The next US president is not your most important person

By Michael J Aumock   November 5, 2020 | 06:28 pm PT
I had lunch with President Trump when we were both just businessmen.
Michael J Aumock

Michael J Aumock

It was 20 years ago and I was in New York and it was for some charity event. I don’t remember. It was a daylight version of what we used to call a "Rubber Chicken Dinner."

Chicken breast, broccoli, mashed potatoes and gravy and some dessert, usually chocolate mousse or a cheesecake with berry sauce of some sort. Black tie, Black tie optional, gala dinners... blah blah blah the list goes on, much like "The Donald" (as he was known back then) talking about business.

There were 8 or 10 of us at the table. And Mr. Trump was explaining in great detail the opulence of the Trump World Tower which was to open soon after the event.

I shook his hand and he was seated at my table, along with a few other movers and shaker from the era. I think the CEO of was there and maybe Seth Godin? I know I met him somewhere around the same time... but I was living in hotels and traveling 200 days a year, so it all kind of runs together.

I was the Liaison for North America for the Mercedes Benz G-500.

We were basically the manufacturer, importer and distributor of the rare, boxy, hand-built SUV.

And we had a lock. If you wanted one you had to talk to me.

So... at $135,000 plus options, my clientele was pretty exclusive.

Wall street.


Silicon Valley.

And a few media types. I have a few great stories that I’ll tell you if you ever catch me at Benny’s in Phuket, if I can ever get back there for a steak and a Scotch.

So, this is why I was at this particular luncheon... I think we donated the use of a car in the Hamptons for the auction.

As a youngish man in my early 30’s, I found Mr. Trump to be an imposing figure. Considerably taller than me and definitely in control of the table, even though it wasn’t his party.

As I was still learning my way around the upper echelon of the business world, I was eager to hear what he had to say. Sadly, he had zero time for me, and was much more interested in talking to some other guys I didn’t know who expressed interest in one of the penthouses of the new Trump building.

So... I met Donald Trump... and he met me. Nothing else to tell really. I had no idea that he would eventually be president, even though at that time he had toyed with the idea. It didn’t come up over chocolate mousse.

I would pass him on the street several weeks later and say hello, but he walked by with a nod and a smile but kept the conversation going with the person he was walking with. I probably would have done the same thing if I were him.

Then, I was invited to go to the White House.

It was quite an honor.

Over the summer of 2002, I was with one of my best high school friends at his lake house in Virginia, and he had written the first verse of a tribute song for the one-year anniversary of 9/11 which would follow a few months later. He played it for me, and I tweaked some lyrics and added a few more and sang it. We recorded it in his basement. His wife at the time was working as head of the volunteer corps at the White House. The song was pretty good, and she brought a CD into the White House and played it for President Bush... There was some feedback that the president liked it, and that was all... until early December. I got a call that the President wanted us to perform at the White House Christmas Party.

So, I dusted off my tuxedo and went to sing Christmas songs at the White House, a week before Christmas. No rubber chicken, no chocolate mousse. We did four sets, and it was great fun. I did not however, get to meet the President. For some reason he was always in a different room or in a meeting or otherwise occupied. It was a great experience, I met many heads of state and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their families.

Why am I telling you this today?

I’m an American businessman. I live in Vietnam, I have a marina operations/design and yacht company in Ha Long Bay, and my country is having the presidential election today. It might effect some people more than others, but I would remind you all expats, Vietnamese and Americans to look at the people who really impact your day to day life... It isn’t the president, regardless of what the news tells you.

Voters fill ballots at the Kentucky Exposition Center during the election in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. November 3, 2020. Photo by Ruters/Bryan Woolston

Voters fill ballots at the Kentucky Exposition Center during the election in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., November 3, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Bryan Woolston.

I’ve been closer to the president than most people can ever imagine... I’ve been to his house and shared a meal with him.

And I know nothing about the man, for certain.

As the election comes to a close and we are faced with either four more years of Mr. Trump or four years of Mr. Biden, I feel it’s important to remind the people who look at my country with wonder at how we can elect someone like Mr. Trump and remind them that the person who matters most in the world isn’t him, or Putin or Beyonce or the latest K-pop group.

It’s the people you spend your time with, the people in power in your town or village.

It’s the local politician who will bring business to your community.

It’s the mayor and the governor of your district or city.

Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden might make some changes to tax or tariffs or import/export laws... but without the local customs guys and the mayor’s understanding and a little help from the people in my local community, I’ll never even exist in business, let alone have to worry about tariffs or taxes.

So, my advice this election season?

Pay attention in your own back yard.

See how you can participate and understand how your local and provincial governments work and who is responsible for getting things done. That’s the best way to insure a happy day to day life.

*Michael J Aumock is an American businessman operating in Vietnam and some other Southeast Asian markets. The opinions expressed are his own.

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