Mark Cuban hits Trump again: "I think he would be a puppet president"

Between this and the shot he took yesterday, we’re going to end up with either a Trump/Cuban flame war or a Trump/Cuban ticket, just to get Cuban to stop.

Or maybe both. It would feel appropriate somehow if this campaign ended up with Trump and his VP trolling each other in public. Although, if that’s the criteria, I suppose a Trump/Rubio ticket with plenty of “small hands” jibes between the two might be in the offing after all.

Cuban’s criticism here is typically trenchant but, in its own weird way, undermines the #NeverTrump argument.

“From what I see today, I think he would be a puppet president,” Cuban said in an email. “He would be so dependent on everyone around him because of his lack of depth of knowledge and fear of failing, that the quality would be completely dependent on two things: One, what stresses does he run into his first year, two, who does he place around him. He isn’t a problem solver. He will be completely dependent on those around him. And he isn’t good at hiring either. That’s why he puts family (and he gets credit for having such smart, accomplished kids) in so many important positions. That’s not feasible here.

“So if he places the wrong people around him and he is incapable of solving problems, we could see some crazy things happen as Republicans distance themselves and Democrats attack,” he continued. “On the flip side, if he gets the right people in place, we may not know he is there and the Republicans tell him what to do and he does it.”…

“I love the fact that he wasn’t a traditional politician and he shook up politics,” Cuban said “Hate the fact that he hasn’t taken learning what’s needed seriously enough, and he appears to never to have met a lie he didn’t love.”

Two possibilities with a Trump presidency. One is that he remains a loose cannon, lobbing insults at foreign leaders who cross him, demagoging legislators and judges who won’t do what he wants, and pushing the envelope on executive power further than anyone before him. If you’re worried about that, odds are you’re #NeverTrump. But there’s an alternate scenario: He may be so at sea in the job, with such a deep hole of policy knowledge to fill, that he ends up totally dependent on the Republican political class rather than his own yes-men. If he’s faced with a foreign-policy problem, does he dial up one of his people or does he call Condi Rice? If he’s picking a Supreme Court nominee, does he look around for a crony who’ll let him do whatever he wants as president or does he consult the Federalist Society?

He’s already outsourcing the day-to-day operations of his campaign to the RNC. If that works out, it’d be the easiest, most logical thing to follow the same playbook and take the RNC’s advice on hiring once he’s in charge of the executive branch. Many Trump critics seem to think that he’s less interested in the presidency itself than simply showing the world that he’s smart enough to outwit the professionals by winning the election. If that’s true and he ends up disinterested in the nuts and bolts of the job then Cuban’s “puppet” theory becomes more plausible. And the more plausible it is, the weaker the #NeverTrump argument gets. If all Trump’s going to do in office is defer to the pros in the GOP then it’s silly not to prefer him strongly to Hillary. You’re going to get a more or less traditional Republican government, not some destabilizing strongman. That’s much better than Clinton 2.0.

The thing is, there’s no way to know which way he’ll go until he has the nuclear codes in hand. And to the extent he signals he’s going to go Cuban’s “puppet” route rather than #NeverTrump’s “loose cannon” route, the fans who actually want him to be a loose cannon might waver. He’s better off playing both roles in the general election, doing a little loose-cannon shtick here for his populist fans and a little traditional-Republican shtick there for everyone else, to convince voters on all sides that he’ll govern the way they’re hoping. He’s a whiz at turning perceptions that he’s two-faced to his advantage. This is just one more way.

I think Trump’s damned lucky that Cuban decided to pass on an independent bid, though. He’s one of the few people in the United States with the bank to make a serious national run. He has high name recognition thanks to “Shark Tank” and he’s good in interviews. He’s libertarian enough to peel off some right-wingers but centrist enough to convince other voters that he’s “sensible” rather than an ideologue. He’s clearly got a knack for needling Trump too. If he had gotten in early and dropped $500 million on the race, no doubt with plenty of help from entrepreneur friends, to raise his profile, could he have fashioned a swath of anti-Trump righties and anti-Hillary centrists into a coalition that made him competitive with the two nominees? I can imagine it. Too bad.