Trump’s ‘ge­nius’ is as a con man

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - E.R. Shipp E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize win­ner for com­men­tary, is the jour­nal­ist in res­i­dence at Morgan State Univer­sity’s School of Global Jour­nal­ism and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Her col­umn runs ev­ery other Wed­nes­day. Email:

If Don­ald Trump is a ge­nius, as sur­ro­gates like for­mer NewYork City mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani in­sist, he is of the evil ge­nius va­ri­ety and, like those in the movies, a menace to so­ci­ety.

This de­monic denizen of so­cial me­dia takes to Twit­ter at 3 a.m. to rant about a for­mer Miss Uni­verse af­ter Hil­lary Clin­ton called him out dur­ing their de­bate last week for his treat­ment of the woman. Ms. Clin­ton had re­counted how Mr. Trump pub­licly ridiculed the Latina beauty pageant con­tes­tant years ago, call­ing her “Miss Piggy” and other de­mean­ing names, be­cause she was, in his es­ti­ma­tion, too fat. Like other women he has sin­gled out for what he con­sid­ers phys­i­cal flaws — in­clud­ing the ac­tress Rosie O’Don­nell; busi­ness­woman and for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Carly Fio­r­ina; Heidi Cruz, the wife of an­other for­mer can­di­date Ted Cruz; and any flat-chested woman — she was not an aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing 10 on his scale.

Now that The New York Times has dis­closed how the $916 mil­lion loss Mr. Trump’s re­ported on his 1995 tax re­turns — yes, $916,000,000 — could have been used to avoid pay­ing fed­eral in­come taxes for up to 18 years, he is now tout­ing that as a mea­sure of his bril­liance. That makes him “smart,” to bor­row his word. The tweet­ing Mr. Trump says, “I know our com­plex tax laws bet­ter than any­one who has ever run for pres­i­dent and am the only one who can fix them.” That, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Gi­u­liani and New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, is the mark of ge­nius.

What he mod­els as the ways of an as­tute busi­ness­man feel sleazy to a lot of other peo­ple, in­clud­ing a proven bil­lion­aire, for­mer Repub­li­can and for­mer New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. At the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Au­gust, Mr. Bloomberg said: “Through­out his ca­reer, Trump has left be­hind a well-doc­u­mented record of bank­rupt­cies, thou­sands of law­suits, an­gry share­hold­ers and con­trac­tors who feel cheated, and dis­il­lu­sioned cus­tomers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the na­tion like he’s run his busi­ness. God, help us.”

A few days ago, Mr. Trump mocked Ms. Clin­ton for the bout of light­head­ed­ness she suf­fered while at­tend­ing a 9/11 ob­ser­vance with pneu­mo­nia on a hot, hu­mid day in New York last month. “Here’s a woman, she’s sup­posed to fight all of these dif­fer­ent things and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car! Give me a break.” He then went into the same kind of pan­tomime rou­tine that he did months ago in ap­par­ently im­i­tat­ing a New York Times re­porter who has a pro­nounced phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity.

Mr. Trump’s is a can­di­dacy of in­nu­endo — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cit­i­zen­ship and Ms. Clin­ton’s health are just two ex­am­ples — and his aides hint that he might dive deeper into that pit by re­viv­ing sto­ries about Bill Clin­ton’s mar­i­tal in­fi­deli­ties even though this would surely be a case of the pot call­ing the ket­tle black.

Mr. Gi­u­liani and for­mer Rep. Newt Gin­grich — who, like Mr. Trump, are very ex­pe­ri­enced wife-cheaters — are among those who will sup­pos­edly make the case against Bill Clin­ton as a re­flec­tion on Hil­lary Clin­ton’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the pres­i­dency. Go fig­ure. Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” chal­lenged Mr. Gi­u­liani: “You have your own in­fi­deli­ties, sir,” Mr. Todd said. Mr. Gi­u­liani re­sponded: “Ev­ery­body does. You know, I’m a Ro­man Catholic and I con­fess those things to my priest.” I don’t think Catholic clergy would ap­pre­ci­ate that sort of ad­ver­tise­ment; nor would faith­ful cou­ples ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing painted with such a broad brush.

Mr. Trump, as a di­a­bol­i­cal mas­ter­mind would, is prim­ing the pump with hints that if he loses in, say, Penn­syl­va­nia, the rea­son will be that the elec­tion was rigged, es­pe­cially in heav­ily black ar­eas. “I’m hear­ing too many bad sto­ries,” he told a mostly white crowd in ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia, “and we can’t lose an elec­tion be­cause of you know what I’m talk­ing about.” He urged them to go mon­i­tor those other neigh­bor­hoods af­ter they cast votes for him in their own.

There must be an endgame to all this chaos that Mr. Trump is sow­ing, and it might come down to what he pre­dicted some years ago when he said he could be­come the only pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to make money out of a bid for the high­est of­fice in the land. This could be the ul­ti­mate scam by the dark knight of Trump Tower.

“I’m a New Yorker,” Mr. Bloomberg said in Au­gust, “and New York­ers know a con when we see one!”

You do not need to be a ge­nius or a New Yorker to see that Mr. Trump sees Amer­i­can vot­ers as the ul­ti­mate pat­sies. Open your eyes, folks!

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