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Donald Trump, a betting man

| Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

In the 1983 hit movie “Trading Places,” two aging, wealthy brothers decide to settle an argument over whether nature or nurture shapes a person's success. Successful commodity brokers, with too much time, they select two human subjects for their social experiment.

First, they frame the young executive who runs their firm, planting drugs on him, destroying his life. Next, they elevate a street beggar into the executive's vacant position. Then, they sit back and enjoy the havoc, all for sport, having wagered a $1 bet.

In a Business Insider article celebrating the film's 30th anniversary, author Rob Wile said it was “the greatest Wall Street movie ever made.” And any story containing the words “greatest” and “Wall Street” likely is to have caught the eye of Donald Trump.

It is not much of a stretch to imagine Trump, chatting it up with his fancy pals at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach retreat he operates for the super-wealthy. A little wager now and then, just for sport, must be tempting and, of course, any bet would be limited to a dollar.

Maybe Trump bet a dollar that he could destroy the Republican Party, playing the insurgent role, an outsider on a covert mission. Until recently, Trump supported Democrats and their causes. He favored a single-payer national health care system and once was pro-choice. He contributed heavily to Democrats and praised Hillary Clinton.

Maybe Trump bet a dollar that he could make the rest of the Republican field look halfway reasonable. Ted Cruz, much despised and maligned by his fellow Republicans, looks to inherit the Trump mantle, if the gazillionaire stumbles. Cruz, who many Republicans relegate to the crackpot fringe of the party, now might be the only alternative for those “anybody but Trump” Republicans.

Maybe Trump bet a dollar that he could drive RNC Chairman Reince Priebus out of his mind. Imagine waking up every morning as Priebus, not knowing what Trump-inspired chaos will befall traditional Republicans before bedtime. Priebus, who has spent a lifetime climbing the party ladder, had a whole different plan for this presidential race. Now, it's in shambles.

Maybe Trump bet a dollar that he could turn the nation toward fascism, using fear and bigotry to seduce a big chunk of the American electorate, Benito Mussolini-style, to the dark side. Mussolini rallied his supporters with racism, religious intolerance and anti-immigrant policies; those who opposed him publicly were ridiculed and beaten. Like Il Duce, Trump knows that fear is a powerful elixir.

Or maybe Trump simply bet a dollar that he could become president.

When the “Trading Places” experiment concludes, the winning brother says, chuckling, “We took a perfectly useless psychopath ... and turned him into a successful executive. And during the same time, we turned an honest, hardworking man into a violently, deranged, would-be killer!”

But once the brothers' duplicity was discovered, good people took them down. As for Trump, even if this started as a silly bet, he must believe now that he can win it all.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (joemistick.com).

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