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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Comparing Donald Trump to a Badly Infected Big Toe

“Horrible but fascinating, and hard not to stare at over and over.”   That’s my analogy between Donald Trump running for president and closely inspecting one’s own badly infected big toe.  My blog is usually about things other than politics, as steady readers will certainly know, but in 2016 I keep coming back to The Donald because he’s mesmerizing.  I promise to stop, at least for awhile, and in the future write about other topics, but right now I can’t stop marveling at the impossibility that this madness is really going on.

There is no way anything as outrageous as the Donald Trump campaign could be this close to the presidency of the United States, with the man at its top so outrageously unqualified for the office—that scenario surely is fiction, or a joke, or a skit on Saturday Night Live, or a ridiculous dream.  Like huge numbers of people the world over, I find myself guiltily rubbernecking at this traffic wreck in progress, not quite believing it’s real. 

You keep hearing speculation that Trump has never really meant to actually become president, that one afternoon he’ll simply pull his chips from the table and announce that he’s tired of running and has decided instead to build a golf course on the moon or something else more interesting than the tedium of politics.  But so far, no.  Instead The Donald keeps rambling on, making spontaneous disconnected statements as the moment seizes him, sounding, as one commentator wrote, like someone making a “drunken wedding toast.”

DOONESBURY [click to enlarge]

When things are revealed about Trump’s past that would sink any other candidate immediately, it means nothing to his followers and fans.  Donald Trump is not, as he endlessly proclaims, one of the most astute businessmen on the planet, and no one who looks carefully into his record thinks so.  Major books have been written exposing Trump’s shady business dealings [see Wayne Barrett, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,”; Timothy L. O’Brien, “Trump Nation,” (which led to the author being sued by Trump for libel and winning the lawsuit); David Cay Johnston, “Temples of Chance” exploring Trump’s casino days and concluding that in 1990 Trump was in debt to the tune of nearly three hundred million dollars, leading to the first of the (so far) six bankruptcies filed by Trump companies.  His record is replete with major failure after major failure, all of which he escapes from nicely by taking the corporations into bankruptcy while he retains big bucks paid to him as a salary/bonus/commission for heading up the financial disaster. 

One major business tactic, employed in building Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City and at other projects, is to sign contracts with the various companies doing  subcontracting work, let them perform, and then send them checks for half the amount owed them.  When they protest, Trump’s usual excuse is not that their performance was substandard, but that he’s losing money on the project and they’ll just have to take their share of the hit.  When the subcontractor protests Trump’s lawyer frankly explain that, yeah, the contractor might well win if he goes to court, but in the meantime the enormous Trump legal machine will make it so expensive and so long a process that the contractor still won’t make any money from the lawsuit, so he might as well take the partial payment and shut up.  [For a more complete discussion see the AP news release of June 29, 2016 at; and for a very sad interview on point see the video in]  

I previously wrote a long blog post detailing Trump’s fraud in creating, profiting by, and legal problems arising from his promotion of Trump University, which duped thousands of the people who loved him into handing over their savings but giving them nothing in return [see “Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;].  If he becomes the next President of the United States, it is highly likely that, while in office, he’ll be found guilty of swindling these poor people and facing massive damages in one or more of the three class actions currently seeking that very relief. What an example of a U.S. President that will be for the world!

A major recent revelation is—shocking but somehow predictable—that Trump did not write the major bestseller “The Art of the Deal” which has made him millions since 1987 when it was first published.  Here is the cover of the book:

Note that the author of the book is described as “Donald Trump with Tony Schwartz.” It turns out this is false.  Recently Mr. Schwartz gave an interview to The New Yorker in which he repents ever meeting Donald Trump and agreeing to write the book that made Trump even more famous and both of them rich [see].  Schwartz says (and Random House, the publisher confirms) that Trump didn’t write a single word of the book.  Schwartz wrote it alone after spending 18 months with Trump, working hard to get him to participate at all.  Here are some Schwartz’s quotes from the interview:

 “I put lipstick on a pig. . . . I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”

“He has no attention span . . . like a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom . . . .  If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time.”

“More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true. . . .  He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.”

“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Statements like that of course sent Trump rocketing into the stratosphere.  Immediately after the interview was published in The New Yorker Schwartz received a blistering letter from Trump’s lawyer, who demanded a retraction and threatened a lawsuit for defamation.  That’s in keeping with Trump’s usual tactic: he sues fast, refuses to settle, and drags things out to raise the other side’s attorney’s fees until they give up.  Tony Schwartz’s lawyer immediately replied that Schwartz had no intention of making a retraction, so go ahead and sue.  Schwartz has pledged to give all profits he makes from “The Art of the Deal” from now on to charity, and he’s working hard to defeat Trump’s election as president.  [For more details on this legal battle see].

On August 2nd, President Obama, astounded at Trump’s ineptness, declared on television that Donald Trump is "woefully unprepared" and "unfit to serve as president."  Comparing Trump to Obama’s past election opponents, the president said "Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn't do the job."  He is very disturbed by the possibility that Trump might be the next occupant of the Oval Office.  We all should be.

Governor John Kasich
There is some evidence that when Donald Trump was trying to persuade former rival John Kasich to become his vice presidential running mate he offered to let Kasich, behind the scenes, actually run the government both on the domestic and international levels, while Trump himself remained Head of State for all ceremonial occasions.  It’s both hard to believe that offer was made, but at the very same time no one would bet big money Trump didn’t actually propose it.  John Kasich not only turned Trump down, he has refused to endorse him for president, and wouldn’t even attend the Republican Convention held in Ohio where Kasich is the current governor.

I finish the post where it started.  The whole Trump campaign is very much like a badly infected big toe: scary yet fascinating, both real and unreal at the same instant.  Everyone should be clear about making sure this bizarre man is not elected president.  I don’t care how much you dislike Hillary Clinton.  Okay, she might either be a very good president or a poor one, but she’s not unqualified for the office, and she’s a sane and thoughtful person with an impressive record of public service.  If you can’t vote for her because you can’t stand the woman or don’t trust her, stay home.  Time Magazine quoted BriAna Golphin, an Ohioan, who summed up the attitude all voters should have about Trump’s candidacy when she said, “It could be Kermit the Frog and Donald Trump, I’d pick Kermit the Frog.”

I'm with BriAna.  Kermit would at least work to make intelligent decisions.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;]

“Why Hillary Will Stomp Trump In November,” June 30, 2016;

“Trump’s VP Choice:  Introducing Sarah Palin . . . Mike Pence!” July 18, 2016;

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trump's VP Choice: Introducing Sarah Palin . . . uh . . . Mike Pence!


Donald Trump has gotten where he is by trusting his instincts to outpace the common hoard by doing outrageous and over-the-top things to attract attention, demonstrating he’s a very different candidate than those the Republican party has forwarded since Lincoln, its first.  Therefore it’s interesting to watch him make a mistake when choosing a vice presidential mate and going for what he assumes is the “safe” and “responsible” choice, as traditional Republicans urged him strongly to do.  My guess is that Donald’s gut pushed him to tap Newt Gingrich, upsetting a lot of responsible Republicans but in keeping with Trump as Trump.  Gingrich (intelligent, experienced, half mad) would have filled the usual role of VP candidate job as “attack dog” with canine ferocity approaching “wolf.”

Mike Pence is more poodle.  Sure, on cue he’ll yap fiercely, but he has all the gravitas of a vaguely animated corpse, not quite alive, trying very hard to appear human.  It’s easy to picture him at a formal viewing playing the part of the deceased.

Okay, I’m being too hard on the man (though he’s oh so easy to make fun of).  Let me try instead to lay out the facts as clearly and fairly as I can.  (Deep breath)

Actually Michael Richard Pence and I have a number of things in common.  We were both born in southern Indiana, raised Catholic, and graduated from law school (though two decades apart—I wonder if he used my textbooks when in school).  We both married and raised a family.  After that, however, our stories differ dramatically.

Mike (as he prefers to be called) is a far right conservative.  That statement more or less sums him up.  Whatever the far right embraces, he likes it, urges it, and pushed its agenda when he was a Congressman, and, as a governor, signed its bills into law.  He is the darling of the NRA, hates legislation restricting tobacco (“Smoking doesn’t kill,” Mike stubbornly insists), dismisses climate change as fantasy, loves charter schools, and has said that the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare was as bad as the 9/11 attacks (though he later apologized for that claim).  In Congress and as governor he has worked hard to abolish any right to abortion.  Most recently he signed into law a bill that would have made women who aborted fetuses bury or cremate the remains, and made it a crime for doctors to assist in an abortion if the woman’s stated reason was a disability in the fetus—this law was recently struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge.  Michael Pence doesn’t believe in evolution, favors using coal as a major energy source, and signed a bill that forbade Indiana municipalities to raise the minimum wage above the federal level.  Mike sums himself up as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order."

It’s Mike Pence’s record on homosexuality that made him a national disgrace in March of 2015, which I’ve written about before: “A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;  Pence has always being rabidly anti-gay, opposing gay marriage as violating God’s will, against any protection at the state level from anti-gay discrimination, and (when in Congress) pushing for a bill that would have taken federal money from groups fighting HIV-AIDS and divert it to groups engaged in “conversion therapy” (i.e., “pray-away-the-gay” and professional reparative therapists who “talk it away,” all of which have been much debunked by medical groups and even some reparative groups who have finally given up this ridiculous farce).  But that March, after pressure from religious groups, Mike signed into law Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which, through clever wording, voided all of Indiana’s municipal LGBT protection ordinances and specifically allowed private individuals to discriminate against gays in employment, housing, and public accommodations when doing otherwise would violate a person’s religious liberty.  Mike’s signing of the bill was attended by many happy religious figures.

The outcry was enormous: quickly companies pulled out of deals to open up shop in Indiana, sports organizations threatened to move big events elsewhere, major celebrities went to social media and whipped up anti-Indiana activity, other states forbade travel to Indiana, and the  Indianapolis Star ran a banner headline addressed to Pence and the legislature saying starkly “FIX THIS NOW.”  Governor Pence was quizzed on ABC by George Stephanopoulis who, in six tries, couldn’t get Mike to say whether the new statute was meant to discriminate against gays or not.  Here is the short video of that effort (and if it won't load on your device you can see it at


With national finger-pointing aimed at him everywhere, a surprised Pence quickly huddled with the legislature and had it pass a “clarifying” amendment, restoring LGBT rights at the municipal level.  Pence explained that the Indiana statute was never meant to discriminate against anyone (!), a remark that shows he’s either brain dead or so bad a politician that he can’t even concoct a credible lie. This retreat also made homophobes furious with him, thus alienating a key support group. They’ve not forgotten how quickly he’ll fold when challenged on his core principles.

Now Michael Pence is vying for the Vice Presidency of the United States, and all this baggage is about to be clicked open, contents revealed for all to see.  Viewers will be asking themselves the usual question they ask about any possible VP: “What sort of president would this man be?”

Trump himself had major worries that he was being railroaded into choosing Pence, and he dithered until midnight of the final day it was possible to delay the announcement [Pence had to tell the State of Indiana that day whether he would run for reelection as governor since state law did not allow candidates doing so to also run for other offices].  By all accounts The Donald  was unhappy at the pressure, and when he appeared the next day to publicly confirm that Mike Pence was his running mate, he first spoke for half an hour on unrelated matters before briefly introducing Pence and then fleeing the stage—not at all the usual hoopla over the VP choice.  It was as if his choice of Pence was an afterthought, not worthy of much movement of the spotlight away from himself.

Many people have wondered how Trump as president would handle decisions under pressure, and this display is a bad harbinger.  Very bad.

The Trump/Pence logo also appears to have been poorly thought out, and after being proudly unveiled was almost immediately withdrawn, another major “OOPS!.”  “TP,” alas, is the usual shorthand for toilet paper, and social media became giddy with mean menes on point.  [If the video below won't load you can find it at]


Dan Quayle
In the title of this post I jokingly compared Mike Pence to Sarah Palin, but perhaps a more telling reference would be to Dan Quayle (the first George Bush’s vice president).  Quayle was a former student of mine from the early days of my career when I started teaching at the Indiana Indianapolis Law School, though I have no memory of him (I do remember with admiration his wife Marilyn, also a law student, and a splendid one).  Dan Quayle was another Hoosier selected as a running mate, and once he became vice president he had major problems with the job, primarily because he wasn’t sharp enough to handle himself on the national stage.  Dan Quayle jokes were everywhere, and he ended up being an embarrassment to whom history will not be kind.  Now I fear that if Trump were somehow elected, Mike Pence will have the same “deer in the headlights” tenure.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“A Gay Hoosier Lawyer Looks at Indiana’s RFRA: The Religious Bigot Protection Act,” March 30, 2015;

“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;]

“A Homophobic Organization Throws in the Towel: Goodbye to Exodus International,” June 21, 2013;

“Why Hillary Will Stomp Trump In November,” June 30, 2016;

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why Hillary Will Stomp Donald in November

For Donald Trump to become the President of the United States in 2017 more than 50% of the people who vote in this November’s election must decide that he not only has the wisdom, experience, and gravitas to fill that exalted office, but that he’s also the best of the two likely candidates to be chosen president and, in effect, run the world for the following four years. 
The chances of that are small. 
Sure, a major number of people voted for him in the Republican primaries, and those people believe he has the right qualities, or that, even if he doesn’t, he’ll at least be better than the usual politicians who become president and don’t make their lives appreciably better, so what the hell!  Plus they hate Hillary Clinton.
But even if Trump held the votes of all those people (and he won’t) they lack the numbers (even if they all vote, which they won’t) to win him the office.  Trump must also attract big numbers of new voters to his camp, and that isn’t going to happen. 
The reason I say this is that Donald Trump can’t keep his mouth shut and when he opens it he frequently (and I mean frequently) says irresponsible things that he has to immediately correct, deny, or explain, and then he attacks those who point out his errors or lies or cover-ups, followed by changing the subject to some new outrageous statement, as if the prior controversy had never happened.  Everyone reading this knows what I mean, even determined Trump supporters.
Donald is uninformed about major issues, but that doesn’t stop him from blathering on about them.  He rarely states facts, but when he does he is frequently immediately proven wrong or—and this happens a lot, particularly when it’s about his history—he lies brazenly and ignores evidence of his misconduct.  He then switches to some new misadventure and sells it to a cheering crowd, who apparently have no interest in consistency.

But every time this happens, which is more or less daily, he loses a few more voters, who wise up and walk away.  Even on issues where Trump is supposedly strong he can screw things up, suddenly supporting gun purchases for suspicious people on watchlists, for example, which much upsets the National Rifle Association, a longtime supporter.  Trump woos voters who oppose LGBT rights, stating he doesn’t agree with gay marriages (though the evidence suggests he really doesn’t care about the issue at all, having had three “traditional marriages” of his own), but then turns around and favors transgendered people using the bathroom of their choice, ah . . . but then—when pushed—reversed course and said it should be “up to the states” (after having specifically said North Carolina was wrong to legislate LGBT discrimination).  Before he ran for president Trump was fine with gay rights and attended gay ceremonies, such as the one in 2005 where Elton John (an old friend of Trump) and his longtime partner cemented their relationship, causing Trump to state in his blog: “I’m very happy for them. If two people dig each other, they dig each other.” He added, “This is a marriage that is going to work.”  Hmm.
Serge Kovaleski
Stupidly Trump keeps alienating more and more groups by outrageous statements or conduct.  When Donald claimed that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated on the rooftops in New Jersey when the World Trade Center was attacked and this proved not to be true, he pointed to a story written by a New York Times reporter named Serge Kovaleski who at the time had published an account of 9/11 in which he stated that authorities had detained “a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”  This turned out to be unsubstantiated.  When Kovaleski was asked about it in 2016 he did “not recall anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds of people celebrating. That was not the case, as best I can remember.”  At this point Trump was furious.  It turns out that he and Kovaleski knew each other for years in the 1980s when Kovaleski covered real estate deals in NYC—they were on a first name basis—and Trump knew that Kovaleski suffers from a congenital condition called arthrogryposis, which limits mobility and muscle development in the joints, causing the reporter paralysis of his hands and to sometimes shake when he talks.  Trump promptly went on TV and blasted Kovaleski for backing away from his story, and then imitated Kovaleski’s disability in a video that went viral, and which you can see at  Since making fun of the man’s handicap made Trump look like a major villain, Trump at first denied knowing Kovaleski had a disability (even though on the video he says, “You gotta see this guy” just before he begins his imitation), and then he reversed course and accused Kovaleski of “using his disability to grandstand”! 
If you put this sort of behavior in a novel about a political candidate for president, no one would believe it no matter how well written it was.  It even seems like fiction as I write it now.
There are many more examples, but as they pile up Trump’s supporters must begin to worry that Trump is all show and no performance, and feel much like the befuddled travelers in “The Wizard of Oz” being told to ignore the “man behind the curtain” and concentrate on the big screen image of the Wizard.  That’s fiction that rings true.

Donald Trump talks big, but decode what is happening and you realize he’s all slogans and no substance.  “I’m going to be great!  Great!”   That’s easy to say, but Trump doesn’t say how he’s going to do it, except to mouth more platitudes like “I’m going to create so many jobs you won’t believe it!”  Sounds terrific, and even better if you yell it and a thousand people scream “YES!” on cue.

But voters have brains and the world is a scary place in which to let inexperienced people do whatever the hell they want.  As the months between now and November go by, Trump will frighten or annoy or offend or in some way alienate first this group, then that group, then this voter, then that voter, until his numbers plummet and the election is over before the votes are cast.

Oh, wait!  The debates!  They’ll be very interesting. Hell, they’ll be fun!  Hillary is a skilled debater and she won’t let him wiggle off these hooks on which he’s so badly impaled.  He’ll try to change the subject and she’ll twist the hook tighter.  He’ll try and attack her and she’ll push back with facts and more facts.  He’ll throw out his usual sayings, which sound weaker each time they’re repeated.
My prediction is not only will she take him down, but the Republicans are right to worry that he might destroy the rest of the ticket, leaving the Democrats in control of Congress, and the Republican Party a mess, perhaps fatally wounded.

Of course Hillary will have things to answer for.  The email thing was certainly badly handled, but the other things that Trump and others try and smear her with are nothing compared to his faults.  She’s accused of being too nice to a wayward husband.  That’s a flaw?  Yes, Hillary earned a lot of money, but there is no evidence it influenced her actions in the many offices she’s held, in which she’s served with distinction.  Hillary Clinton has taken principled stances on issues and hasn’t changed those positions all her life. 
Hillary Was a Guest at Donald's Wedding!

Donald, on the other hand, is guilty of most everything he’s accused of.  As I’ve explained in a prior post [“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”?, see below], he’s certainly guilty of out-and-out fraud in his creation and operation of Trump University.  I teach the law of fraud in my law school classes and in my textbooks used across the country in courses like Contracts and Consumer Law.  The latest edition of my Consumer Law book, which is going to press as I type this, contains a segment on the law of fraud which defines the tort as containing these elements: a material misrepresentation (that’s the lie), told deliberately with knowledge or recklessness about its untruth (“scienter”), on which the defrauded person justifiably relied to his or her detriment.  Donald Trump created his “university” (which had to change its name when the State of New York insisted it did not meet the standards for that designation) and put out a video in which he assured viewers that if they attended his wonderful university he’d teach them his secret of success and make them rich, adding that he had handpicked their talented instructors.  In reality the program was completely worthless, Trump did not pick the teachers, but what he really did do was take huge amounts of money (up to $35,000 each) from thousands of people who trusted him, who believed they were his new apprentices, who were his fans, and then he left them without the post-graduation support his school had promised it would provide.  Trump contends that 98% of graduates said they were “very satisfied” when they finished the training, and he’s right.  But that’s because his instruction book to his employees required them to stand over the shoulders of the graduates as they filled out the forms and make sure they marked them favorably.  When the lawsuits followed, Trump tried two tactics to get himself dismissed from the case: (1) he said he had nothing really to do with Trump University and (2) that the school did give the students some valuable training.  In one opinion handed down so far in the case, the judge ruled that Trump was much involved in the school (that video was damning), and that at trial the plaintiffs would be allowed to prove that the school gave its students nothing of value other than obvious things.  Trump, furious that he will have to testify at these trials (there are three of them—two in California in federal court, one in New York, all involving over 5000 swindled students), immediately publically accused the federal judge in California (see photo below) of being biased against him because he’s Mexican and Trump is reputedly anti-Mexican!  The judge was born in Indiana of Mexican parents, but, what the hell, Trump had to say something.  He can’t just admit that he’s guilty of fraud and that, while Trump University itself failed, he himself pocketed over $5 million from his poor victims who trusted him enough to believe his lies and hand him their savings.
Federal District Judge Gonzalo Curiel

Trump has failed in many of the businesses he’s started, but in all those failures it was his companies that entered bankruptcy, not Trump himself.  Before the final collapse, as with Trump University, he took his salary off the top, and exited from the failures with mucho money in his bank account.  And speaking of money, it will be very interesting to learn when he finally releases his tax returns that he doesn’t actually pay any taxes at all into the U.S. Treasury, but instead has worked things out so his money is parked overseas, free of taxation.  Okay, I don’t know that, but want to bet?  What will his tax-paying supporters think when they hear this?
Donald Trump isn’t just a bad candidate for president, for all the above reasons he’s a dangerous one.  Internationally the US election is being watched with wide-eyed fascination as the world contemplates with horror the idea of Donald Trump having any chance of coming to power.  Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, she’s not a dangerous candidate.  She has the experience, the resume, and the trust of the leaders of the world to become the President of the United States, and they will sigh with relief when she’s sworn in.

In March of this year my husband and I were in New York City, and late one Friday evening, after attending the theater, we returned to our hotel in Times Square and got on the elevator with an elegantly dressed woman of about 45.  As we began a long ride up, the woman, who perhaps had had a bit to drink, suddenly asked if we were Americans.  We replied that we were, and she identified herself as Canadian.  We all smiled and then she said, very seriously and loudly, “But this election!!!  Donald Trump!!! What the FUCK are you Americans doing???”
We laughed, but it wasn’t all that funny.
Related Posts:
A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;],