The wrecking ball who came to ‘fix’ America
Donald Trump rose to power proposing a simple solution to the United States' deepest problems: himself.
"I alone can fix it," the property tycoon pronounced in 2016 on the day he accepted his Republican Party's nomination to seek the presidency. Four years later, at the end of a first term that convulsed the world, the 74-year-old billionaire showman is seeking reelection.
While polls consistently find that a majority opposes him, Americans who do support Trump express something like adoration. At his large, fervently energetic rallies, the latest chant is simply: "We love you!"
Yet having taken office vowing to end what he called "American carnage," Trump today presides over turmoil, accused by many of breaking, not fixing, a country in greater disarray than at any point since the 1970s.
He is only the third US president to have been impeached. In addition, he faces a torrent of legal probes, ranging from tax issues to accusations of rape and other sexual assault. And to his critics, the wrongdoing runs deeper still.
To those who think the president, who polls suggest has only the narrowest path to victory, is delusional, he has a pithy response: look at 2016.
Back then, many Americans literally laughed at the idea of a Trump White House. With his improbable hairspray-assisted coif, his famed diet of fast food and obsessive television watching, the fast-talking, non-stop-tweeting New Yorker had been seen, at best, as a political circus act.
Yet the neophyte politician defeated Hillary Clinton, a Democratic heavyweight whose victory had seemed all but assured.
This amateur politician correctly put his finger on the national pulse, identifying a historic build-up of working class resentment at years of industrial decline and rapidly spreading liberal social norms.
Being the elite himself, he managed to become the voice of American working class.
Since then, weaponizing Twitter and rallying his red baseball cap wearing MAGA fans in a permanent reelection campaign, Trump went to war not just against critics but almost every US institution.
Heavyweight White House dissenters were abruptly shown the door. Journalists became the "enemy of the people." Intelligence services and the FBI were demonized as the "deep state." Opponents in Congress were variously branded "liar," "crazy" and treasonous.
His support with his core support base only grew despite making more than 16,000 false or misleading statements in the first three years of his administration alone.
He stamped the same brand on the world stage. Throwing out a decades-old emphasis on coalition building, Trump turned US alliances into cut-throat business relationships.
Friendly partners like South Korea, Germany and Canada were accused of trying to "rip us off." By contrast, US foes and rivals like North Korea and China, were invited to negotiate in ground-breaking, if patchy diplomatic initiatives where Trump played the starring role.
Donald John Trump's unlikely journey began June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York City.
He was the fourth of five children born to wealthy real estate developer Fred Trump and Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, a Scottish immigrant.
Sent for toughening up at a private military academy during his high school years, Trump nevertheless enjoyed a gilded youth, ending up with a business degree at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
Joining the family firm, Trump got started with what he called a "very small loan" from his father of $1 million. Some reports put the amount at perhaps 10 times more. Trump took over the firm from 1971, shifting the property business to Manhattan and launching his persona as America's most famous playboy billionaire.
In addition to a stable of high-rise towers, casinos and golf courses, stretching from New Jersey to Mumbai, he eventually became the longtime co-owner of the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty contests.
Behind the sheen of A-lister success, though, lay a tangled record of bankruptcies, lawsuits and eyebrow-raising loans. Trump has gone to great lengths to hide this less glamorous picture, breaking presidential tradition and refusing to release his tax returns.
On November 3, Americans will decide whether to switch off the reality show.
Trump certainly doesn't think they will.
As he once said: "Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken."