The devils at the crossroads of politix and Scamworld
“Trump told us, ‘I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.’”
~ A long-time New York political consultant, talking to Politico, February 2016
[Note: I've added a few points and links since I published this post on March 20. ~CC, March 21 2016]
So. This still isn't a political blog; truly it isn't... except when it has to be. And these days it sort of has to be, at least part time. I've already dumped on Trump a few times, such as here and here (towards the end) and here and here and here. But more dumping is called for, especially after I listened to Mein Drumpf whining again to George Stephanopoulos over the phone this AM, regarding the horrible vicious protesters in Arizona and how they are trampling the First Amendment Rights of The Donald and his hateful, frothing throngs of supporters.*
The notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who provided security for the Phoenix rally, ended up arresting three protesters, and Drumpf praised him as a hero during the interview with Stephanopoulos, while criticizing the efforts of other law enforcement personnel. It's hardly surprising that Drumpf would give him a mention, since he and Sheriff Joe have their own little mutual masturbation society. The Sanders campaign isn't so enamored of the "viciously tough" lawman, especially after Sheriff Joe bullied Sanders' wife Jane.
I keep circling back to the fact that Trump is a Scamworld player extraordinaire, which is precisely why he belongs on this blog. (Salty Droid discovered and wrote about the connection years ago, as I've noted before.)
For a short while it had almost seemed that Trump's blatant Scamworld efforts -- most notably Trump University and the Trump Network -- had faded from the news cycle. But then another story resurfaced a few days ago, regarding a seemingly cozy arrangement between Donald Trump and Florida's Attorney General, Pam Bondi. (Here's another link with yet more links.) Bondi is the first big-name Republican official in Florida to endorse Trump for president, and some of the news media have picked up on the fact that in 2013 she decided not to sue Trump for fleecing Floridians in his Trump U scam.
A few days after Bondi had announced she might look into the matter, Trump donated $25,000 to a committee associated with her election campaign. And shortly after that, Bondi decided that Trump U didn't merit an investigation by the Florida AG at that time. This seemed like a conflict of interest and was called out as such in the Florida press, but a spokesman for Bondi suggested that no action was necessary because Florida consumers would be compensated if New York won its case against Chump U.
Pam Bondi previously endorsed Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race a while back. Her reason for supporting Drumpf? “You are speaking loud and clear, and Americans are speaking loud and clear,” and, “I always listen to my mom, and my mom is with Donald Trump, and so am I.” Okay, that linked source is the Washington Times, which is owned by the Moonies, so take it for what it's worth.
But still. Pam Bondi is the woman whose role and function is to "serve as the chief legal officer for the State of Florida," and who is responsible for "protecting Florida consumers from various types of fraud." I will say this: she's a good person to have on your side in Florida if you're a scammer.
The long con and the infotainment-addled marks
Although some of the pundits have written as if Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign just popped up out of the blue, he has been toying with presidential aspirations for years. But his whole campaign has been more about being an attention whore than anything else, and even he has been pretty honest about that, at least behind closed doors. This is from a February 2016 piece in Salon.com, which references the Politico article linked to at the beginning of this post:
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign feels whimsical, like a practical joke or publicity tour gone awry. But it turns out the Donald is running a long con. A new report in Politico suggests Trump has been plotting this stunt for years, and he knew exactly what he had to do to succeed.Further on in the article:
Trump knew all along that his celebrity and media savvy were sufficient to support his campaign. Although they didn’t believe him, Trump told the Republicans in that room in 2013 that he would dominate the race without spending much on paid advertising. From the report:
"'You can’t run for president on earned media,’ one attendee recalled telling Trump. The billionaire looked up, and paused for a long moment. 'I think you’re wrong,' Trump said. 'Are you going to do all those little events at the Pizza Ranches?' another person asked, referring to the Iowa fast food franchises that are a staple of presidential campaign stops. 'Maybe a little,' Trump replied. ‘But it’s really about the power of the mass audience.'"Trump was right. The ability to control the narrative, to dominate the coverage, is all it takes. Trump’s amorality coupled with his gift for self-promotion has turned the Republican presidential race on its head. He’s made the race about him, and anytime he isn’t the main story, he lurches back into the headlines with an outrageous comment about women or Muslims or Mexicans or disabled people – anything to win the news cycle.
Quite. Lately Drumpf has kept the news cycle focused on him not so much by spewing his "politically incorrect" hatements, but by griping and whining about the protesters at his rally. (Why, some of them even use profanity! What a shocker, says Donald, who of course has never uttered a public profanity himself.)
But shame, shame, shame on the "news" media for their complicity. They would rather run a story showing an empty stage that's part of the Drumpf shampaign news cycle than air a speech by Bernie Sanders.
[Amy] Goodman pointed out that on another election night [Tuesday, March 8 ~CC], CNN had recorded Hillary Clinton’s victory speech and broadcast it later so that the network could air Trump’s election night press conference where “he sold his steaks and his magazines and his water and everything else.”And while Bernie Sanders was drawing massive crowds in Seattle March 20, most of the mainstream media were still focused on Trump's latest stunts. The Seattle rally only got decent coverage in Seattle area media and on Sanders' own sites. Sucking all of the oxygen out, indeed -- along with every ounce of journalistic objectivity. And yet Trump continues to vilify the very media that have kept him disproportionately in the public spotlight, while not really confronting him on his most ridiculous and loathsome statements.
Earlier this month I was thinking about Neil Postman's 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, which I mentioned in passing in an essay I wrote back in the 1990s, in quite a different context than I am citing it here. I thought about how the theme of the book relates to the current Trump phenomenon, and I wondered if there had been any commentary about that. A quick Google search revealed this piece, which highlights Postman's prescience.
If you follow the link to my own essay you will see that I made some negative remarks about political correctness; grousing about PC was quite new back in the early 1990s and I thought I was on the cutting edge, even as many people who were still in diapers in the early 1990s now think THEY are on the cutting edge when they gripe about PC. But as the years went by, I saw, along with what I thought were legitimate complaints about PC, the many ways in which these complaints were simply a way of rationalizing boorish behavior and hate speech. I still don't have any fondness for "thought police" in any form, but a lot of people who decry bigotry are being unjustly accused of thought-policing.
And on a lighter note, there's this.
Clearly, millions of Americans, their brains fried on reality TV and the "alternative" infotainment media and exciting conspiracy theories, have bought into Drumpf's presidential campaign con.** But many millions more have been unwittingly subsidizing his scampire for years, thanks to his skills at gaming the IRS. Here's how. Nice work if you can get it.
Although many of Donald Trump's followers are stupid , and some are both stupid and hateful, and some are merely poorly educated (and Drumpf adores the "poorly educated"), he obviously is neither stupid nor poorly educated, though I'll grant that he is hateful. And he was spot-on about his prediction that he would "suck all of the oxygen out of the room." But he has replaced that oxygen with a vile and gaseous hatred that even he will not be able to control.
Katie and Merrick and the FTC
Another devil has popped up at the crossroads of politics and Scamworld: imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie on this blog. As Business Insider pointed out in this March 18, 2016 piece, the most-cited opinion of President Barack Obama's nominee to the the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, is a 2006 opinion striking down Katie's lawsuit against the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), over a press release the FTC had issued.
Here is a direct link to Judge Garland's opinion. From the summary:
This case raises a host of complicated questions regarding the jurisdiction and authority of federal courts. In the end, however, it comes down to whether Trudeau has the right to take a red pencil to the language of the FTC's press release. He does not. Consequently, although we disagree with the district court's jurisdictional holding, we affirm its dismissal for failure to state a claim.Of course, Trudeau's spin on the lawsuit painted Trudeau as the First Amendment Stuporhero as usual. Here's a 2005 "press release" from the Trudeau camp. Katie claimed that the FTC's press release was false and misleading and that it violated his First Amendment rights.
As noted in Judge Garland's opinion, the case did raise questions about jurisdiction and the authority of federal courts. But in the end Katie lost his battle with the FTC, and his fan base, who are as addled as Trump's fan base, have been crying foul ever since.
And so it goes in Scamworld as in politix... no neat and tidy endings.
PS ~ From my husband Ron Kaye: a perfect counter to the haters -- Trump supporters, Obamaphobes, et al. -- who are whining that they are being unfairly accused of hating.
PPS added April 4, 2016: My blogging colleague Steve Salerno at SHAMblog has written a post about another important (and little-discussed) aspect of Trump's Scamworldly ways. [Note: See April 5 addendum below. ~CC] Trump's appeal -- his mystique, if you will -- is, Steve argues, the same type of mystique that has made Tony Robbins, The Secret, and irrational positive thinking/magical thinking so popular. Among other valid points, Steve explains why Trump's supporters seem to care so little for the details about how Trump will actually keep his grandiose campaign promises.
...criticism of Trump's lack of specificity misses the point. The Belief is the thing. Calls for more specifics are regarded as diverting (if not destructive) minutiae that cast a pall over the celebratory mood of certitude. To demand specifics is tantamount to doubting the legitimacy of the promise, and is thus a form of nay-saying. The “how” doesn't matter: It will happen as long as we don't allow negative energy in...But perhaps the most important line in the post is the last one: "Here -- as elsewhere in the land of positive thinking -- if you're not careful, your belief can get you burned badly."
...In Trump-mania one also sees the irrational rage against non-believers that's diagnostic for motivational toxicity. Belief in the Cult of Can-Do is quasi-religious. Skepticism of the program is not just a difference of opinion but an offense against the deity, if you will—self-help's version of drawing satirical cartoons of Muhammad...
Unfortunately, if Trump wins the White House it won't just be the fervently believing Trumpsters who get burned badly.
Addendum, April 5, 2016: Steve took down the post I linked to above because he's reworking it for possible use in a commercial publication. I'll be sure to link to the new article as soon as it's up.
Update April 19, 2016: Here is Steve's post, just in time for the New York Primary.
* In fairness, Brandon Tatum, an African American cop from Tucson who attended the Tucson rally, said that at this rally it was the protesters rather than the Trump supporters who were violent -- and of course the right-wing media jumped on that. I don't support any violence from either side, but on the other hand, Trump and his supporters set the tone at the beginning of the campaign, so there's that.
** I am not underestimating the disillusionment with politics-as-usual that also fuels Trump's support base. But Trump is playing on this disillusionment in a very cynical way. It could be argued that Bernie Sanders is also exploiting people's disillusionment and anti-establishment sentiments. The difference, in my opinion, is that Trump is only pretending that he actually cares for the welfare of the masses, while Sanders, as unrealistic as his promises may be, is coming from a place of genuine concern and a desire to make things better for the 99 percent.