The Trump tease

Donald Trump Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Prospective Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told a Florida crowd last weekend, "If I run and win, our country will be respected again."

Making only his second public political appearance of the nascent 2012 presidential election cycle -- the first was February's Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington, D.C.--the real estate mogul, book author, and "reality TV" host promised, "I will create jobs, I will bring jobs back home."

Trump's well-received weekend speech at the anti-tax Tea Party rally in Boca Raton--on the eve of this year's federal tax filing deadline--came as Trump's flirtation with a White House run reaches a fever pitch.

Though he hasn't launched an official campaign committee, like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty did in recent weeks, and as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to do in the coming weeks, Trump says he envisions his name on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the grounds of his Palm Beach estate Friday night, Trump told reporters his motivation was to see Barack Obama removed from office.

"He's just not a good leader," Trump said. Calling Obama's signature legislative achievement - health insurance reform-- a "total disaster," Trump predicted at the rally that Obama will "most certainly go down as the worst President in the history of the United States."

If you want to know when the master self-promoter will announce whether he will really try to tell Obama "You're Fired!," you could appropriately tune into the May 22nd season finale of his "Celebrity Apprentice" on NBC. On that broadcast, Trump is expected to reveal only the time and place of a press conference where he will finally reveal his presidential intentions.

A great sense of deja vu fuels my gut feeling that the odds of this being a publicity stunt outweigh the likelihood of a Candidate Trump.

After all all, this is not the first time Trump claimed he was seriously considering a White House run. As the 2000 race approached, Trump said he was willing to spend $100 million of his own fortune as a self-financed Independent candidate, perhaps under the Reform Party banner previously carried by fellow billionaire Ross Perot. To add an aura of credibility, Trump even hired long-time Republican operative Roger Stone as a campaign advisor.

Trump publicly pontificated about luring talk show impresario Oprah Winfrey as his running mate, and if victorious, appointing retired General Colin Powell at the State Department, ex-General Electric CEO Jack Welch as Treasury, Senator John McCain at Defense, and (since disgraced) Congressman Charlie Rangel as Housing Secretary.

When Frank Buckley and I interviewed The Donald for CNN in his Trump Tower office back in November 1999, he proffered that his big issue was the national debt and unveiled an economic plan featuring a one-time 14.25% tax on people who with a net worth of $10 million.

"This is really taxing the rich by a very rich guy," Trump told us. It would raise close to $6 trillion, he forecast. And as a trade off for those rich taxpayers, Trump said, he would advocate eliminating the inheritance tax.

Economists pilloried the plan. One called it a hair-brained scheme that could crash the stock market as the wealthy dumped shares to reduce their net worth.

Trump's presidential campaign never got off the ground.

Fast forward five years - and Trump seemed to offer himself as a white knight to solve the slow rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. He staged a press conference in the Trump Tower lobby to trash the master plan by Daniel Liebiskind, chosen two years earlier after an international competition, which featured a 1,776 foot torqued glass-and-steel office tower and a 4.5-acre area for a 9/11 memorial. Trump said the icon tower looked like "a skeleton" and the plan, "a junkyard."

Instead, Trump aligned himself with an extreme camp favoring rebuilding the Twin Towers just as they had stood. "If something happened to the Statue of Liberty, you wouldn't rebuild it as something other than the Statue of Liberty," he said.

Trump promised to unveil the full design the next day, yes....on that season's finale of "The Apprentice."

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger told me that day, "I think the challenge of Ground Zero goes beyond anyone's individual ego, and the problem of Donald Trump is he's never gone beyond his own individual ego."

It takes a healthy ego to run for President, but you could argue, if past is prologue, Trump's main agenda is PR for Donald Trump.

See also:

What has Trump's presidential flirtation meant for "The Apprentice" ratings?

Donald Trump's Celebrity Politician show

Donald Trump called "tax-hiking liberal" for past positions