Finally, We See Donald Trump for What He Is

One of the biggest expenditures of the Trump campaign last month? Hats. He's a terrible candidate, but a stellar haberdasher!

One of the biggest expenditures of the Trump campaign last month? Hats. He’s a terrible candidate, but a stellar haberdasher!

So. I can’t stop thinking about Donald Trump. Last night, after a day spent dealing with the messy blowback of firing a campaign manager at the absolute worst time to fire a campaign manager, he announced his campaign fundraising totals, and they are apocalyptically bad:

Trump raised just over $3 million in May — the month he secured enough delegates to win the Republican nomination — while Clinton raked in more than $26 million, according to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission….Clinton didn’t just out-raise Trump 9-1: She also entered June with much more cash in her coffers.

Trump started the month of June with just $1.29 million cash on hand —compared with Clinton’s $42 million.

Reporters are digging through the reports and finding all sorts of interesting facts: Trump paid $35,000 to a sketchy firm apparently named after characters from Mad Men; Trump paid over one million dollars to Trump-owned companies in May; Trump paid himself and members of his family a salary. Even a head of a Trump Super PAC admits that Trump’s campaign is in “big trouble.”

A moment like this is unprecedented in presidential politics. We’ve never seen such a disparity in campaign income before, and while Sarah Palin certainly got some fringe benefits out of the VP candidacy, no other major party presidential candidate has cashed in so publicly in the heat of a campaign. The New York Times is reporting that Trump may get reporters to pay for a business trip to Scotland next week, for crying out loud. It’s hard to look at all these facts and not conclude that Trump is running a very elaborate grift on the Republican Party.

How bad are things for Trump right now? Speculation is very high that he will drop out. Of course, you wouldn’t know that by looking at Trump’s Twitter feed. The presumptive GOP nominee has gone on the offensive today, attacking Hillary Clinton repeatedly and making the case for a Trump presidency. (In fact, you might say he’s protesting a little too much in an effort to change the narrative.) Here’s one of Trump’s main arguments for a Trump presidency:

 

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FASCINATING. This is absolutely fascinating. I think Trump is trying to say that debt is bad for the United States, but it sounds more like he’s saying that his business practices are “bad for the country.” And then he announces that he “made a fortune off of debt,” but that he’ll “fix U.S.,” presumably by doing the exact opposite of his debt-inflating practices once he gets in office.

So no matter how you read this tweet, Trump is making a case against voting for Donald Trump. Either he admits that his sketchy business practices ruined America or he is arguing that you can’t run America the way you’d run a business. Twice he says his business practices are founded on debt.

This is true. Donald Trump’s business career is built on bankruptcy—”no major U.S. company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years,” CNN said last year—and he’s been sued repeatedly for not paying workers. By keeping his debtors waiting and his workers tied up in endless lawsuits, and by exploiting years of free media through his outrageous antics, Trump has constructed a gigantic pyramid scheme built on ego and morally reprehensible behavior.

In other words, he’s profited by exploiting the shady areas that other businesses are too ethical to approach. Trump is right. This kind of behavior is “bad for the country.” He’s undercutting his competitors and exploiting the free market in terrible ways.

And it appears that Trump was trying to use these same sketchy business practices in his presidential campaign, too—pumping money into his businesses, giving payouts to friends and family, relying on free media to get his message across—but the monthly fundraising reports instead revealed his scam for what it is.

Who would’ve thought? After decades of unethical behavior in the business sector, it was finally politics that revealed Trump for the crooked scam artist he is. Think about that the next time you want to decry politicians as the lowest form of life. Whatever you may want to say about the corruption of the American political system, it at least had the decency and transparency to lay Trump’s simple-minded game bare in a matter of months, in a way that the business world never could.

There is absolutely no evidence—zero—that, if elected president, Trump would do anything different. He only knows one way to behave, and he’s not imaginative enough to learn a new way. He’d run the country using the same techniques he’s used to run his businesses, and his presidential campaign: he’d try to distract from his continual reliance on debt and exploitation with more and more outrageous behavior. And all the while he’d be praying that nobody would notice that underneath all the flim-flammery and showmanship, he’s just an empty vacuum in an ill-fitting suit, building an empire out of a con game.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.