Lee A. Daniels
The danger that Donald Trump, practitioner of questionable business practices, inveterate bully, racist, sexist, demagogue and the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president of the United States, presents to American society was never more evident than in how he behaved last week amid a flurry of negative news stories.
The result was more additions to the ever-expanding “enemies’ list” he’s promised his mob of supporters he’ll retaliate against once he gets to the Oval Office.
For example, there’s Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over the court case involving Trump’s ill-fated business, “Trump University.” The evidence and testimony in the case thus far strongly suggest the “school” wasn’t simply a mismanaged enterprise but, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman put it, “just straight up fraud.”
So, because Judge Curiel’s parents emigrated from Mexico decades ago (and became American citizens), Trump keeps referring to him as “Mexican,” though he was born in East Chicago, Ind., took both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Indiana, and has forged a sterling legal career in the United States. Last week, Trump told his supporters at a rally that the federal court system “is a rigged system” and that “They ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace.”
Trump’s words reek of those Southern segregationists routinely used during the Jim Crow decades to denounce federal court decisions that were re-establishing the civil rights of Black Americans. But his threat to bend the judiciary to his will is unprecedented for a serious presidential candidate.
Also last week, after reporters began asking him pointed questions about the disbursement of donations he had collected last January and pledged to give to veterans’ groups, Trump began insulting individuals reporters at the news conference he himself had called and bitterly threatening to curb press freedoms once he got to the Oval Office.
And finally, Trump last week excoriated the PGA Tour after its officials told him they were moving its World Golf Championship tournament from a Trump’s golf course in Miami to Mexico City next year. The reason: Trump’s “brand” is now so toxic officials couldn’t get the commercial advertising and corporate sponsorship deals they needed to make holding the event there profitable.
Trump, characteristically, cast the decision as a personal insult. “Can you believe it?” he later bellowed at a rally in Sacramento. “But that’s okay. Folks, it’s all going to be settled. You vote for Donald Trump as president. If I become your president, this stuff is all going to stop.”
Does this behavior meet the standards “acting presidential?” Or, is it more an example of acting “dictatorial.” Or, really more like that of a crime syndicate boss?
Hillary Clinton, the Democrat’s presumptive nominee, had the proper, scathing assessment of Trump’s candidacy and character in a speech she gave last Thursday in San Diego that, effectively, marked the opening of her general election campaign against him.
“Donald’s Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent,” she said. “They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies. He is not just unprepared – he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.” As if to help her make the point, Trump, while Clinton was speaking, sent a steady stream of tweets containing bizarre rants, outright lies and personal insults about her to his followers.
Already that day, in what was clearly a coordinated attempt to mute Clinton’s thunder, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who had resisted endorsing Trump for months, had declared in a column appearing in his Janesville, Wisc. hometown newspaper that he would vote for him, after all.
The column’s plaintive, almost pitiful tone was so unmistakable that the Washington Post editorialized it was obvious “Mr. Ryan capitulated to ugliness.” The headline over the story on the Huffington Post website was more piercing: Referring to Ryan’s Congressional position, it blared, “Squeaker of the House.”
Curiously, the day ended with a violent incident outside a Trump rally in San Jose, Calif. in which an unidentified group of protesters attacked some Trump supporters and, even more curiously, burned an American flag. Trump’s camp immediately tweeted a notice of the incident, and the Clinton campaign immediately condemned it.
Trump is now facing several significant problems. They include a serious legal case that sometime within the next year could produce devastating consequences; and growing pressure to reveal his tax returns, amid suspicion that he both pays very little taxes and isn’t nearly as wealthy as he claims. In addition, Trump may be suffering a serious erosion of his business “branding” power because he’s so politically controversial.
And, finally, he’s got to contend with not a weak Tweedledum-Tweedledee group of Republicans but a lone, seasoned politician who has long marched through tough political battles at home and abroad.
However, Trump does hold one high card that makes him a clear and present danger. It’s not just that his mob of supporters have so eagerly sold their own birthright. It’s that they’ve done so because they’re intent on stealing ours.
Lee A. Daniels, a former reporter for The Washington Post and the New York Times, is also a former editor of The National Urban League’s The State of Black America. He is a keynote speaker and author whose books include Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He is writing a book on the Obama years and the 2016 election. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org