Archive for the ‘Trump’ Category

Trump – a Joker, a Welsher, and a Crook

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

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Donald Trump nearly went personally bankrupt in the early 90’s as his casino empire collapsed.  Bankers forced him to give up his majority holdings in four properties, sell his yacht, and his airline.

He rebuilt his casino/real estate empire only to see it collapse again in 2004 and 2009.  As part of the 2004 bankruptcy, Deutsche Bank revealed that they had loaned Trump’s company $40M backed by his personal guarantee that included his own estimate that he was worth $3.5B.  The bank and the court discovered that he was only worth $788M.  He later defaulted on that loan and sued the bank. They settled in 2010 with Trump getting a 5 year extension to pay back the loan.  It is unclear whether than obligation was satisfied, but the bank has provided Trump other loans since.

What’s important about these timelines is that Trump’s business model changed in 2004 when he started a new business as a celebrity on the long running Apprentice series.  Trump reported that NBC paid him more than $200M over 14 seasons to appear on the show.  NBC said multiple times that those figures were “grossly inaccurate and … significantly overstated”.  But this was only one of the whole host of celebrity endorsements that Trump was making.  The problem is that celebrity endorsements simply don’t bring in the same cash that real estate does, but they also don’t require nearly the same amount of upfront cash.  So it appears that Trump began to suffer from a cash flow short fall between the costs of his lifestyle (needed to support his endorsement business) and the income that lifestyle was generating.

He did the same thing most every other family in the country does when that happens.  He took some money out of the piggy bank.  In this case the piggy bank was his personal foundation.

The Washington Post recently documented that he withdrew roughly $258M from his charitable foundation to pay his own personal bills.

Now you might say that this was his own money, after all, and he should be able to do whatever he wants with it, but that’s not how charitable foundations work.  Trump got a tax deduction for the money that he donated to this charity.  Taking money back out to pay his own expenses constitutes fraud and violates federal rules against “self-dealing”.

To make matters worse, he wasn’t even taking out his own money.  He had pretty much run his foundation dry of his own money by 2006, leaving it with just $4,238 at year’s end, according to tax records.  He made small donations in 2007 and 2008.  Everything after that was other people’s money.  Other people who were making donations to his charity in order to ingratiate themselves to him.

Hillary Clinton has been accused of selling access to the State Department in return for large donations to her family’s charity.  The difference is that the Clinton foundation used those donations to fight AIDs.  The Trump foundation used access to Trump to secure large donations, but then used some of that money to pay Trump’s bills.

Here’s how he used that money.

In 2007, he settled a dispute with Palm Beach over the size of a flagpole at his Mar-a-Lago Club.  The original unpaid fines for the zoning violation totaled $120,000.  Trump settled with the city by offering to make a $100,000 donation to a veteran’s charity.  Rather than write the check, the donation came from his charity.

In another case in 2010, Trump was offering a $1M prize during a charity golf outing at a Trump golf course for anyone who had a hole in one.  Martin Greenberg won the prize.  The small print on the rules said that the golf ball had to travel at least 150 yards.  The hole where this challenge was set up was deliberately less than that.  Greenberg sued Trump’s club, the charity of former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, which was also hosting the tournament, as well as the insurance company that had underwritten the prize.

Eventually, Trump’s club and Greenberg settled the case, with the course agreeing to donate $158,000 to a charity chosen by Greenberg.  Trump paid that bill using foundation money.

In 2013, the foundation purchased $5,000 advertising for his hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group.  In 2014, Trump paid for a portrait of himself purchased at a charity auction with $10,000 of foundation money.  This is reminiscent of a similar $20,000 purchase of a portrait in 2007 that he also made with foundation money.

The bottom line is that this is all illegal.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

 

The real question is if this guy is as wealthy as he said he was and as generous as he said he was, why didn’t he just pay these bills out of his own pocket?  Why would he take the risk of breaking IRS rules for what to him should have been pocket change?

You can ask the same question regarding the $25,000 donation that the foundation made to the Bondi campaign just before the Florida AG dropped her plans to bring legal action against Trump University.  That donation was also illegal.  It should also have been easy from Trump to write the check himself.  He didn’t.

There are only two answers.

  1. He is pathological and this was an obsession that he simply couldn’t control.
  2. He didn’t have the money and this was the only way that he could cover those expenses.

In either case, it is just another example of why this person is uniquely deceptive and wholly unsuited for the office that he is seeking.

 

 

 

The Enemy Is Us

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

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I’ve spent some time writing about the absurdity of Trump.

Now I’d like to spend a little time digging into the two fundamental dangers of his campaign.

First a couple of basic assumptions.

Trump is NOT a conservative in any conventional sense of the word.

Though he managed to capture the Republican Party nomination, his views do not reflect very much of what could be considered Republican Reagan-inspired orthodoxy. He ran against that orthodoxy and the “elites” who represent the Republican establishment.

Trump did not create the pool of white disaffected conspiracy-theory addled voters who support him. He has just become the most recent populist to capture their attention by calling out the establishment, regardless of party, who failed to deliver on the decades of promises that this group feels were made to them.

Conspiracy theories are part of our DNA. They were the source of legend and myth. They are independent of party. Conservatives have been the group that has recently brought them into politics in a dangerous way.

The danger of those who believe in self-serving conspiracy theories is that they are easy prey for those who may seek to turn them against the very institutions that provide them the only opportunity for relief. The best example is the past 8 years of Republican obstructionism. That obstructionism prevented passage of a more robust jobs creation program based on the big infrastructure investments that both candidates are talking about in this campaign.

That obstructionism was based in part on the effective campaign to delegitimize Obama. Though there was no basis in fact for any of those claims, Republican leadership became enablers of this strategy through their silence. As a result, significant percentages of Republicans still believe that Obama was born in Kenya and is Muslim. This made it much easier for House and Senate Republicans to effectively grind government to a halt for six years.

This same scorched-earth policy is being created for Clinton. She’s an historic liar, she should be jailed, she is too ill to be President, and the only way that she could be elected is if the elections themselves are rigged.

The fundamental concern of those unhappy with the direction the country is taking is that government is not working for them. The danger of this conspiracy-dominated strategy is that it erodes faith in the fundamental institutions of government rather than just the party that is in charge. Those fundamental institutions are what are SUPPOSED to work for all citizens. When a significant percentage of the citizens feel that not only elected representatives, but government itself is biased against them; the seeds for violence are being sown.

That brings us to a second danger. That is violence and the extremist in our society that advocate it.

Just like we have always had a segment of our society that believes conspiracy theories, there is also a segment of our society that supports violent overthrow of the government. These segments are also typically racist, nationalist, and libertarian.

The difference is that the hate speech associated with these groups was always relegated to the political fringe. Until recently, political leaders across the political spectrum rejected this bigotry outright.

Over the past eight years, racial hate speech has crept into the mainstream political conversation under the guise of political criticism of an African American president.

In this campaign; racial, religious, and even disability hate speech has been used by Trump. His excuse is that it is “straight” talk. He claims to take pride at speaking off the cuff and rejecting political correctness. His enablers add that he can’t be expected to show the sort of sensitivity that “professional” politicians display.

As a result, the violent extremists are moving from the lunatic fringe into the political mainstream. Right wing tribalism now provides them a cover to spread their hate and lies. Within the Republican Party, you can talk about topics that would have been embarrassing even during the Bush II administration. You need no better example of this legitimizing of the radical right than the appointment of Steven Bannon as Trump’s campaign manager. This guy has been one of the champions of the alt-right. His past history alone would have disqualified him from being involved in any previous Republican campaign. Now he is able to pass with barely a whimper.

Regardless of the outcomes of this election, we are dealing with a new reality. This reality is pick-up trucks with Confederate flags and rifle racks in the cab. It is open carry red-necks looking for confrontations at Black Lives Matter rallies. It is a rise in terrorist acts inspired by white supremacist groups rather than ISIS. It is a full-throated attack on the pluralism that is at the core of our democracy. It is a return of the cancer of white supremacy that has plagued this country from its founding.

My hope is that this is the first step to finally confronting and rejecting bigotry and racism in this country as acceptable behavior by any citizen.



Trump’s Huge Boomerang

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

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Boomerangs have a wonderful property. Aboriginal Australians designed them as weapons that would come back if they missed their target. That works in hunting a bird. It is counterproductive in politics. Your attacks on your opponent should not end up coming back to wound you.

If this were just a one-time event in the Trump campaign, you could excuse it as just coincidence. But it has happened so often that you have to start treating as a feature rather than a bug.

Here are just a couple of examples.

“What is being uncovered now is one of the most shocking political scandals in American history,” Trump said on Thursday. “A secretary of state sold her office to corporations and foreign governments, betraying the public trust.”

This is in reference to a recent release of emails while Clinton was Secretary of State and Trump’s claim that donors to the Clinton foundation were getting special favors from Clinton in return for their donations. I’m not going to dig into the accuracy of these claims. They have already been fairly widely debunked by organizations like PolitiFact and CNN.

The boomerang is the fact that Trump himself donated to the Clinton foundation and got nothing in return. When confronted by Bill O’Reilly, here’s what he said.

And I have to tell you this, in all fairness, I thought that money was being put to very good use. I assumed it was being put to whether it’s Haiti or all of the different things that I heard about. I didn’t know about the private airplane rides all over the place and if you look at the kind of expenses that they charge and the way they lived, I had no idea that, but I will say, that as far as the foundation’s concerned, I assumed it was being put to good use, and so did everybody else that gave, and there were a lot of people that gave. They never really did anything for me, but I will say this, if I think they probably would have liked me, and, you know, whether you give here or give there, I got along with everybody, Bill.

Trump claims to be the best negotiator in the world. He claims that he will be able to get Mexico to foot the bill for a wall designed to keep Mexican’s out of this country. He claims that he will be able to renegotiate our trade agreements with China. He claims to take no prisoners and feels no remorse. Yet, if his claims about Clinton’s method of soliciting donations are true, he ended up being a chump. Many other people got a better deal that he did when they gave money to the Clinton foundation.

One of Trump’s other recent claims is that Clinton isn’t fit enough to be President.

“To defeat crime and radical Islamic terrorism in our country, to win trade in our country, you need tremendous physical and mental strength and stamina,” he said in Wisconsin. “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have that strength and stamina.”

He supported these claims using faked videos and out of context photographs. All of these were quickly and widely disproved, but remain a part of Trump’s basic stump speech.

Trump’s own claim to health, however, is based on one bizarre letter from a gastroenterologist who has dubious credentials. A gastroenterologist treats patients with some intestinal distress. They don’t generally treat healthy people. There are a lot of questions about the letter itself too, but the physician explains a lot of the strange terminology with the excuse that he wrote it in less than 5 minutes to satisfy a request by the Trump campaign.

The result is that the spot light has turned back to Trump’s health. If elected, he will be the oldest President ever to serve. He father died from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He also received a medical draft deferment because of bone spurs. There is no mention of either condition in the physician’s letter. Ultimately the specious questions regarding Clinton’s health have lead back to a heightened awareness that Trump is the one with unanswered questions.

Then there is immigration. Trump made his mark on this issue, but it has also been his undoing since the end of his campaign. Clinton has effectively used this issue to paint Trump as a racist crazy person.

As Trump’s polling numbers began to head south, he brought in a new team and attempted to walk back some of his comments regarding mass deportation. His failed to thread the needle between those who support mass deportation and those who think it is crazy and racist. As a result, instead of revealing a “kinder, gentler” Trump, he seems even more uncertain and unstable.

Worse yet, his biggest supporters including Sarah Palin and Anne Colter are warning him that any wavering from his original plan will come at great cost.

All the while Clinton suffered the worst week of her campaign since Comey met with Congress. Instead of letting Clinton flap in the breeze, Trump continued his misguided attacks. So far, Clinton has only had to duck and wait for the inevitable. Trump wounded again by his own attack.

There is Something Going On

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

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These are five of Trump’s favorite words. He uses them to provide some credibility to his various flights of fancy — Obama is in league with ISIS, Obama is secretly undermining law enforcement, Clinton is ill, etc.

What is really going on, however, is that Trump is losing this election — badly.

It’s not only that he is losing, but it is the manner in which he is losing and his reaction to that losing that is really interesting.

I’ve speculated that the narcissism that appears to drive him is satisfied by the public attention that he is getting. He dominates the headlines and refused to allow even his opponent more than a day in the spotlight. As result, even though that attention lately has been focused on Trump’s failures, he would prefer even that attention rather than allow the media to dwell on the weaknesses of his opponent.

Still there is the gnawing sense that there is another game at play.

Evidence of that is in the moves that his campaign made over the last week.

Corey Lewandowski rode the Trump campaign to national prominence with his famous “Let Trump be Trump” strategy. Trump won the nomination, but stumbled badly in the transition from presumptive nominee to Republican candidate. Political “have gun will travel” professional Paul Manafort easily ousted Lewandowski and shepherded Trump through the convention, defeated the stop Trump movement, and delivered the convention bump that put Trump in the lead. He failed to convince Trump to pivot to a kinder gentler more presidential guy. Some of Manafort’s Russian dirty laundry came out and suddenly he’s gone too. The people who replaced Manafort are REALLY interesting.

Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and recently disgraced Roger Ailes are now running the show.

This is not a team intended to get someone elected President.

This is a team that is going to use the rest of this campaign to field test their alt-right Euro-inspired anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant message on the Trump faithful.

This is a full-on take down of Fox as the leading voice of the conservative movement. You can see why this would appeal to “vengeance is mine” Ailes.

You can also see why it would appeal to Trump.

He is free to dive deeply into the demagoguery where he seems most comfortable.

Just think of it. A 24-hour news channel devoted to all things Trump. That is WAY more interesting to him than the Presidency. It will certainly make Trump a lot more money. He has the perfect foil in Clinton. He has at least 4 years, and probably 8 to continue to blame the country’s woes (real and imagined) on her. He will also blame his loss on her and the “rigged” system that she represents. Ailes has already perfected the formula of made-up news and political influence.

Trump will laugh all the way to the bank as those who placed their trust in him eagerly switch their channel from Fox to Great America. Coming this fall, the new Republican Party brought to you by Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, and Steve Bannon. What a rush. What a waste.

You Can’t Just Wing It

Monday, August 8th, 2016

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It wasn’t all that long ago that Trump was riding high.

He got the bump that he was looking for from his convention and many around the country were starting to talk about what a Trump presidency would look like.

But as quickly as he rose, he fell.

He couldn’t allow the spotlight to shine on anyone else.

Even after Clinton stumbled in an interview about her dealings with the FBI, Trump produced a virtual waterfall of “news” that turned the spotlight back on himself.  In more or less chronological order he:

  1. Attacked a Gold Star Muslim family who spoke out against his immigration policies.
  2. Said that the NFL sent him a letter complaining about the debate dates (NFL said it sent no such letter).
  3. Claimed that Russia would not invade Ukraine only to have to backtrack when informed that they already did in 2014
  4. Criticized a fire marshal in Columbus because the occupancy code was enforced.
  5. Praised Paul Ryan’s primary opponent.
  6. Told a woman with a crying baby to leave his rally.
  7. Accepted a Purple Heart from a vet with the statement, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart, this was much easier.” Less than a day earlier, the NYT published a piece on his Viet Nam draft dodging.
  8. Refused to endorse Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte (he backtracked on this too later in the week)
  9. Claimed that the November elections would be rigged against him
  10. Claimed to have seen a top secret Iranian video of money being unloaded from a plane in Iran.  What he actually saw was publicly available video shot in Switzerland that had nothing to do with delivery of money to Iran. His campaign then corrected him. Then he repeated the lie again.

He has played right into Clinton’s hands with this strategy.  Her campaign has portrayed Trump as a dangerous choice and then patiently waited for Trump to prove it.  Just one indication of how big an issue this has become is when Charles Krauthammer, that champion hater of everything liberal, feels he has to comment on Trump’s fitness for the office.

As Trump’s poll numbers dropped, a parade of Republican incumbents have abandoned him.

Now 50 leading Republican security experts have released an open letter warning that a Trump presidency would put the nation’s security at risk. 

Mr. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history.”

Mr. Trump responded by laying the blame for the world “mess” at their feet.  He blamed them not only for the Iraq war, but also for the deaths in Benghazi and the rise of ISIS.  The latter two are curious since they occurred during the Obama administration when all of these officials were out of power.  But that’s about par for the course for the Trump campaign.

Here’s the basic problem.

The strategy that Trump used to monopolize the news cycle during the primaries is backfiring.  During the primaries the gaggle of other candidates were spending all of their time responding to Trump’s endless streams of insults and bravado.

In this general election cycle, the press is trying to inform the voters about who Trump is.  They hold him accountable for every gaffe.  They document the responses of experts when he says something dangerous.  But the sheer volume of this information simply reinforces Clinton’s claim that she is the more mature and experienced choice.  At this point, she doesn’t have to do a lot more other than to remind people that she isn’t Trump.

If Trump were able to stay on message for more than a day, he would have a real chance in this election because Clinton IS well known and has high negatives with many voters.

At this point, however, it may be too late.

His latest attempt to demonstrate some gravitas in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club drew mixed reviews.  His economic plan is a mishmash of old Republican ideas, old Democratic ideas, and new populist stuff.  There was a little something for everyone, which will likely confuse rather than satisfy undecided voters.  Just a couple of examples include making child care deductible.  Most working people don’t file the more complicated form required to claim this deduction.  Poor people don’t pay enough in taxes to take advantage of it.  As a result, it mostly benefits those that are well off.  That doesn’t square with his core demographic.  He also pledged to halt new regulations including those that would affect Wall Street.  This is seems to be at odds with his claim that he was going to crack down on Wall Street.

Trump is his own worst enemy because under the pressure of this campaign his true nature is on display for the whole country.  That nature is an unstable narcissist with an insatiable appetite for the spot light.  But like many who have also suffered from that obsession, the public is beginning to realize that he isn’t the winner that he claims to be.  He doesn’t really have wings, just wax and feathers.  Those are not enough to carry him to victory in the November.

 

 

 

Trump is All In

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

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Trump’s speech on June 13th destroyed any hope by Republicans that he would pivot to the center or temper his language in an attempt to appear more Presidential. That moderated Trump lasted for a minute or so into his prepared remarks.

Then the RealDonaldTrump returned to take advantage of this national tragedy. He doubled down on his agenda of bigotry and xenophobia.

In no uncertain terms, he claimed that the very existence of our country was at risk because of Muslim refugees, immigrants, and even American citizens. He not only reiterated his call for a “temporary” ban on Muslim immigrants but threatened “big consequences” for Muslims living in this country if they failed to report suspected terrorists.

In doing so, Trump aligned himself with the far right nationalist anti-immigrant European movements.

Trump promises to ban all Muslim immigrants until he is able to guarantee a “perfect screen” to eliminate all potential dangers that any particular immigrant might pose. The head of the FBI has already testified that such a screen is impossible.

The Orlando shooter was born in New York. His ex-wife felt that he was violent and bi-polar. Though she said he was religious, he did not regularly attend services. He at various times bragged that he was affiliated with al Qaeda and Hezbollah. Al Qaeda is a Sunni group. Hezbollah is a Shia group. They are mortal enemies and both oppose ISIS. What they and he do share is a violent hatred for gays. Though we may never know all of the details, a picture is emerging of a confused mentally unstable guy who had frequented gay bars and was mostly interested in killing gay people.

That didn’t stop Trump from blaming the killer’s family who emigrated from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the late ‘70’s. Reagan was conducting a proxy war at the time by funding the mujaheddin including Bin Laden. During those same years, 40% of all Afghanis who applied were admitted to this country because they were fleeing Soviet oppression. To hear Trump tell it, this event would have been prevented if we had had the foresight to deny this particular family’s request for asylum 40 years ago.  If we had the opportunity to turn back time, we might also convince Trump’s parents that the world would be a safer place if they stopped at three kids.

To cap it off, in interviews conducted before the speech, Trump suggested that President Obama might have secret motives for what Trump described is Obama’s unwillingness to confront Islamic terrorists.  This is continuation of the conspiracy-laden warnings that Trump started in 2008 when he claimed Obama wasn’t born in this country.  It also ignores recent news on the ground that the Obama lead ISIS strategy has been working in Syria, Libya, and Iraq.  But facts have never been Trump’s strong point.

Whether the Republican Party likes it or not, Trump is determined to make this election a referendum on Trump. In no uncertain terms, he is asking voters to decide whether Latino and Muslim citizens are real Americans.

If Trump wins, he will have his answer and act accordingly.