I have never wavered in my belief that newspaper publisher Robert Maxwell died at sea in November 1991. Until now. I have come to realise that all those conspiracy theories about his having faked his own death, which I previously dismissed as fantasy, were true after all. Today, I can exclusively reveal that he has resurfaced, somewhat taller and thinner, and sporting a blond wig. He has been hiding in plain sight in Washington DC and has adopted a new name: Donald Trump.
What? You think I’ve taken leave of my senses? Then consider the evidence. Every crazy statement made by the 45th president of the United States, every self-centred pronouncement, every egomaniacal rant, is reminiscent of his actions during his former life as a media magnate.
Admittedly, his disguise has been brilliant. I first had my suspicions during the presidential election campaign. Those boasts, those gaffes, the changes of mind, the denials of reality, the blatant lies, the posturing and the preening, all were part of the Maxwell playbook.
Then there was Trump’s awkward public relationship with his wife, Melania, so similar to Maxwell’s grumpy discomfort when his wife, Betty, was present. Just like Maxwell, Trump also appeared to use his children as political accessories.
So, the signs were there and, as far as I can tell, only one other person prior to me also spotted them. Paul Callan, former Daily Mirror columnist, wrote in January this year about the similarities between the two men.
After noting that Trump was wearing a “poorly cut, shapeless suit and sporting a red tie that seems to reach his knees”, Callan asked:
“What is it about him that strikes a familiar chord? Why is that arrogant pout so familiar? Where have I seem that jaw-jutting hint of belligerence? Or heard the limited vocabulary and the hectoring tone. Or witnessed the growling ego and the glassy stare that means he is not listening to anything you say”.
He was convinced that the man known to us as Captain Bob had become Commander-in-Chief Don. They are one and the same: Maxtrump; Trumpwell; The Bobald.
I consulted some other old Mirror hands and they agreed that the characters of Maxwell and Trump – the arrogance, the narcissism and the immunity from embarrassment – are indistinguishable.
Trump has reproduced all of his Maxwell traits, such as a social gaucheness that amounts to rudeness. His accent is different, but the voice still booms with a misplaced confidence in his own abilities. Make America great? Possibly. Make me great? Definitely?
As with his former persona, he believes that everything he says, at the time he says it, is the truth. Similarly, he believes that when he says the opposite a day later, that’s also the truth. The Bobald is utterly unabashed by the contradiction.
He created Trump Tower where once he had Maxwell House. He built up a vast real estate corporation after previously building a world-wide newspaper and book publishing corporation. In both cases, his finances were and are opaque. Trump has survived at least six bankruptcies. As Maxwell, he chose to jump over the side of his boat in order to feign suicide and avoid bankruptcy.
In both guises, The Bobald believes that every complex problem can be solved by his personal intervention. As Maxwell, he thought he could end the 1984 miners’ strike, famine in Ethiopia and the Middle East conflict by the force of his own personality. As Trump, he has offered simplistic solutions to Islamist terrorism, climate change and immigration.
In his Maxwell period, he had no time for rules, nor does he now. They are for the little people. “The establishment” is scorned. Although noted for being litigious, The Bobald has little time for the law unless it can be used to further his own ends.
And finally – well, almost finally – we must heed the Moscow connection. As Maxwell, who spoke enough Russian to get by, he cosied up to the Kremlin, both in the days of Brezhnev and of Gorbachev.
Maxwell even fantasised that he and Mikhail were each other’s best buddies, not least because of plans (later unrealised) to found a Gorbachev-Maxwell Institute of Technology in Minneapolis.
When I was Mirror editor, he registered his upset about a leading article critical of a decision by the Soviet Union’s president by shouting at me: “Don’t you realise that Gorbachev wouldn’t do anything without ringing me first?”
This set the tone for Trump’s later affiliation with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, whom he repeatedly praised during his campaign. As president-elect, Trump took a phone call from Putin in which he agreed to improve the relationship between the US and Russia.
The Bobald’s belief in his own omniscience, not to mention his own immortality, knows no bounds. Whether as Maxwell or Trump, he can do what no other individual can. He is king-emperor.
But then, dear reader, reality suddenly and sadly, intrudes. My wife reads the above over my shoulder. If Maxwell and Trump are one and the same, she points out, how was it possible that I saw them together in the same room in July 1990?
Of course. When Maxwell was bidding to acquire the New York Daily News, he met Trump and introduced him to my wife, Noreen Taylor, a Mirror feature writer, so that she could conduct an interview.
Much of it involved Trump asking what other people thought of him. But she tells me the interview was cut short because the air conditioning was playing havoc with Trump’s hair. You couldn’t make it up… but, then again, with Trump you don’t have to.
*The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not IPSO*