Donald Trump is a gift to comedians, lazy journalists, and the Democratic Party. His quest for the Republican presidential nomination has turned the race from a carnival sideshow into a full blown three-ring circus. The truly entertaining part is how, well, bad Trump is at basically everything.
The list of Trump’s failures and fuck-ups is a long one, and can be roughly divided into a) times Trump made an idiot of himself, b) times Trump lost vast amounts of money, and c) times Trump conned others out of vast amounts of money. Being that Trump is a consummate con artist and a wretched businessman, the second and third categories are often related. The first category contains some amusing items though, such as pretty much every single thing that has come out of his mouth since announcing his candidacy. Or the time he picked a fight with the makers of Glenfiddich because they sponsored a contest in which the people of Scotland voted that the nation’s “Top Scot” was a man who opposed a golf resort that Trump had planned:
“‘Glenfiddich is upset that we created our own single malt whisky using another distillery, which offers far greater products. People at our clubs do not ask for Glenfiddich, and I make a pledge that no Trump property will ever do business with Glenfiddich or William Grant & Sons. I hereby call for a boycott on drinking Glenfiddich products because there is no way a result such as this could have been made by the Scottish people.'”
But such entertaining anecdotes are but a footnote to Trump’s epic failures as a businessman. His four bankruptcies are, by this point, common knowledge. But let’s look at all the fun and exciting ways Trump has managed to lose money on the way to those bankruptcies. Case in point: the Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico. If you’re like most thinking folk, you might look at that name and think that perhaps Trump had something to do with the project. Not according to him though. He just lent his name to the developers and it’s totally not his fault that investors lost $32 million. It was so totally not at all his fault, that he filed a lawsuit against the company bearing his own name:
“‘We’re looking into the whole situation because it doesn’t make me happier than it makes them. I don’t like to see people lose money,’ Trump said. His lawsuit seeks $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages and a full accounting of what the developer did with the $32 million in down payments it collected from condo buyers. Trump has told associates in his organization that he wants to use the lawsuit as a mechanism to help buyers recover those down payments, according to a source familiar with the lawsuit.”
That’ll show ’em. Or take the trouble Trump got into with Deutsche Bank,where he tried to get out of repaying a loan by saying that the bank itself was responsible for the conditions that made it impossible to raise the funds to repay said loan:
“Those assertions are made in a fascinating lawsuit filed by Mr. Trump, the real estate developer, television personality and best-selling author, in an effort to avoid paying $40 million that he personally guaranteed on a construction loan that Deutsche Bank says is due and payable. Rather than have to pay the $40 million, Mr. Trump thinks the bank should pay him $3 billion for undermining the project and damaging his reputation.”
And that leads to the festering boondoggle that is/was Trump “University.” Or, as it is now called, due to the fact that “University” was found to be a misleading term, “The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.” Trump clearly took a page from Scientology when he put this scam together – it’s all about upselling. Starting with free seminars, attendees were duped into paying up to $34,995 for a “Trump Elite Gold” package. The “University” offered no degree, had no accreditation, and seems to have done a piss poor job of selecting the instructors. They had one ironclad standard though:
“Every university has admission standards and Trump University was no exception. The playbook spells out the one essential qualification in caps: ‘ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN FULL.’ Basically, anyone with a valid credit card was ‘admitted’ to Trump University.”
More than 5,000 people fell for the scam. But don’t worry – some were lucky enough to get their pictures taken with a life-size cardboard cutout of Trump. Worth every penny, I’m sure. And lest Trump try to get by with claiming that the school simply used his name, and he had no further involvement, he has been ruled personally liable in a lawsuit brought by New York’s Attorney General.
So there you go: while Trump is an epic failure of a businessman, he’s an excellent con artist. The greatest trick of the successful con artist isn’t selling you on his con, it is selling you on himself. That’s exactly what Trump has done. He has created a brand. That is what people are buying – not failed casinos or failed real estate or failed “universities.” And in a perverse way,this makes Trump a perfect fit for the Republican Party. The party’s been running the long con on most of its electorate, convincing them to vote aspirationally. “Sure. I’m not rich now, but when I am, I sure will want that tax cut.” Trump’s con is a little more barefaced than that practiced by the rest of the party, but the fact that his long string of business failures have caused him little consequence is ample evidence that it works. Hopefully it won’t work too well on the voters, or Trump will be able to add the entire nation to his long list of failures.
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