Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Old habits die hard
At age 70 Donald Trump became our oldest President. Prior to his election he enjoyed a financially successful career in the rough-and-tumble, cutthroat world of high-stakes commercial development. Deals are usually measured in the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. It isn't a profession for the timid. With that much money at stake, they'd throw their mama under the bus if that's what it took to close a deal.
There are no telling how many times in his career Mr. Trump has gone to a zoning official or building inspector, put his hand on his shoulder, and told him he'd "really appreciate it if you could make this little violation go away." He might have even followed it up with "You're a smart guy. If you ever get tired of workin' for city wages, come look me up. We can always use someone with your talents." And with that....problem gone. And if not, a phone call later that zoning official or building inspector became the new South Side illegal dumping deputy assistant / third shift. That's the way things often work in that world.
The problem for President Trump is that he brought that same method of problem solving with him into his White House.
Early in President Trump's business career his attorney was Roy Cohen, the same Roy Cohen who made a name for himself representing Joseph McCarthy and later numerous organized crime bosses. Mr. Cohen's modus operandi was simple: Attack! Bully! Intimidate! Bluff! They hit you, you hit them back X 10. They sue you, you counter-sue them for 10 times as much. Wear 'em down. Never admit anything. Donald Trump was a good study.
Fast forward to January, 2017. President Trump told Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to defend his travel ban and she refused, saying it was illegal (and courts later agreed). "You're FIRED!"
February, 2017. President Trump (supposedly) asked FBI Director Comey for a personal loyalty oath, something not uncommon to demand from his former business subordinates. Comey refused. Then Trump told Mr. Comey he would like to see the investigation of Michael Flynn go away. It didn't, and in fact the investigation widened. "You're FIRED!"
It was a sleazy way to do business, and it's a completely unacceptable way to run a country. At age 70 I doubt he is willing to change his ways. "It worked then, why not now?" The White House isn't Trump Tower, and Congress and the Courts aren't going to jump to attention when he snaps his fingers. If he keeps this up, and I think he will, a taxpayer funded moving van will probably sooner rather than later be pulling up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Stay tuned.