematic.
Trump critics were gleeful. Supporters were embarrassed. Critics claimed to be vindicated as Trump’s NFT-gate served as further evidence of the man’s self-absorption and lack of seriousness. Supporters struggled to contain themselves and to avoid criticizing Trump himself for the NFT misstep. Instead, they pummeled his “advisers” and urged the firing of whatever clowns orchestrated the whole plan or wrote the embarrassing copy of the Trump sales pitch.
We join the critics. While there is nothing wrong with Trump trying to make money, we still expect a level of dignity and restraint in how the man seeking the highest office in the land conducts himself. We know that Trump has never felt constrained by convention. And we know that he views himself exempt from behavioral or other limitations observed by most others who seek public office. But the over-reaching nature of this effort — with Trump literally promoting himself as a cartoon character just to line his own pockets — seems to go too far.
Nonetheless, given the mounting legal challenges Trump is facing and the extraordinary legal fee charges he will be receiving in the months ahead, maybe it’s not such a bad idea for him to do anything he can to make some money.