The Universal Notebook: The Trumping of America

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Donald Trump embodies some of the worst aspects of the American character: the worship of celebrity and wealth, a knee-jerk nationalism, a prejudice against the poor, the nativist fear of foreigners, the objectification of women, and the hypocrisy of me-first capitalism.

No wonder simple folks love him.

Trump leads the braying pack of wild Republican primary wannabes by double digits, so either the Republican base consists largely of sexists, xenophobes, bozos and billionaires, or the GOP is really pulling a fast one on us. They must know an elitist appealing to populism can’t possibly win. I think they may well be toying with the pollsters.

Trump is sucking all the air out of the GOP presidential race by saying the sort of stupid, boorish things that appeal to the frightened few. If I hadn’t seen it work here in Maine for Paul LePage, I wouldn’t believe John and Jane Q. Public could mistake bull and bluster for candor and honesty, tough talk for workable public policy.

How does a man like Trump get away with questioning whether Sen. John McCain, a former POW, is a hero, and then playing the military card, saying he could beat up ISIS if elected? No, he couldn’t. If it were that easy, we would have done it by now. And if The Donald were really such a gung-ho warrior, why was he out clubbing and chasing skirts while John McCain was being shot down, captured and tortured?

Simple folks like simple answers though, so “Make America Great Again” jingoism and anti-immigrant “Build a Wall” make sense to them. Send all the immigrants back, build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, repeal the 14th Amendment and do away with birthright citizenship, a bedrock principle of American democracy. I swear Trump’s 25 percent of the GOP are people who would scrap half the Constitution in favor of an oligarchy of the rich and famous if it made them feel safe.

While I’m no great fan of Megyn Kelly, Trump’s veiled remark suggesting the Fox News host and GOP primary debate moderator might have been menstruating when she clobbered him with a question about his history of sexist and misogyny tells you a lot about the man. Trump is a guy who made some of his fortune marketing babes in bathing suits with his Miss USA and Miss Universe contests. Forget “The Apprentice,” his employees-are-beggars game show, Trump once tried to sell a show called “Lady or a Tramp?” in which he proposed to transform harlots into proper ladies. Thank goodness, no network bought that sick-o project.

Trump is a classic example of the rich boy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. (Credit: football coach Barry Switzer.) Big Daddy Fred Trump gave Little Donnie a huge leg up with a $250 million inheritance. And while Republicans like to portray taxes and government as evil, Papa Trump made his millions building federally subsidized housing with Federal Housing Administration financing. Now Sonny Boy Trump makes his billions building luxury hotels, casinos and golf courses with state and federal tax breaks.

Trump’s first big project, for example, was a hotel near Grand Central Station for which he managed to get a 40-year full property tax abatement from New York City and state. Trump’s modus operandi everywhere has been to profit at taxpayer expense, but try to tell that to the simple folk who love him even as he fleeces them.

In Las Vegas, he hired the former chairman of the county tax board to get him a 95 percent reduction in the valuation of Trump International Hotel and Tower, down from $180 million to a mere $8.6 million. Taxpayers in Nevada are apparently happy to pay Trump’s taxes for him.

And when things don’t work out, bankruptcy is standard operating procedure. The first of Trump’s four bankruptcies was the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He used junk bonds to finance it, ended up $3 billion in debt, and sought Chapter 11, making investors pay for his mistakes.

Since then, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, and Trump Entertainment Resorts have all gone through bankruptcy. He may be “very, very rich,” but that doesn’t make him a good businessman and it sure as shootin’ does not qualify him to be president of the United States.

Neither the conservative wing nor the mainstream of the Republican Party support Trump. Conservatives realize he is not one of them, and mainstream Republicans realize Trump would destroy the party if his brand of birther blather, pseudo-populist poppycock, elitist egoism, politically incorrect misogyny and nasty nativism came to define the GOP.

Go, Donald! You’re fired!

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Chew H Bird

    While I share your lack of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump and agree that he should be as far away from the presidency as possible (just imagine him as Commander-in-Chief), his rise to the top of the media controlled polls is due partly because of inherent failings of other candidates (Democrat and Republican), and… his unfortunate ability to actually speak what he is thinking.

    I suspect Trump’s verbally appalling efforts come across to many as (unfortunately) more honest than other candidates. We Americans (generally) are sick and tired of being bamboozled with unfulfilled promises, dishonest and misleading political agendas, PAC money infused political debt, and sound byte level thinking.

    Trump, for all of his failings and offensive behaviors, is exactly what he claims (the counter piece to Bernie Sanders who is also who he seems). With Trump and Sanders I suspect we know what we might be getting in the end (nothing from either that I personally want), which is different from all the other candidates I have seen or heard.

    Between false claims, cover ups, unrealized opportunities, our current mainstream political candidates have enough baggage to make the entire TSA work overtime. With Trump and Sanders we have a corporate billionaire who uses and abuses our economic systems to his best advantage and to heck with everyone else and a self proclaimed socialist who would turn us into Greece within a short period of time.

    I would prefer an intellectually competent person who can inspire a work together attitude with Congress who has a strong fundamental economic background, a competency in technology, common sense, an understanding of basic military principles, basic understanding of foreign policy, respect for people of all races and diversity, and who has had to pay their own bills (earned with sweat equity).

    • EABeem

      But a Trump v Sanders race might settle what Americans want once and for all — a winner-take all oligarchy or a kinder, gentler socialist democracy.

    • Queenie42

      How would Bernie Sanders turn us into Greece in a short time?

      • Chew H Bird

        I am not an expert in the economy, but government created jobs supported by tax dollars, with promised wages and retirement security, seems to me like a reason to borrow more money (and consequently incur more debt). While I am all for narrowing the income distribution gap, when we have such greatly disparate economies within our own borders (think New York City costs and Houlton Maine costs), the socialist model will not adapt efficiently. Also, our government was never designed to compete with private business (although it does in many ways) and the inefficiency from our current government is staggering.

        Our constitution promises opportunity, not results. What Sanders is selling is against the very principles our country was founded upon. There may well be a better way to run our country, but increasing debt, and promising benefits (not entitlements which are earned) is a failure of basic mathematics.

        I “like” Bernie Sanders. I like what he wants. However I believe his election, combined with our congress, will rapidly degrade our worldwide standing and ultimately threaten our very existence.

        • Queenie42

          There are a couple of very simple examples of why I disagree:
          1. The armed services used to be a training ground for many trades/jobs for when they were discharged. But private companies now do those jobs and it costs the taxpayer much more. Also:
          2. Medicare has an overhead of what? 5%? Less? Private, for profit medicine costs us all much more.
          These are just two examples.

          • Chew H Bird

            I have very limited knowledge of detailed and accurate administrative costs for medicare and private insurers, but I believe on a per person basis the cost of medicare is substantially higher. Basing published administrative efficiency expenses on total dollar value is misleading (in my opinion) as it is per person tabulation that is usually the most accurate.

            As for private contractors vs government employees in regards to total cost, my limited understanding is that many government lifetime overhead expenses are not calculated into individual projects or “jobs”. Additionally, having worked (decades prior) as a private contractor on government projects, I can positively verify that government “requirements” add a significant amount of overhead to private contractors for everything from certified payrolls to exorbitant record keeping to absorbing government employee and site costs as part of government cost containment.

      • EABeem

        There is a general view among conservatives that Greece’s economic woes are the result of failed socialism — bloated pension funds and social services. But the crisis is Greece is actually a result of crony capitalism. Corporations aren’t paying their taxes and private banks that made risky investments are being made whole at the expense of the Greek people.

        • Chew H Bird

          If the tax code is clear, should not a government have the tools to enforce payment? Prudent regulation of banking practices should reduce poor investment choices. Greece screwed up and our government has demonstrated a remarkable ability to implement flawed regulations and poor practices. Why should we, with our eyes wide open, intentionally empower our government to make additional poor decisions regarding taxpayer funds? We had our own wall street melt down not long ago. We have bailed out the auto industry. We allowed mom and pop pharmacies to disappear. We have government regulated pesticides in our food chain and have been fighting wars for political gain rather than defense of our nation. Bernie Sanders wants more government controls and while targeted controls may be warranted, the concept of large regulatory normalcy is frightening to people who want to take responsibility for their own well being.

          • EABeem

            I was just making the point that it is corruption and cronyism that has ruined the Greek economy, not socialism.

          • Chew H Bird

            I agree in part, but corruption and cronyism is probably the largest single influence internal to our government…

          • EABeem

            Agreed, but then it’s all Greek to me.

          • Bowdoin81

            Creditors made loans to Greece on the mistaken premise that no Eurozone country would be unable to pay them back. The IMF bailed out the lenders but also made them eat some of the losses. Lesson: no matter the borrower (nation-state, home buyer, college student), lenders should not lend more than can be paid back.
            Is socialism to blame for Greece’s dismal economy? Or is it corrupt cronyism? How about all of the above? Greece’s democratically derived, overly-controlled system is so tied up in red tape that entrepreneurs can do very little without waiting years for permission. No wonder the Greek people demand their handouts and refuse to pay taxes – they’re not free to make their own way through life.

    • truther

      I’m not sure I agree about Sanders, but you’re exactly right about Trump. I wouldn’t vote for him if you paid me. And yet — unlike pretty much every other candidate, Trump has actually accomplished a lot of actual accomplishments. He’s made a career out of giving people what they want; not just saying things or making promises, but actually creating things that people enjoy having, whether it’s a skyscraper full of condos or a casino or a highly-rated network TV show. What exactly have Rubio or Walker or Jeb Bush done that makes them more qualified to be president than Donald Trump? (What have they done, period?) When has Hillary Clinton ever once taken a stand on an issue the way Trump regularly does?

  • poppypapa

    Eddie: “I was just making the point that it is corruption and cronyism that has ruined the Greek economy, not socialism.”

    You mean to say corruption and cronyism are possible, and worse allowed, in a socialist society? How can this be?

    Shouldn’t the ‘don’t worry be happy’ utopia of socialism eliminate the drive to engage in such crimes against social and economic justice, not to mention shared humanity?

    Shouldn’t fairness and a level playing field be enough to sustain the common good ideal?

    • EABeem

      There is a pervasive delusion among free marketeers that money is the only reason anyone does anything, that without the pursuit of riches there would be no progress, no creativity, no individual initiative. This is complete and utter nonsense. Danish photojournalists, for example, are guaranteed an income and are among the best in the world. Freed from the need to earn enough to pay the bills, people are also free to reach their full potential, to devote themselves to the pursuit of excellence rather than just the pursuit of an almighty buck.

      • poppypapa

        And your words respond to the comment I made how??

        Besides giving me another lecture on ‘social democrat nirvana,’ that is.

        No doubt other readers can see where the plight of Danish photojournalists is on point to your premise in the column.

        You are becoming like the corner soap-boxers in downtown LA years ago. Standing atop a one foot platform, lecturing the sky, and paying no attention to those strolling right before you. Unless they say “here…buy your self something with this.”

        • EABeem

          Just trying to straighten out your warped world view. But I do get a kick out of how you always seem to think you make the rules.

          • poppypapa

            What kind of idiotic cop-out is that? This isn’t about rules, it’s about comments and replies.

            If you’re going to play off my comments, at least try to stay on topic. Otherwise, just write another column, and put it at the top.

            Oh; and I just finished reading a number of contractual documents, and they have nothing to do with anything you said in your column, or in the comment string. Other than to remind me of your inability to make sense.

            Must be time for you to roll out the usual “that’s why I decided I won’t waste my time responding to you and the other flakes.”

            It’s the only way you can avoid exposing yourself further as a compous bloviator who can’t deal with questions/challenges, other than to distract, go off on the j axis, and other ploys. If you had to do so, it would risk eroding the legend, and the number of people who come up to you on the street and in the supermarket to tell you how much they love you and how brilliant you are might drop down to something less than 50 a day.

            So we get it. Better to….than to…..etc.

          • EABeem

            As I believe I may have explained previously, I rarely bother to reply to your comments — and those of a handful of other readers — because they are usually just snide insults that do not deserve or call for reply. When I do feel like responding, you seem to insist that I must address every question and point that you raise. That’s what I mean by your fetish with playing by your rules. When I do reply, it is only because something in your comment — a bias or tone, rarely an idea — prompts me to want to set you straight. Queenie asked why Chew thought Bernie Sanders would turn the US into Greece. I pointed out that while it is easy to blame democratic socialism for Greece’s economic crisis, the real causes are crony capitalism, corruption and a failure to pay taxes. You jump in out of right field with blather about socialist utopias, which reminded me that conservatives cannot understand that the US is a socialist democracy and so are many of the European countries. Hence the little lecture on why the conservative view that money is the only incentive to work is so far off the mark. But then I know I am wasting my time on someone who does not believe in things like economic justice and the common good, so, again, I wonder why I bother.

          • poppypapa

            Think of it as your opportunity to help the unwashed, the little people, understand the societal complexities that for you are clear as day and axiomatic, and for which any counterpoint is summarily dismissable.

            I’m hopeless; but I like to give you a platform from which to proselytize those who have not yet cloaked themselves in the extremist, radical, mean-spirited, hateful thinking that those who take issue with your pronouncements engage in.

            I should know that testing your premises or otherwise suggesting they might be flawed is an affront to a guru’s self-image.

            But at least I give you a chance to show the thinking and convictions behind your ideology. I take from the column and exchange that you see socialism as perfection, spoiled only when human nature interferes.

            BTW: one more question. Who should head and manage the socialist system, and what are they entitled to as compared to the masses they oversee?

            Thanks for all your clarifications. Be sure and have your autograph pen with you when you head downtown today, looking for corruption and cronyism in every nook and cranny. It’s out there to see; you just have to open your eyes. And keep the smoke out of them.

          • EABeem

            In answer to your question: elected representatives. We have a socialist democracy in this country already. You just refuse to acknowledge it. Of course, we might get better elected officials if we took all the PAC, corporate and union money out of elections. One person, one vote. Each person entitled to contribute $1,000 per candidate and no more.

          • poppypapa

            “Refuse to acknowledge?” So you want me to accept the ‘label’ you apply to our system? Here I would have thought you’d be a devotee of the ‘no labels’ movement espoused by Snowe, Cutler, King and others as I recall.

            I don’t find your label very useful, other than in very general terms. I accept the fact that we live in an entitlement based society, getting worse year by year. The gimme mentality grows with each new ‘crisis,’ like college loans at the moment. I further surmise that you and your fellow believers would really like full-boat socialism; whatever you call our current system, it’s not good enough and perfected enough for you and yours. It’s just a way point on the path to utopia.

            I find figures and trends much more useful, including those which extrapolate and analyze the budget/economic consequences of the path we’re on, not to mention the social costs of growing a multi-generational dependency class of enormous scale. Helped along by a burgeoning government non-profit industrial complex that earns it’s living promoting such ‘progress.’

            The first law of economics is scarcity. Greece is simply demonstrating what that means in a practical sense, but all too many want to dismiss it as an anomaly.

            As for your elected officials who would manage the socialist system, would they be entitled to any special privileges and perks?

          • EABeem

            No. Ideally elected representatives would be “entitled” to or “earn” the same Soc. Sec., Medicare benefits the average American worker gets, no more, no less. Now here’s a question for you: Aren’t people who work in the defense industry and complain about taxes and big government being somewhat hypocritical? I mean I do get tired of people who live off tax dollars complaining about taxes.

          • poppypapa

            That’s a pretty limited response.

            And who says you get to set the rules of this discussion?

            No matter. First, I am long retired from the defense industry. Second, I accept the need for taxes, and believe in limited government, as originally conceived in the founding documents. Not unlimited, which is the train we’re on.

            Third, I believe that providing for the common defense against all enemies foreign and domestic is the number one role of government.

            Fourth, every piece of business I was involved in was competitively procured and we won. I retired for good when the team I was on lost a major competition. And I was on the losing team in other competitions. For the record, I was involved enough to know the underlying business/financial parameters involved, and accusations of ‘windfall profits’ were provably untrue in my sphere of business.

            As an added note, the facility where I spent 35 years of my career was demolished some years back and replaced with a shopping center and condos. Similar transitions have occurred in all sorts of other locations. Shipbuilders have declined from a dozen or more years ago, to just a bare handful in recent years, who can barely keep going.

            So pile on the defense industry all you want. But while you’re at it, add your explanation of how we live in a kumbaya world, and that ships cause wars, as many in this area believe.

            Which is like saying that police cause crime, doctors cause illness, and teachers cause ignorance.

          • EABeem

            Not piling on the defense industry at all. Just saying I don’t want to hear people who made their livings and get their pensions paid with taxpayer money complain about taxes and big government.

          • poppypapa

            “You don’t want to hear….?”

            That’s rich.

            I don’t get a pension.

            Wow…you just took a whole lot of folks out of civic discourse. How generous and kind of you to decide that whole career sectors should not subject your tender ears to comment on the parameters of our ‘self-government.’

            So you weren’t ragging on the defense industry, but on the larger collective group who fit the description you just offered.

            Do such unqualified quasi-citizens have your blessing to complain that taxes aren’t high enough, and government isn’t big enough in such a way that you ‘hear’ it?

            Just askin’, as they say.

          • EABeem

            All I said was that people who are dependent on taxes for a living probably shouldn’t be complaining about taxes, whether they are in the defense industry or the public sector.

          • poppypapa

            Actually, what you said is this:

            “Aren’t people who work in the defense industry and complain about taxes
            and big government being somewhat hypocritical? I mean I do get tired of
            people who live off tax dollars complaining about taxes.”

            And this:

            “Just saying I don’t want to hear people who made their livings and get
            their pensions paid with taxpayer money complain about taxes and big

            Now it’s “probably shouldn’t be complaining about taxes….” The old bob and weave and float here float there moves you’ve perfected over the years to dodge responses that make you feel a bit, well, human.

            Must be nice to live in a bumper car thought universe, where if you accidentally run into something, you simply spin the wheel to one side or another, hit full throttle, and head off in a completely different direction until you run into somebody or something else. At which time it’s ‘rinse and repeat.’

            I’ll make sure to let all my friends know there are special conditions that must be met before they can comment on taxes and the size of government at local, state, and federal levels.

            Otherwise, they’ll have to talk to your hand, because your face won’t listen. Come to think of it, why don’t you update that byline photo of yours to show you holding a hand up, with the index finger of the other hand pointing at it, and a little inscription on your palm that says ‘those that disagree with me should talk to this.’

            If you’re really artful, you might be able to feature two fingers of that hand in the shot, artfully juxtaposed.

          • EABeem

            You take a few words, twist them out of shape, reach absurd conclusions, make demands, and wrap the whole thing in an aspic of insult. Not very appealing. Find another columnist who will banter with you.

          • poppypapa

            That’s a load of hooey, and another attempt to wiggle out of who you are and what you say.

            And I can’t think of any local opinion writer who deserves my parries more than you.

            “Aspic of insult;” is that the name of a favorite painting?

          • Queenie42

            Angry white man? Why don’t you tell them, the next time anyone asks, about Our Man in Augusta, Paul Lepage? He hates everyone, including himself.

          • Chew H Bird

            I have private clients whose work is based on competitive bidding for government (mostly defense) contracts. I provide services to those private entities. Because of this I have no right to complain about high taxes and government requirements that force me to charge higher prices? I have no pension or “free” benefits from my work. I pay my own way. Yet ultimately a significant percentage of my revenue is derived from tax dollars (or interest penalized loans to our government).

  • poppypapa

    PS: Now that you’re living in Brunswick, perhaps you’d like to address the corruption and cronyism that takes place right here in our little corner of the state. Including use of lots of tax breaks of all sorts. And forgivable loans of public funds, etc.

    “Think globally, act locally.”

  • Bowdoin81

    Trump recently said that hedge fund managers are paper pushers who don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Now, there’s a populist comment that could feel right at home in the Universal Notebook.

  • Kevin McCarthy

    Donald Trump has succeeded in making crudity and crassness
    acceptable. He provides cover for racists, xenophobes and misogynists. So on
    that level he’s very successful. He doesn’t want to be President, he’s simply promoting
    his brand. News coverage is free advertising, so outrageous comments are
    essential. They also divert attention from a governing
    philosophy that is essentially autocratic. Better for him to appear to have solutions
    than to reveal that he has no ability to implement them. I’m still waiting for
    his expose regarding Obama’s citizenship status. He promised us years ago that “his
    people” had compiled one. Trump is the quintessential ugly American. He’s made
    despicability respectable.

    • Chew H Bird

      I agree, however he is the only candidate to actually say what he thinks…

      • Kevin McCarthy

        That’s a big leap of faith. A lot of words come out of his mouth, not all of them consistent or coherent.

        I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest that is a sufficient qualification for any candidate. If the quality of his thought is rancid, no amount of bombast is going to save him.

        • Chew H Bird

          I’m not saying his thoughts or words are worthy, just that he speaks what he thinks and despite what he says I would prefer candidates that speak their mind (even if I do not like what I hear).

          • Kevin McCarthy

            That he “speaks what he thinks” is a big assumption. Much of what he asserts as fact is either just wrong or not believable.

          • EABeem

            And since when did not having a filter on your thoughts become a commendable trait? And if your thoughts are racist, sexist, elitist and egomaniacal, should you be applauded for speaking your mind?

          • Chew H Bird

            I have no problem with a candidate providing reasons vote for other people and what is wrong can hopefully be proven wrong. I think the media savvy filters used by most are just as dishonorable by enabling omissions. And the cover up efforts of most candidates are often blown over and forgotten about.

            Much of my work touches the edges of government and the extent of special interest, multiple reviews for political positions, intentional leaks, “favors” and “incentives” is as bad or worse than what happens in private corporations. Watching the early political cartoons, I mean candidates, is interesting but frightening when the far reaching potential of their goals is weighed against their humanity and experiences.

  • yathink2011

    In many ways, the writings of EAB, and the speaking of Donald Trump are very similar. Neither has a filter. One condemns the right, and one condemns the left. At this moment in time, it appears as though Donald Trump has a better feel for the pulse of Americans.

    • EABeem

      Trump doesn’t just condemn the left, he condemns anyone who is not Donald Trump. He’s bashed John McCain, Jeb Bush, Megyn Kelly and anyone else who doesn’t think Donald Trump is God’s gift to America, which he is not. While it is true that I am very critical of the right, my criticism is based on principle. Trump’s criticisms are based on ego.

      • yathink2011

        I guess you would see it that way.

        • EABeem

          Why wouldn’t I? Don’t you see that Trump trashes anyone who disagrees with him regardless of party?

          • yathink2011

            My original comment was about the similarities in style of both of you. The Trumping of America is very similar to the Beeming of America. Just an observation.

          • EABeem

            You flatter me.

          • yathink2011

            Maybe you could be his running mate.