Powerful Buffoon

NEW JERSEY - There are different kinds of corruption in a democracy. It is not always a pay-off, a "favor," an outright bribe. Sometimes the most insidious, the most virulent type of corruption takes the form of a powerful buffoon.

Lee Siegel,

28 de outubro de 2012 | 01h00

Donald Trump, America's biggest and mightiest buffoon, poses a greater threat to American democracy than Mideastern terrorists, China's economy, and Iran's nuclear ambitions combined. He is a gross, detestable pig. No, I'm sorry. Pigs are sweet, intelligent and tragic animals. Trump is a gross, detestable entity.

I'm thinking of Trump's recent bid for attention, the promise he made of an "October surprise," which would be, he said, a shattering revelation about Obama. After days of raising expectations, Trump's "revelation" was nothing of the sort. Trump said that if Obama made public his college transcripts and his passport application, he would donate $5 million to Obama's favorite charity. Having spent months accusing the president of hiding what Trump insinuated was the fact of being born overseas-and thus not eligible to be president-Trump is now reviving those charges in the form of yet another self-serving stunt. And the media bends over backwards to give him a public forum.

If you want to understand how a country that was led to the edge of the abyss by huckster bankers is now in danger of electing as president Mitt Romney, a huckster banker, consider the career of Donald Trump. This is a man who was the host of a reality television show, "The Apprentice," in which he viciously berated potential small-business owners and then barked his condemnation in their face: "You're fired!" The pronouncement, even in a country where too many people lack jobs, or job security, made him America's most famous businessman.

The irony is that, in fact, Trump is an utter failure as a businessman. He has declared bankruptcy time and time again. He built three casinos in Atlantic City, thus reducing his company's profits by having his casinos compete against each other. He bought a racehorse, forced it to race with a cold, which resulted in the poor animal having its hooves amputated, and then refused to finish paying for the maimed creature. His shoddily constructed buildings are routinely criticized and mocked. He helped drive the short-lived United States Football League out of business by paying the players on his team exorbitant salaries that the other teams could not match. He harassed tenants of a building whose site he wanted to develop until the courts reined him in.

As for Trump's fortune, it rests on the $40 million his father left him, which he proceeded to squander on one ill-fated project after another. He was saved by the fact that New York City virtually gave property away to him with enormous tax abatements in the recession-afflicted 1970s, when city officials were eager to welcome anyone who promised to renovate the city. Inheriting his father's connections to the New York's Democratic Party, to which Trump contributed lavishly, didn't hurt his ability to get pretty little contracts.

Donald Trump, who believes Obama is a treacherous communist who wishes to socialize the American economy, is himself a creation of forces more powerful than any mere government. He had done nothing to earn his wealth himself.

He has done nothing to make his own way, that is, except as a buffoon, who seems to hate Obama precisely because Obama is a truly self-made man. And because Trump wields considerable social power-the most confirmed progressives do not resist an invitation to a Trump dinner party-he is the beneficiary of considerable media attention. Romney's meeting with Trump in Las Vegas in the spring, which was a subtle acceptance of Trump's outrageous charges against the president, gave Trump an infusion of legitimacy.

You might even say that Trump, who every four years hints that he will run for president, and then finally demurs, is a kind of shadow Republican leader. His popularity does much to explain Romney's. The very fact that people see through Trump to the impostor he is endears him to those who might otherwise envy his wealth. Instead, they pity him for his clownishness, and so his bullying fortune becomes almost a liability. Poor man-it's his riches that make him act so foolish. Romney is the product of the same effect. The more awkward he seems, and the more he is challenged by intelligent people to explain himself, the more he seems the victim of pretentious "liberal elites." His wealth becomes the liability that attracts liberal elitist contempt and sarcasm. Poor Mitt!

This is not to say that many Americans are not disgusted by Trump, and by Trump's latest slur on the president. But no one should be surprised by Trump's latest instance of disrespect for Obama. In the second "town-hall" debate-at which the two candidate stood and roamed the room-Romney planted himself just inches away from Obama, blustering and berating and wagging his finger at the president. It was shocking. He invaded the president's semi-sacred space. It was like seeing someone push your father. Obama reacted fatally. Instead of turning to Romney and saying, "Get out of the way. You are standing between me and the audience, between me and the people," he lowered his eyes. In doing so, he opened the door wide to what has clearly become for many people the delectable, deliciously contemptible powers of bullies and buffoons.

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Lee Siegel

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