This morning on the news I heard a journalist calling Trump’s current fixation on federal Judge Curiel as “inexplicable” because his comments are racially motivated, factually indefensible, and attracting criticism from outside and within the GOP.
The reporter’s take seemed to be that this proves Trump is an idiot.
Dumb like a fox, maybe. Donald Trump knows exactly what he’s doing.
This is a decoy, a sideshow, to distract us all from the real issues that are not in the news but should be: the substance of the feds’ case against Trump University, which was stepped up on May 27.
The thing about Trump’s outrageous comments is that they don’t tell us a single thing about Trump we didn’t already know.
- Like that he ignores inconvenient facts, like that judge Curiel is a Hoosier born and bred, and not “a Mexican” as Trump alleged? Check. We already knew Trump’s, er, innovative relationship to truth. As early as last year, the website factcheck.org named Trump not only as its most creative whopper-teller among politicians in 2015, but possibly for all time.
- Like that Trump will pin the blame for anything he doesn’t like on Democrats, even if they’re not responsible? Check. Trump’s insistence that Curiel was an Obama appointee, when in fact he was tapped by California’s GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, merely confirms what we knew about Trump’s tendency to shoot first, aim later (or never).
- Like that he is an unabashed and unrepentant racist? Check.
- Like that he is vindictive and cannot abide personal criticism? Check.
So, yawn. Nothing new to see here, folks.
But here’s what no one knew about Donald Trump until last week: exactly what the Trump University documents might contain.
It’s not a coincidence that on the very same day the documents were released, Trump launched in with allegations about the race and competence of the judge who ordered their release. That’s been dominating the news cycle ever since.
And with public attention thus successfully diverted, we’re not looking at the documents themselves and what they show us about Donald Trump as a businessman: that this company was a shell game and its eponymous leader is rightly being sued for fraud.
The documents are pretty chilling, and apparently what has been released so far is only the tip of the iceberg of the shady practices of this “university.”
Trump U preyed upon vulnerable people who were already in debt to get them to sign up for ever-more expensive levels of a promised real-estate education.
- Sales force team members for the school were urged to push packages as expensive as $35,000 for the six-month course, to max out multiple credit cards in order to pay for it, and to manipulate a client’s “roller coaster of emotions” to get them to close the deal.
- Sales team members were encouraged to call themselves “consultants” as they worked their script to get people to sign up for the classes. Why? More trust. “. . . they trust you because they know you are not a salesperson, but rather a Consultant. A Consultant is here to help!”
- Students were told that Trump had hand-picked their instructors, when he was not involved in the staffing. In fact, if there’s one silver lining for Trump in this debacle, it’s that the former employees agree that he was AWOL. His former sales manager said he did not see Trump once at work, while an events manager said he would occasionally check in on the business’s profitability but did not involve himself in any of the day-to-day work.
- Some of the “instructors” had no real estate experience at all—only sales experience that would help with their real job, which was to sell the course itself.
- Students who had paid for the most elite “package” of the course were promised mentors with whom they could interact regularly for advice after the course was over. However, these mentors (whose commission was paid up front and therefore had no financial inventive to help students) were mysteriously difficult to reach.
Overall, said a former sales manager, “Trump University was a fraudulent scheme” that “preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”
But this is not what Donald Trump wants us to hear, which is why he is doubling down on these bizarre attacks on the racial background of a federal judge. They appear unhinged, sure, but they sidetrack us from the fact that Donald Trump, whose sole qualification for the presidency has always been that he considers himself successful in business, is either keeping banker’s hours at best or is a scam artist at worst.
Bread and circuses, people. And we are falling for it.