Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gravitas of a Grifter: Why Trump's Art of the Deal is all about the Art of Butt-Kissing and Betrayal

by Nomad

In a recent deposition, Republican Presidential candidate Trump  allowed us a peek at his true nature. It wasn't pretty and reveals a man very different than his supporters see onstage. 

The Two Faces of Trump

As we have come to know, Republican front-runner Donald Trump likes to portray himself as a politically-incorrect kind of guy who says the first thing to comes to his mind. 
If it is childish, irresponsible or just plain racist, then that's who he really is. He's not been groomed and manicured and cultivated like a hot-house orchid. Trump is Trump, and he doesn't give a damn who likes it and who doesn't.
For that, his supporters love him.

His appeal is based primarily on the premise that he may be rough around the edges but he is, at least, honest. If he goes too far sometimes, it is, if nothing else, a step in the right direction, they'll tell you. 
Sure, he may rub a lot of people the wrong way, his supporters say, but he makes good points and gives a voice for angry people who feel forgotten. Trump may be a joke but he isn't a phony, they'll tell you.
If nothing else, Trump's a breath of fresh air and not part of the political game-playing that has made Washington such a despised place. 

However, the problem for Mr. Trump is that this particular persona is really a new innovative, more based on his reality-TV character. The real story, his actual history is radically different.

False Advertising and Fraud

This truth came out recently when, on 10 December 2015, Trump was called to give a deposition regarding a lawsuit against his bankrupt Trump University.  A quick summary of the case, according to the plaintiffs, is as follows:
On behalf of these consumers, plaintiffs claim Donald J. Trump and his so-called “university” violated federal and state laws by falsely advertising seminars and mentorships (“Live Events”) as teaching Trump’s “real-estate secrets” through his “hand-picked” “professors” at his “elite” university.
In reality, the instructors were high-pressure salespeople paid on a commission basis to up-sell consumers to even more expensive courses (including the “Gold Elite” course for $34,995), and these salesmen were never trained on Trump’s “real-estate secrets” much less taught them. In 2005, the New York State Education Department told Trump to stop using the word “university” in its title, because it was illegal to do so, but Trump continued to operate illegally until forced to change the name in 2010.
Trump chose a rally in Arkansas in February to rebut the charges and claims. In his typically rambling speech, Trump attacked the one of the plaintiffs by name ("terrible" "horrible, horrible witness.")
He insinuated that the New York attorney general was in cahoots with Obama and was bribed to launch a prosecution against him. On top of that, he finally attacks the judge, implying he was hostile toward Trump ("beyond belief") because the judge was Hispanic.

He told the crowd that he could have settled out of court but it was the principle of the matter.
It should have been thrown out, wasn’t thrown out, and I say I’d rather go to court... I just didn’t want to be forced to settle and I could have settled it before I did this and I knew somebody would try and to use it for publicity, but I believe I can turn it around just to show you how dishonest these people are.

Trump- the Crusader for Honesty and all that is right.

Attorney Jason Forge, of the San Diego firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, acted as the interrogating attorney for the plaintiff Art Cohen (and others). 
At the Arkansas rally, Trump couldn't hide his contempt for the law firm.  To the cheers from the rally supporters, Trump called the firm "sleazebag".
In fact, this firm, with 200 lawyers in 10 offices nationwide, has taken on and won cases against such big league corporations as Enron, UnitedHealth Group, Visa/MasterCard, and the infamous Countrywide.

To advise and represent Mr. Trump is Defense Attorney Daniel Petrocelli of the firm of O'Melveny and Meyers LLP. Its clients include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, Fannie Mae, Goldman Sachs
In addition, one of its top lawyers argued before the Supreme Court in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, on behalf of Exxon regarding the Exxon Valdez oil spill. 

Exhibit 519

Regarding the details of the case, I will skip since it is not the "juicy bits." What's really interesting and insight is one of the seemingly off-topic exchanges between Forge and Trump. It's certainly an insight into the way Trump thinks.
(With apologies, I decided only to summarize when possible and include excerpts elsewhere.  It is too much fun not to transcribe the exact words.)

Mr. Forge calls upon the defendant Trump to confirm an exhibit- a print-out of archived posts from Trump's blog. Trump's attorney objects calling the line of questioning irrelevant. 
That objection is register and the questioning continues again.

Forge begins by asking Trump to confirm the exhibit as a copy of the blog post, dated 2 December 2008.  

Forge: I'm going to direct your attention to the fourth paragraph, but you're welcome to read whatever you want. The fourth paragraph you wrote of Hillary Clinton:·
 "Hillary is smart, tough and a very nice person and so is her husband."
And then you wrote,
"Bill Clinton was a great president."
Did you believe that sentiment when you wrote it in this blog?

Trump: When was this done?

Forge: December 2nd, 2008.

Trump: It was a long time ago.· I mean, at the time -- I mean, I was fine with it at the time. I think in retrospect, looking back, it was not a great presidency because of his scandals. That was 2008. I say that's a long time ago.

Forge: So you posted it, but you believed it then, but you don't believe it now?· Or you didn't believe it then and you still don't believe it?

Trump: I might have said it. I don't think it was a very important statement made then. I wasn't in politics. It didn't matter to me. If I was to think about it with all that he went through, I would probably not call him a great president anymore because of all of the scandal and the turmoil that he had. It was a very tumultuous period of time, and then he was impeached.  

At this point, Forge points out something obvious.

Forge: But all that turmoil and the impeachment and the scandal, that all predated your posting of this blog, though? But you're saying you just didn't think about it that much?

Trump seems to be searching for a way out. Then Forge asks him a question he must have dreaded.

Forge: Do you believe that Hillary Clinton would make a great vice president, Mr. Trump?

Trump: No.

Forge: Did you believe she would make a great vice president back in 2008? 

Trump: I don't know. Did I say that here? 

There's some confusion. "Here" could be taken to mean either in the blog or in the present proceedings. A minute later, Trump's attorney clears it up.

Forge: Not in here, no. I'm just asking you, did you believe that back in 2008?

Trump: No, I didn't think I said that. No, I don't think she would be a good vice president.

Forge: Do you believe she would make a great president? Back in the year 2008, did you think she would be a great president?

Trump: I don't think I said anything. I don't say it here. Let's see, if we go back many, many years ago, do I think she would have? Probably not. I don't think she's got the gravitas.

If there was a loud guffaw in the room when Trump declared Clinton didn't have gravitas, it is not recorded. Coming from Trump, it's a remarkable statement. Gravitas is defined as "dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner." 

Hillary must have gotten a great chortle from hearing Trump commenting on her - or anybody's- gravitas.
Remember that at one of the recent debates watched by millions of viewers, Trump demonstrated his own dignity of manner by saying:
“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
Note too Trump's past love for the Clintons didn't really happen  "many many years ago." It was only eight years ago. That may not be yesterday but, for an adult, eight years isn't such a long time. 

Exhibit 520

Next comes Exhibit 520, another post from his blog. This time dated 13 March 2008. Trump is directed to the end of the second paragraph of the article in which Trump wrote:
 "I know Hillary, and I think she would make a great president or vice president." 
Forge: You do know Hillary Clinton, correct? ·

Trump: Yes.

Forge: And you knew her back in 2008?

Trump: Yeah.· Pretty much.

Forge: So did you believe this sentiment when you expressed it in March of 2008?

Trump: Well, I didn't think too much about it. ....Yeah, at the time I might have.· I didn't give it a lot of thought because I was in business. And as a businessman, I think it was something I never really gave much thought to. 
Now that I see what she's done and how she's handled herself and how she's handled her e-mails and all of the problems that she's got, I would say she wouldn't make a very good vice president or president.

There are quite a few problems with Trump's rationale. First and foremost, it is untrue. Trump was not merely a businessman when he wrote that. Back in 1999, he had announced his intention to run in the presidential race of 2000 as the Reform Party nomination.

Incidentally, he became a Republican only quite recently. Over the years, he has switched political party affiliations, at least, five times since the late ‘80s.

Mr. Trump registered for the first time in New York as a Republican in July 1987, only to dump the GOP more than a decade later for the Independence [Reform] Party in October 1999, according to the New York City Board of Elections.

Critics questioned the seriousness of Trump's campaign and speculated that it was a tactic to strengthen his brand and sell books. Trump defended his candidacy as a serious endeavor and proclaimed that he had a chance to win the election. Though he never expanded the campaign beyond the exploratory phase, Trump made numerous media appearances as a candidate, traveled to campaign events in Florida, California, and Minnesota, and qualified for two presidential primaries.
In any event, after a poor showing in the California primary, Trump dropped out. So to claim that he wasn't interested in politics and was merely a businessman is contrary to his own biography.

Forge points out that Trump was unshakeable in his support of Clinton in 2008 but now he has had second thoughts. It was, Trump keeps repeating a long time ago. The Clintons have "let the country down." 

Forge: So you think they've let the country down since March of 2008?

Trump refuses to give any specific examples, outside of the emails. Instead, he clings to the same lie he used earlier. That he was a businessman and not a politician. 

Trump: Well, since I've really started to watch and study politics as opposed to just thinking about business and not thinking about politics. 

As a presidential candidate. this, in fact, is quite a perilous route to take. After all, his only qualification to be president is his business career.

For Trump called upon to explain what he said in the past, to try to reconcile what he says now, things were about to get so much worse. His past glowing assessment of Hillary and Bill were not the only ones he made.

Forge: Now, you've said of Jeb Bush previously that he is exactly the kind of political leader   country needs now, and we very much need in the future. He's bright, tough and principled.

Trump, in his 2000 book, (possibly ironically) entitled "The America We Deserve, wrote:
“Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a good man I’ve held fundraisers for him. He’s exactly the kind of political leader this country needs now and will very much need in the future. He, too, knows how to hang in there.”
Again, the fact that Trump gave fundraisers for a politician like  JEB contradicts his current claim that he was only a businessman and didn't give much thought to politics.
Actually, the premise is wrong to begin with: Isn't it possible to be both a businessman and politically-savvy? Rather than being one or the other, wouldn't it be much more logical for a "successful" capitalist to be very well acquainted with politics? 

And that possibility is much closer to the truth. As one source explains
Trump held a 1997 fundraiser, which reportedly raised $500,000 for Bush when he ran for governor, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As the race continued the next year, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts donated $50,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, when Trump was pushing the state to allow him to open casinos on Seminole tribal land. The tribe was seeking to open Vegas-style slot machines and poker in casinos, to be managed by Trump.
In the deposition, Trump is whistling a very different tune about JEB. 

Trump: I didn't know him very well when I said that. I mean, I hardly knew him at all. Now I know him well, and I think he would be a disaster as president, frankly.

He knew him well enough to donate time and money to his campaign. His endorsement very likely convinced a lot of people to vote for JEB.

If these voters once trusted Trump's judgment of Bush's character back in 2000, when he was wrong, why should they trust his judgment now?

Forge: So did you not believe it when you said it before?· Or you just simply didn't have a basis and you -- .

Trump: I didn't have much of a basis. But I said it to be nice, and it didn't matter, but I said it to be nice and to be respectful.· But I didn't really know him.

Over the years, he has been known for many things, a braggart, a bully, a proto-fascist, a shrewd but unscrupulous businessman. Many many things but Trump has never had to live up to a reputation of being nice or being respectful. It was hardly a top priority for Donald Trump.

Anybody who dared to use those words on his reality-TV show would have been sent packing with a Trump rant about "losers" and brushed off the sidewalk with a trademark smirk.

Attorney Forge painfully brings up Trump's positive assessment of George Pataki- another former Republican candidate in 2016. He once called him "the most underrated guy in American politics."
(Today, Trump thinks this underrated guy "couldn’t be elected dog catcher if he ran again and was a has-been.)
Did he believe what he said in the past? Was he just saying it to be nice and respectful?
Does he believe it now? 

In the deposition, he is called upon to speculate- like a third party observer- on what he might have believed at the time compared to what he now believes about Pataki.

Trump: No, I think I would have believed it at the time. But I'm not a fan, you know, as I got to know him. I didn't know him very well.
But as I got to know him and I got to see him when I became political and involved politically, as opposed to not knowing people in business, I would say that no, he's not -- . I don't think he would be very good.

Texas Governor Rick Perry too received Trump voluntary blessing and like all of the other divine praises, that recommendation has also been revised.

All this begs a simple question: if he didn't know these people why was he giving them so much undeserved credit? What was he putting his reputation (such as it is) on the line? 

The answer to that question was about to come out in the most
revealing exhibit yet.

Exhibit 489

What comes next is perhaps at his most honest and, at the same time, at his most detestable.

The lawyer now turns to a transcript of a TV news show called This Week, at the time host by John Karl. In the interview, Trump was asking directly about his endorsements of people like JEB. How does he square what he said in the past with what he said in the here-and-now?
Forge produces the quoted reply:

Forge: Your response, Mr. Trump, was it's -- your response to the questions about your praise for these folks that you no longer have praised for is, 
"It's a very simple answer to that. I was a businessman all my life. I've made a tremendous fortune. I had to deal with politicians and I would contribute to them and I would deal with them and certainly I'm not going to say bad things about people because I needed their support to get projects done. I needed their support for lots of things, or I may have needed their support, put it another way. I mean, you're not going to say horrible things and then go in a year later and say, Listen, can I have your support for this project or this development or this business? So I say nice about almost everybody, and  I contributed to people because I was a smart businessman. I built a tremendous company, and I did that based on relationships."
In the deposition, Defendant Trump confirms that he still believes what he said (only a month and a half earlier). Something of a miracle all things considered. 

Forge: So one of the reasons why you said these nice things about people like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton was because you didn't think about it that much and because you might need their help for something in the future?   ·

Today, when he doesn't need her help, Trump calls Hillary Clinton "in a certain way, evil."
Today, when not obliged to be nice for the sake of business, he complains without the slightest bit of reflection, that Clinton "lies like crazy." 

When casinos are no longer a priority, Candidate Trump calls JEB a "lightweight," "not a smart man," "stiff," and a "spoiled child."
In a taste of his own brand of gravitas, Trump was merciless (but possibly accurate):
"Here's a guy, honestly, if he weren't in government, you wouldn't hire him to do anything, okay? If you had a company you wouldn't even hire him."
In the deposition, Trump doesn't answer the question directly but Trump explains:

Trump: You want to always be friendly with politicians. If you're a businessman, I'm a businessman, you always -- you want to be as nice as  you can to politicians whenever possible. 

Forge: Because you might need their assistance? 

Trump: Well, you don't want to have them go against you. You want to have -- I don't think about Jeb Bush one way or the other, frankly. But when I was in business, I had no problems with Jeb Bush. So if somebody would ask me, I would think -- now, when you're in politics, and you get to know them better because you get to know these people better, and you see what you're dealing with, you can answer a question I think a lot more accurately.

Forge: So you didn't want these people against you? 

Trump: No, you don't want them against you. 

Forge: And you would rather have them on your side? 

Trump: You would rather have them on your side, politicians. When you're in business, you would like to have the politicians on your side. 

Forge: And so you say nice things about them? 

Trump: You don't want to say bad about them, ideally you don't want to say badly.  And you don't think about it as deeply either.

I mean, when you asked me about different people, they're nice, they're very good, they could be very good. When you start thinking about people in a much deeper fashion, when it's updated and you've seen what they've done, you've seen where they've been, you can answer it 

I think much different politically than you would as a businessman. As a businessman, you're not thinking that much about it. You want them to like you, and that's pretty important for business.

The rest of the deposition returns to the questionable practices of Trump University so I will leave it there for another time perhaps.

That Art of the Deception 

Donald Trump is now 69 years old and much of his life has been dedicated to his business career as a successful (?) real estate mogul. 

By his own admission, "The Art of the Deal" is actually the Art of Being Deceptive, of cozying up to people who have something you need or might need in the future, even if you don't really know much about them. It's the art of constant revision and opinion updates.  

For Trump, The Art of the Deal is really the art of the great betrayal: betraying the people who you once said you respected and you supported. But also, it is about betraying the voter who once trusted your judgment and thought your reputation as a businessman qualified you to endorse politicians. 

It's the art of "not thinking too deeply" and of constantly revising your opinion to fit the situation based solely on your self-interest.

Today, Trump likes to play the part of somebody who shoots from the hip, says what he thinks and lets the chips fall where they may. His entire campaign is based on this image. And it is a case of fraud and false advertising.

In fact, this testimony under oath pretty conclusively proves that nobody has spent more time kissing the butts of politicians, the same people he now claims "let the nation down" or who have been "disastrous."