When it came time for me to stop working full-time, I was terrified. What would I do with my empty days, my unattained goals, my hard-earned skills? The answer: not much. I chose, like many retirees, to relax and enjoy life.
I don’t think our soon-to-be former president will see it that way. He won’t even admit he’s retiring in a few weeks. So what’s he going to do after that? Here are some possibilities:
• Get re-elected. Donald Trump is expected to launch his 2024 presidential campaign any day now. That move might scare away a few other Republicans hopefuls. But he’ll be 78 by then and is not in the best of shape even now. Besides, he will officially be a loser, with lots of ambitious rivals to remind us of that status. A second term? Ain’t gonna happen.
• Have a party. Having transformed the GOP into his personal flash mob, the outgoing president is unlikely to relinquish that tool. His hand-plucked party chair, Ronna McDaniel, is likely to win re-election to that post in January. But if Republicans are to regain their soul — and win majorities in a country trending young, non-white and worried about inequality and climate change — new blood is needed. The Party of Lincoln must become the party of LinkedIn, not the party of Trump.
• Go to jail. The outgoing president is under investigation in New York for tax fraud and other financial sins. A new, Biden-run Justice Department could easily find federal crimes to prosecute. Of course, Trump could resign and have Vice President Pence pardon him, but that would not cover the New York prosecutions. The outgoing president could also try to pardon himself. But the legality would be iffy, and the public backlash could well undermine his 2024 plans. He does, however, have one fact on his side: In America, rich white guys rarely get prison time.
• Start a network. The outgoing president is angry with Fox News, apparently for excessive veracity regarding the election, and he’d probably love to become a TV or online news mogul himself — either by starting his own right-wing network or by acquiring an upstart like Newsmax or OANN. It’s more likely that Fox proprietor Rupert Murdoch, fearful of such competition, would instead hire him as an overpaid host and commentator. After all, running a media company involves actual work. Trump would rather play golf.
• Become a golf pro. Hey, he’s already club champion at his own courses, even some he has never played. He enjoys the sport; this way he could enjoy it more. Besides, former presidents are entitled to Secret Service protection. And every time he visits one of his golf resorts, the government will be paying him to house the agents — as it has for the past four years.
• Become a memory. As someone who values public attention, the outgoing president may be surprised to learn that Americans have short attention spans. Ask Sarah Palin, who was once a rising Republican star — until she lost an election and became just another out-of-work celebrity.
• Make money. The outgoing president would still be able to draw big crowds, so look for him to continue his trademark rallies — now with admission fees. He’ll also make well-remunerated speeches, endorse products and maybe sell things online, like vitamins and gold coins.
• Create drama. The outgoing president will almost surely try to reassert control over his real estate empire. His kids have been running it for four years and seem to enjoy the independence. Have you seen the HBO series “Succession,” about an aging tycoon and his scheming kids? This could be even better.
• Go bankrupt. The outgoing president has done it before. Now, he’s facing nearly $1 billion in debt. His biggest creditor, Deutsche Bank, has announced that it plans to sell $340 million of that on the secondary market. So far no takers.
• Face me. With little demand for that dumped debt, which comes due over the next couple of years, the price will likely plunge. I might follow the example of “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver and buy some of it, for pennies on the dollar. In 2016, Oliver picked up $15 million in medical debt on the secondary market for a mere $60,000 — and then forgave it. I will not be so generous. That would present the outgoing president with three choices: go bankrupt again (not a good look for a 2024 candidate), pay up (unlikely, given the state of his finances) or negotiate a settlement. With me.
I look forward to our talks. We can reminisce, reflect on our triumphs and mistakes, trade pictures of our grandkids. And we’ll have plenty of time for those chats. After all, we’ll both be retired.