“Everybody loves me…The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”
“It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”
“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”
“I’m the least racist person on Earth.”
– A few snippets from Donald J. Trump, Republican nominee for president of the USA.
SB Veda and Sid Atanya
Donald J. Trump for President: The Republican establishment never thought it would come to pass. Last June, when the bombastic demagogue formally announced his candidacy, it was ridiculed by serious members of the party. Now, he is their presidential nominee.
It had been talked about since the nineteen eighties on shows that sell talk (some cheap some reputable): “When are you going to run for President?” Each time, the master of self-promotion said that, though he would make a great president, he didn’t want the job. It was a dirty business – politics, and he wanted no part of it. He preferred continuing to be, as he often would put it, “tremendously successful.” And yet, if anyone embodies the dirty in the campaign 2016, it’s Trump.
In a recent article, an ex-strategist wrote that, indeed, getting the top job was never his plan: he was aiming for a respectable second as a protest candidate, and to increase his personal brand value with vendors like TV networks.
That said, it cannot unfathomable that for a man who has become a public symbol of the power of America’s private wealth – immense personal coffers of cash held by an increasingly fewer proportion of the population (by both parties) – this would be his logical endgame.
Whether planned from the start or not, last week, he moved his pieces far closer to achieving the objective. And, yet, unlike chess, which relies on forethought, strategy, patience and perhaps most importantly, restraint – the Trump campaign has been bizarrely devoid of anything resembling the same. His game is the buy and sell of Monopoly – and the roll of the dice. (Indeed, he marketed his own Monopoly knock off in his slew of ‘Trump’ branded products; and became a casino baron – one of the few to actually fail at it). The dice have landed well for him in politics and now, it seems, he believes it is a manifestation of destiny rather than blind luck.
He is also playing a divisive game of Risk, the language of xenophobia and national superiority has not been without impact.
The hatred spewed by the candidate has repeatedly incited violence. Has he been guilty of hate speech – maybe even the incitement to riot exception to the first amendment of the US Constitution? One might ask the ACLU. But they seem remarkably silent on this. It might, after all, improve Hillary Clinton’s chances in the general if Trump’s antics are unconstrained. But this too is a dangerous calculation by any estimate.
Trump, himself, doesn’t seem troubled by the import of his vitriol.
When two brothers reportedly attacked a 58-year-old Hispanic homeless man in Boston, breaking his nose and urinating on him, in mid-August, 2015, they allegedly told police the victim was targeted due to his ethnicity and added, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.” After the GOP candidate was told of the attack, instead of denouncing the act Trump said his followers were simply being “passionate.” Later, he said he did not condone violence. But it remains telling that he failed to denounce that specific attack.
THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP’S WEALTH
Apparently, Trump made his fortune in real estate. He certainly likes to create the impression that, though obscenely wealthy, he is basically a self-made man. “My father gave me a little money,’ he likes to say – how much? One million dollars back in the late seventies. According to a present day valuation, that would be around four million dollars. Not bad – for a small loan.
Trump says it’s nothing compared to what he’s turned it into. But it’s not as though his father Frederick, was a small businessman. In Queens where young Donald grew up as well as in the outer boroughs of New York City, Trump’s father was a genuine magnate. Born of German immigrants, he made his fortune providing low and medium cost housing to the multitudes of returning GIs after World War II – this too aided by government subsidy. His business flourished during the post-war boom, and by the time his company Elizabeth Trump & Son Co. (as distinct from the successor concern that was subsumed by his son, The Trump Organization) was worth around 250-300 million dollars.
Trump’s small parental loan aside, he inherited much more than a million dollars from his father’s estate. His opponents say it could be as high as $100 million, though more conservative estimates put it at a still extravagant $40 million. Perhaps more significantly (and conveniently ignored by his supporters as well as of the press) is that none of this cash includes any of the benefits Trump received from his family’s connections after he joined his father’s real estate business right out of college.
According to Michael D’Antonio, the author of a recent biography called, The Truth About Trump, the asset from which Trump benefited the most was an enormous economic pool of goodwill in the form of his dad’s credit-worthiness. Says D’Antonio: “When he wanted to go into business on his own, his father’s credit was available to him, and that was worth tens of millions of dollars.” So, now we’re talking at least 10-90 million dollars of credit (again around three to four times that in today’s terms) plus the million dollar the loan and the, at least, 40 million he inherited. Considering all this, Trump’s opponents’ math may well be rather conservative.
After joining his father’s company at age 22, Donald was mentored by Fred Sr., who began his career at the same age. Frederick Trump was a tough business man, frugal (unlike his son) and no stranger to scandal. Investigated by a U.S. Senate committee in 1954 for profiteering from public contracts, including overstating his Beach Haven building charges by US$3.7 million, he was unapologetic. He had done nothing criminal, though quite clearly, had abused the public trust and skimmed an obscenely high measure of tax-payer dollars. His defence sounds eerily similar to his son’s when asked about his four bankruptcies and alleged improprieties of certain other businesses like Trump University.
An analysis of Trump’s business activities reveals that he has actually done a pretty mediocre job increasing his wealth. No “major US company” has filed for bankruptcy protection in the last thirty years more than the Trump Organization, according to CNN Money.
And, SV Date of the National Journal, writes:
Had the celebrity businessman and Republican presidential candidate invested his eventual share of his father’s real-estate company into a mutual fund of S&P 500 stocks in 1974, it would be worth nearly $3 billion today, thanks to the market’s performance over the past four decades. If he’d invested the $200 million that Forbes magazine determined he was worth in 1982 into that index fund, it would have grown to more than $8 billion today.
Of the above, the smaller of the two figures is higher than his net worth as estimated by Federal Election officials. The larger figure is bigger than his estimated net worth by Bloomberg and Forbes by between four to six billion dollars. This is hardly the “genius” track record that Trump touts of himself.
Where he has been extraordinarily successful, though, is in self-promotion. Perhaps nobody has created a brand so inaccurately associated with high standards than the Trump brand. And, we’re not just talking about the steaks. His buildings are his signature asset but instead of using sturdier steel girders, he preferred buying ready-mix concrete at a huge mark-up.
According to Politico, ready-mix was inferior and sold to him by companies controlled by New York Mafioso bosses, Tony “Fat” Salerno and Paul Castellano of the Genovese and Gambino Crime Families, respectively. Writes David Cay Johnston, “But it (ready-mix) must be poured quickly or it will harden in the delivery in truck drums, ruining them as well as creating costly problems with the building itself.” For the luxury-aficionado, Trump, this seems a cheap substitute for the very stuff that holds a building together. Clearly, for the builder, pay-off from the mob in the form of preempting union issues mattered far more than the quality of the buildings themselves.
These are not the actions of a builder; they are that of con-man – snake-oil salesman par excellence.
“The indictment on which Salerno was convicted in 1988 and sent to prison, where he died, listed the nearly $8 million contract for concrete at Trump Plaza, an East Side high-rise apartment building, as one of the acts establishing that S &A was part of a racketeering enterprise,” writes Johnston.
Johnston elaborates in alarming fashion: “The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.”
In 1979, he used illegal non-union Polish immigrants to demolish a building to make way for Trump Tower. As per the mafia agreement, he faced no union issues despite paying the non-union Poles a shameful $4/hour. And yet, where is the press in questioning Trump’s astonishingly hypocritical past, considering candidate Trump’s position on illegal immigrants stealing American jobs? Do they not read books or do research? Perhaps Trump is more masterful than Karl Rove and GW Bush in the art of media manipulation?
Johnston writes that, “Trump knew the Polish brigade was composed of underpaid illegal immigrants and that S&A was a mob-owned firm, according to (union fixer and former FBI informant, Daniel) Sullivan and others.”
“Donald told me that he was having his difficulties and he admitted to me that — seeking my advice — that he had some illegal Polish employees on the job. I reacted by saying to Donald that ‘I think you are nuts,’ Johnston quotes Sullivan as saying both in (now sealed) court testimony and in an interview, later.
Remember Trump Airlines? That was a venture in which Trump with 100% financing from banks, bought the profitable Northeast Air Shuttle from Eastern Airlines – and ran it into the ground – but not before making false claims regarding the safety of competitor Pan Am.
Trump knew next to nothing about the airline business – but having this new toy was a huge boost to his ego. For his part, Trump did design flight attendant uniforms, though. “We had this pretty white blouse that showed a little cleavage,” said Catalano, the former flight attendant. “You can’t have that kind of a uniform. As a flight attendant, you’re bending down or picking things up.”
“Many of us put safety pins in the back to keep them closed,” she added. “They had to change the style after enough of us complained.”
Trump complained that the price of oil and recession of the nineties killed the airline. But he did his part by overpaying for the planes, fitting them up with over-the-top fixtures including cosmetic lights in the bathrooms and automatic faucets – this for forty-five minute shuttle flights for business people. And, then there was his personal life. Going through a messy divorce with Ivana while his mistress, Marla Maples was on the front page of the New York Post talking about Trump’s sexual prowess had alienated many passengers.
The man he hired to run the airline, Bruce Nobles told Trump, “Businesswomen in particular are insulted by this ‘Best sex I ever had’ stuff. He chuckled and said, ‘Yeah, but the guys love it.’”
“But they don’t,” Nobles added. “I had guys tell me they wouldn’t fly on the Trump Shuttle and wouldn’t let anyone else fly there because they didn’t like Donald Trump.”
The litany of his failures is a long list. Trump Vodka failed. Trump Steaks got comically bad reviews. Trump clothing was found to be made in sweat shops in China. Trump University is the subject of a fraud allegations that are on track to be settled in a court room. His finance company closed within a year and a half. And, his monopoly knock-off game was a glorious flop.
And there were charges of racism. Trump’s father was arrested at a KKK rally in 1927, and forty-five years later, the Justice Department filed suit against his company in 1973 for refusing to rent apartments to black people. According to the Village Voice, the Urban League sent white and black testers to apartments owned by Trump. The white applicants received the apartments, while the blacks didn’t.
In a recent article for Fortune, D’Antonio revisited the record of the Trump family on race. In it, he wrote that the Justice Department complaint, which occurred when Nixon was in power (hardly a civil rights leader, himself) “was based on an investigation that found four different Trump employees confirming that applicants for leases were screened by race. One rental agent said Trump’s father had told him not to rent to blacks and that he actually wanted to reduce the number of African Americans in his buildings. Three doormen said they had been instructed to deflect blacks who came to Trump buildings to apply for apartments,” D’Antonio wrote.
Trump was head of his father’s company at the time, and he fought the Justice Department tooth and nail, suing the government for $410 million dollars. He employed the notorious racist mob lawyer, Roy Cohn (who had also been Joe McCarthy’s chief inquisitor during the communist witch hunt of the ‘60s). Trump complained that the Justice department was forcing landlords to rent to ‘welfare recipients,’ then known as a coded word for minorities (even though, the majority of actual welfare recipients were white).
D’antonio points out that this was common-speak among racists. Even the much beloved President Ronald Reagan, when he came to national politics, baited the Nixon-Goldwater right-wingers with labels like, “strapping young buck,” and “welfare queens.’ Reagan’s invention of the mythical welfare queen having over forty social security numbers, collecting Medicaid with a cash income of $150,000, smiling behind the wheel of a Cadillac, helped galvanize a massive white defection from the Democratic Party – 22 percent. They were called the ‘Reagan Democrats’; they may have well been called the Racist Democrats. Had Reagan been president during Trump’s lawsuit, ‘The Donald’ would have found it very favourable. “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so,” Reagan said during the seventies and before he adopted his more subtle racist tone.
Trump’s countersuit was laughed-off by the judge who heard it, saying, it was a “waste of paper.’ Eventually, he settled his case with the Justice Department by agreeing to a protocol intended to address past errors.
Still, Trump’s apparent distaste of being in the company of blacks remained. In the 1980s, the New Yorker reported, black employees were consistently ordered off the floor at one of his Atlantic City casinos when Trump and his first wife, Ivana, were around.
A decade later, his views hadn’t changed – but, brazenly, he’d become more open about them. In a 1991 book by John O’Donnell, who had been president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. O’Donnell quoted Trump saying, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes… Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else…Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that’s guy’s lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks.”
Years later, in a Playboy interview, Trump demonstrated not scintilla of regret for his comments – let alone a denial. He told interviewer, Mark Bowden that O’Donnell’s quotation was, “probably true.”
Trump has tried to mitigate the record by saying he has employed many minorities and that blacks will vote for him because he will create jobs that they want. Those jobs won’t likely be positions of authority in the Trump Organization, though. According to d’Amato, “No black or Hispanic executive has ever played a prominent public role in the Trump business organization. However the foundation run by Eric Trump includes one African American vice president, Lynn Patton, who is described on the foundation website as “senior assistant” to Donald Trump’s three older adult children.”
Trump is openly patronizing in the presence of African Americans. During one rally, in an awkward attempt to tout his support among African Americans, he pointed to a black man in the crowd. “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him,” Trump said.
So, when Donald Trump talks of his life’s path as a continuation of his father’s, he is not only be talking of the business acumen but also of his views on race. This is a family value that was certainly passed down one generation, at least.
Interestingly, Trump’s most famous book, The Art of the Deal, which he likes to say is the best-selling business book ever, actually falsifies his ancestry. In it, Trump writes that he is of Swedish ancestry, a lie his father also liked to tell. Being German doesn’t by a far cry make someone a racists. But why lie about it?
A European colleague of mine who has covered the Trump campaign told me his rallies remind him of what has been read and seen on film about Nazi party. Trump has publicly admired dictators like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadhafi, and Bashar Al Assad. But what about Hitler? According to his first wife, Trump has long been enamored with Hitler, initially, for his skills as a propagandist, which the future reality TV star and presidential candidate was seeking to emulate but later for deeper and more profound reasons.
According to a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that her husband kept a book of Hitler’s speeches near his bed. “Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed … Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939,” Marie Brenner wrote.
HATRED, FEAR AND TRUMP’S HITLER-LIKE RISE
Trump’s campaign of hatred scapegoating and creating an imagined threat, comes right out of Hitler’s playbook.
It’s not just the extreme statements that should be of concern; these comments were dismissed out of hand by serious contenders to the Republican nomination like Jeb Bush. They missed the point – Trump has tapped into something deeper: a hateful xenophobia born of fear The Other.
That he has targeted Mexicans, Latinos and (later) Central and South Americans, brandishing them as rapists, drug dealers, criminals – and later killers – is well known. He has also famously advocated a ban on Muslims entering the country using the fact that the San Bernadino and Orlando attackers were Muslims.
With his own running mate, Mike Pence, saying that a ban based on religion would be unconstitutional, Trump clarified his position during his acceptance speech on Thursday: “We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place, we don’t want them in our country.” Feverish cheering and applause rang out at the phrase that ended the statement.
Trump’s supporters seem spellbound, just as Hitler’s were. At one rally in Chicago, a woman who had immigrated from West Germany, and said, “you know what we did in my day,” stiffened her right hand in a Hitler salute as Trump supporters chanted, “Heil Donald!”
And, they are willing to fight for him. At a rally in Las Vegas in December, one supporter yelled out, “Swig Heil,” as a Black Lives protester was ushered out. The salute means “hail to victory” and is often accompanied by the raising of the right arm. NBC News, which recorded the video of the incident, reports that other supporters yelled “shoot him!,” “kick his ass” and “light the motherfucker on fire” as the man was removed from the rally.
After his supporters kicked and punched a black protester who interrupted his stump speech in Birmingham, Alabama. Trump, himself was unapologetic about the incident. “Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said. After another rally in which he ordered a dissenter out of the hall, he said the security guards were too gentle. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” he said.
Trump has said that people who oppose him are biased against him due to their ethnic background. Case in point: Trump demanded that a federal judge presiding over one of the lawsuits against Trump University recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage. In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over the litigation given that he was “of Mexican heritage” and a member of a Latino lawyers’ association. Curiel is an American citizen by birth – just like DJT.
For Trump, though, being born in the US, is not a litmus test for being ‘American.’ His leadership of the ‘birthers’ who raised doubts about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States is instructive. Even after Obama released his birth certificate, Trump questioned its authenticity. He went on to say that Obama had been a poor student in school, and questioned how he managed to gain admission to Ivy League Universities like Columbia and Harvard. This has been fodder for others. Pat Buchanan has said that Obama’s rise was a result of out-of-control affirmative action.
For Obama, never before has a president been placed under such scrutiny over his birth and path to the White House. His predecessor George W. Bush – a legacy admit to Yale – gleefully championing his ‘C’ student status, actually failed to get into law school in Texas before being admitted to the prestigious Harvard Business School. Nobody talked of the affirmative action of the old boy’s network that got him into his top schools. Of course, Bush wasn’t the first non-white president in history. He is a member of a three generation political and business dynasty.
Trump supports a law denying citizenship to American born persons whose parents had not legally immigrated to the US, which would thereby create two classes of native-born residents: legitimately American born; and illegally born. Noam Chomsky has called this the “nativist movement,” which has been around since the days of Benjamin Franklin to scare Americans against a non-existent foreign threat.
If these seem like fringe views, one should consider that during the Weimar Republic, Adolph Hitler was not viewed by the German political establishment as a serious contender to power. In the 1920s, he was known as something of a clown with his popularity being at only at 3%. In the ‘30s, after the republic had been shell-shocked by punitive war reparations measures imposed on the country, leading to hyper-inflation and widespread poverty, his promises to bring back ‘greatness’ to Germany (make Germany great again…sound familiar) carried resonance.
Still, Hitler and his cronies barely held on to power – until he created the great threat prompted by the Reichstag’s fire allegedly by an immigrant in concert with communists. Many historians say this was a false-flag operation conducted by the Nazi party argue for a suspension of civil liberties and, essentially, make Chancellor Hitler, a dictator.
Trump’s fear-mongering, especially, his citing false statistics about crime in cities, seeks to expand the security state that was started under Bush, and the creation of a wrongfully imagined threat is eerily similar to the Nazi tactic.
The Trump campaign was not unlike his reality television show: he addressed crowds generally without a prepared text; absent was any discussion of actual policy. Instead, he began to hammer at perceived menaces that had pulled America down – and that he – only he – could “Make America great again.”
Like Hitler’s great lies, Trump’s nomination acceptance speech stoked fears, based on falsehoods. He quoted statistics in his acceptance speech that violent crime such as murder is on the rise; in fact, statistics from the FBI show the opposite. But, the candidacy of a demagogue hinges upon creating an atmosphere of continued threat.
The crowd had been warmed up by New York mayor and Trump supporter, Rudy Guliani, who had said of Obama, “He wasn’t brought up the way you or I were brought up – and I was brought up through love of country.” With accusations of racism flying at him, Guliani was bemused. How could he be racist, for wasn’t Obama was raised by a white mother – and therefore not actually be black?
Guliani had one key message for the crowd – BE AFRAID. An oddly marginalized fringe politician even within his own party, Gulani, gesticulated wildly and screamed into the microphone, claiming to speak for the ‘silent majority.’ Ironically, he seemed more like a World Wrestling Federation announcer (though, in fairness, Trump did have one of them speak for him, too).
“The vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe,” he began. “They fear for their children and they fear for themselves.”
Who should the people fear? Because of five attacks on the US and allies, in recent months, the answer is: “Islamic extremist terrorism! You know who you are!” He accused. “And, we’re coming to get you!” he added.
He went on, “If they are at war against us, we should commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them!”
We at the Global Calcuttan are against all forms of extremism…any form of hate against any group. And, crazed comportment aside, Guliani has been, at least consistent. He claims that the Saudis whom most of the Republican and Democratic Party establishments call friends, are similar kinds of extremists, who may have been involved in 9/11. Earlier this year, Guliani, in fairness, revealed he was offered a $10 million check from a Saudi prince in the wake of the 9/11 attacks but did not deposit the funds as the Saudis suggested afterwards that US policies in the Middle East were in part responsible for the attacks.
Guliani even suggested that the Arab kingdom was involved in the attacks. In an impassioned plea in March, the mayor of New York City at the time of the September 11th attacks urged Obama to release 28 pages of a report on the attacks that have been kept secret and are believed to show Saudi involvement in the atrocity.
While Guliani may well have a point in his urgings, his popular Republican fear-mongering statement that Iran is the “World’s largest supporter of terrorism,” is just plain wrong. It’s a nexus between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Pakistan. Targeting Iran suggests that Guliani, who would likely hold a key position in a potential Trump administration still fails to identify the major threats in Islamic countries.
Speaking on the Obama-Iran nuclear power deal, he said, that, “We (meaning the United States) are giving them (meaning Iran) the money to fund the terrorists who are killing us and our allies! We are giving them the money. Are we crazy? ” There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Iran is involved in these attacks. In fact, ISIS, the terrorist organization identified as having inspired most of these tragic events, are Sunni groups opposed to Iran, not even closer – but akin – to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Pakistan in their religious ideology.
“With Iran,’ said Guliani,”meets the original goals of the UN and our allies – a non-nuclear Iran.” Actually, it was John F. Kennedy who said that the original goals of the UN was to bring about total disarmament, the world over – including the Soviet Block and the United States. But, someone killed that guy, so…whatever. I don’t mean to seem glib – but what else can I be.
And, now Guliani et al, love Gadhafi. He claimed that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the “failed policy” that killed Gadhafi and left Libya in chaos. Hello… (I’m being glib again…sorry) what about the Republican President named George W. Bush whom you supported, Rudy, to invade a sovereign nastion, namely Iraq, kill its leader, however hateful, Saddam Hussein, dismantle its army and power structure – and – YES – leave it in chaos. A void filled by ISIS, who, by the way, I think – or rather know by their statements – are responsible for the very attacks that you claim are the reason for America’s fears. Your party, Mr. Giuliani, the president you fail to call-out on this, named by his Saudi benefactors as ‘Bandar Bush’, so close the Saudis you vilify, is responsible for these attacks.
Then, Guliani launched into a tirade on Hillary Clinton and her responsibility the policies above, which resulted in American deaths. People started chanting, “USA..USA…USA!” The thing is he’s not wrong. American and British for that matter, policies have been un-nuanced – in short STUPID. And, this is the crux of Trump’s rise. Hitler rose during a divided Germany, promising a re-emergence of the greatness of the Fatherland. Trump promises the same – Make America Great Again – on the lies of its current leaders. There is a currency to the craziness – and that’s what the Republican establishment underestimated. The Lie of America has gone too far. It’s time for a correction – a SCARY ONE.
Chomsky has correctly identified that, restoring an imagined former greatness (let’s remember America’s economic success was built on the backs of slaves and by causing a virtual genocide on Native American lands – so it is a fiction) is the canard of the racists. Trump has not responded to these claims because the press fails to ask the important questions about his vision, strategy and tactics. And to Chomsky, he’d probably just tell him to put on a Yarmulke and toss him a bag of money to count!
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