The Innocence of Donald J Trump

I think it really came all together for me when Donald Trump came down on Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel in late spring, saying that he would be biased against Trump in the lawsuits regarding so-called Trump University.  At the time, people (and not just liberals) asked whether Trump was showing himself as a racist.  I wondered myself.  But then I realized that the entire incident reminded of something else.  Something more common in our society and something that we have more in common than we think.

In my time as an executive, whenever I have seen an executive fired, fired one myself, or been fired myself there was always a "confidentiality agreement" required from the person getting the axe.  We are told that this is to protect the company's proprietary information as though the company is brimming over with trade secrets (something they would generally like everyone to believe).  In fact, the "proprietary" things are rather different.  What they don't want to get out into the public are the screw-ups, lies, waste. corruption, incompetence, nepotism, political infighting, the true sources of their profits (for example, when a manufacturing company is making its profits from interest rates), undocumented handshake deals, regulatory and political manipulations, and in the case of Trump and so many others, what the business model actually is as opposed to what the consumer thinks it is.

None of the things I've mentioned are necessarily illegal.  But any of them could threaten the carefully cultivated image that the company wishes to project and that protected image is a tangible asset with a value that sits on the books.  Companies are especially worried about things getting out that could be "actionable"; things that might end up in public lawsuits.  And they worry not even so much for the financial settlements the actions may entail.  After all, a financial settlement is just another business expense.  It's the corrosive effect on a company's reputation that management is worried about, since in the end, whatever a company is actually producing, its point of sale is its own reputation.

Since Donald J Trump is and always has been his own product, we can perhaps understand why he got so upset when Judge Curiel released testimony showing that Trump University, aside from its glorious name, seems to have just been a boiler room pushing very expensive fees on gullible people in return for "secrets" probably available to any reasonably intelligent 12 year old with Internet access.

But does any of this show that Trump is a racist?

The fact is I don't know.  I don't know because Trump, as a businessman in America, is supposed to do whatever is necessary to make a profit for his company.  He creates a "business plan" (which may change from minute to minute), raises money for the project, build the facade so he can begin selling, and once the facade is raised he can lie, cheat, and steal as much as he wants.  If the facade holds, and the money rolls in, he's a success.  And even if the company itself fails, as long as Trump can keep up his facade, it will be the investors who will take the losses, and not only will Trump survive, he will even (as part of his personal facade) brag about the bankrupcies as proof of his skill as a businessman.  Former staff who complain are disgruntled workers, since it is the worker who is always disgruntled. Outsiders are simply jealous.  The banks don't understand and the Federal judges must be Mexicans or something.  Trump has been playing the Art of Covering His Ass for decades, as have so many other business giants.  How they do it is another piece of proprietary information.

This is how business works in the United States.  This is how we expect it to work.  Right now, Trump's business is President Trump Inc.  He has set up the facade and does what he thinks will keep it up.  Today, he attacks Judge Curiel.  Tomorrow, he has the Judge over for steaks with Melania pouring the drinks.  His inconsistency and insincerity is how we do business in the US at his level.  It always going to be about the bottom line.  And since we don't know what the bottom line really is, since Trump himself is the product, it can be whatever the consumer imagines it to be.  

unagidon is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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