Saturday 25 May 2019

What the average voter doesn't do about Donald J. Trump

Over the past few years, any discussion about Donald Trump at some point, makes mention of his book "The Art of the Deal". I've never read it. Should I? I'm curious, but more in a know-your-enemy way.

Step #1
I look up the book on Amazon.

Amazon: Trump: The Art of the Deal

I look over the description and under "About the author", I read:

"An ardent philanthropist, Trump is involved with numerous civic and charitable organizations."

A quick search about the Trump Foundation, leads me to this article.

The Guardian - Dec 20/2018
Judge signs off on shutdown of Trump Foundation after ‘pattern of illegality’
New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood, taking out a lawsuit against the foundation:
“Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more. This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests.”

* Trump had used the charity to pay off legal settlements within his business and even to buy a painting of himself to hang in one of his golf clubs.

* The attorney general had claimed the charity was used as a “piggy bank” to boost Trump Sr’s 2016 presidential campaign, violating rules that bar not-for-profit groups from engaging in certain types of political activity.

* The suit claimed that up to $3m in such funds boosted Trump’s campaign.

* Among examples of improperly used funds is the allegation that the charity spent $10,000 on a giant painting of Trump himself.

It occurred to me: How many people are going to read "an ardent philanthropist", be impressed, but never know the truth? Who's going to bother to do any research to verify if this is true? After all, this is in print, this is on the Amazon web site, heck, it has to be true, right?

On the other hand, if you're a committed Trump supporter, you're going to dismiss the Guardian article by labeling it "fake news". That designation - fake news - is a catch-all Get Out of Jail Free card. Any criticism can be easily dismissed by qualifying it as being fake.

Step #2
Under editorial reviews, I read:

“A chatty, generous, chutzpa-filled autobiography.”—New York Post

Using Google, I search the NY Times web site for this quote. (Type the following into the Google search box. The syntax "site:" tells Google to perform the search on the specified web site, not the entire world.)

“A chatty, generous, chutzpa-filled autobiography.” site:

I find no match. However, Google suggests an alternative spelling for "chutzpa" as in "chutzpah". (The correct spelling of the word is "chutzpah", which means the Amazon entry has a spelling error.)

I don't find any matches. Did the New York Times truly say “A chatty, generous, chutzpa-filled autobiography”, or has some ad person made up the whole quote when making the Amazon entry?

Step #3
But in going down the listing of search results, I run across this article.

NY Times - Oct 2/2018
Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

The article is long: 14,000 words. It is detailed. It is exhaustive. It tells the story of Donald J. Trump, conman, huckster, a man who has gotten to where he is through slight of hand, of using hired professional help, both legal and accounting, to exploit every possible tax loophole to avoid taxes. When Trump says the tax code is a mess, he's talking from experience.

"The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances. The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show."

And how did this happen?

"By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s."

Step #4
Did Trump actually write this book? From previous reading, I know there was a ghostwriter.

Wikipedia: Trump: The Art of the Deal
Trump: The Art of the Deal is a 1987 book authored by Tony Schwartz and credited to Donald Trump. Part memoir and part business-advice book, it was the first book credited to Trump, and helped to make him a "household name". It reached number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, stayed there for 13 weeks, and altogether held a position on the list for 48 weeks.

The book received additional attention during Trump's 2016 campaign for the presidency of the United States. He cited it as one of his proudest accomplishments and his second-favorite book after the Bible. Schwartz called writing the book his "greatest regret in life, without question," and both he and the book's publisher, Howard Kaminsky, said that Trump had played no role in the actual writing of the book. Trump has given conflicting accounts on the question of authorship.

Reception and legacy
In October 2018, the New York Times published an investigation contradicting many of the claims made by the Book, particularly the assertion that Donald Trump is a self made billionaire. The investigation details how Trump received at least $413 million in 2018 dollars from his father's real estate empire, rather than the $1 million stated in the book.

Based on Trump's tax returns between 1985 and 1994 which showed a loss greater than "nearly any other individual American taxpayer" during that period, co-author Schwartz suggested that the book might be "recategorized as fiction".

Step #5
The average person is not going to do what I've just done. The average person gets their information from a variety of media sources and never bothers to check if said sources are factually correct, politically biased, or part of a marketing strategy. The average person is running around saying such and such is true, but in reality, have no tangible, peer-reviewed documentation to back up their worldview.

I look again at Amazon under "About the Author".

Donald J. Trump is the forty-fifth president of the United States. He is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, gaming, sports, and entertainment.

It's impressive. It even staggers the imagination. Who wouldn't want to be Donald J. Trump? We can all wish to win the lottery, and Trump is like winning the lottery.

But is this story true? Is this the bedrock-solid story of a self-made billionaire? Don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain.

There is no doubt that Trump is a larger than life individual. But is this the sort of man I want to emulate? Is this my measure of success? Does Trump truly define the "American success story"?

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
-Oscar Wilde

How do I want my 15 minutes to play out? Something good? Or under investigation for the rest of my life? Eventually, a house of cards blows over.


Wikipedia: Donald Trump
Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality.

Trump entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and defeated sixteen opponents in the primaries. Commentators described his political positions as populist, protectionist, and nationalist. He was elected president in a surprise victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, although he lost the popular vote. He became the oldest and wealthiest person ever to assume the presidency, and the first without prior military or government service. His election and policies have sparked numerous protests. Trump has made many false or misleading statements during his campaign and presidency. The statements have been documented by fact-checkers, and the media have widely described the phenomenon as unprecedented in American politics. Many of his comments and actions have been characterized as racially charged or racist.

False statements
As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. The statements have been documented by fact-checkers, and the media have widely described the phenomenon as unprecedented in American politics. His falsehoods have also become a distinctive part of his political identity.

Trump uttered "at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days" in office, according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office, according to the "Fact Checker" political analysis column of The Washington Post. By the Post's tally, it took Trump 601 days to reach 5,000 false or misleading statements and another 226 days to reach the 10,000 mark. For the seven weeks leading up to the midterm elections, it rose to an average of 30 per day from 4.9 during his first 100 days in office. The Post found that Trump averaged 15 false statements per day during 2018.


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