Whether they want to admit it or not, it’s becoming increasingly clear that MAGA Hatters are victims of a con game. A scam. A grift. A long end. In the old days, these gullible souls were referred to by the Roper as “Marks”, “Stooges”, “Mugus”, and “Rubes”. And they’ve been Bamboozled! Hornswoggled! Scammed by a fast-talking Flim-Flam Man! Hoodwinked by a self-aggrandizing, ignorant Buffoon!
What made this disastrous presidency possible? When will this national nightmare be over? And how was a sleazy con man allowed to invade the nation’s White House and take up residency and defile the office of the presidency?
It is an undeniable fact that Donald Trump and his criminal cartel cohorts, with the assistance of Russia, procured the U.S. presidency by fraud; therefore he is occupying the office illegitimately and not entitled to the protections afforded to a legitimate president. The question then becomes ‘why is he still enjoying those protections and not under criminal indictment and triggering articles of impeachment?
With increasing regularity, Trump commits impeachable offenses in full-view of the entire nation. And with the vile arrogance of the dictators he so loves and admires, or a Mafia mob boss, he flaunts the obscene fact that he is operating a criminal money-making enterprise out of the Oval Office. Moreover, with a daily tsunami of in-your-face pathological lies and a “So what?” attitude reminiscent of Tony Soprano, his very presence on the national scene is disgraceful and beyond repulsive.
How Did We Get Here?
As proven by U.S. Intelligence, one of our leading adversaries, Russia, actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election, affecting the outcome and placing the candidate of their choice in the White House. In addition to Russian interference, the election was sabotaged and corrupted in numerous ways. Widespread disenfranchisement, Republican scheming, voter roll purges, reduction of polling places, the U.S. Supreme Court’s removal of one of the protections of the Voting Rights Act, and collusion by Trump and his criminal cartel of associates, foreign and domestic. We now find ourselves tethered to an illegitimate holder of the office, who happens to be a sociopath with tremendous executive powers and unlimited access to our nuclear arsenal.
If ever there was a case for nullifying a presidential election, this was the one. In all fairness, Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin of nearly three million, clearly suggests that the rigged election should be overturned.
Con Man Trump: A Bad Joke or a Good Joke Gone Bad?
Any New York resident or frequent visitor to the Big Apple, as I was during the 1980s and 1990s, will recall that in those days Donald Trump was widely known as a multiple-bankrupt, sleazy, self-promoting con man and tax cheat. Tabloid fodder. With stories which he frequently and surreptitiously planted in the tabloid media himself. He was a joke and an embarrassment to long-time New Yorkers. But although they had grown accustomed to his presence and were familiar with his antics, none of them ever imagined the impossible.
“I’m a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know a Con when we see one!”
With these words spoken at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a penetrating salvo into the political stratosphere, emphatically placing the GOP nominee Donald Trump in the category in which he rightfully belongs. Con Man.
When Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul, approached the podium in the Wells Fargo Center arena in Philadelphia, it had been widely reported and was expected that he would endorse Hillary Clinton. But seconds into his speech, it was clear to every listener that it would be so much more. Bloomberg vs. Trump. Two New Yorkers. The real billionaire vs. the fake billionaire.
“Trump doesn’t want to be president. He wants to be called president.” Observed comedian Bill Maher.
Clearly, the bloated, lazy, clinically obese, 72-year-old enjoys all of the perks of the office, but anyone with functioning eyes and ears can see that he has absolutely no interest in or desire to perform the duties required of a legitimate president. He simply craves the numerous opportunities to be the center of attention and continue to spout his constant barrage of lies to his willfully ignorant lemming-like followers.
Most liars tell lies because it’s in their interest. Trump lies because it’s in his nature. He’s pathological, and he approaches every aspect of life from a platform of inherent dishonesty. The truth is irrelevant to him, and as is often said: He lies the way most people take their next breath. He’s an individual who was conceived and born a bad seed, and there is no hope of him ever changing.
Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star has been diligently compiling and fact-checking Trump’s lies since the campaign. This is truly a tremendous undertaking, and Daniel Dale’s Trump Checks exposes Trump’s unbelievably enormous capacity for lying. One doesn’t usually encounter lying of this fashion unless while recoiling from a disheveled vagrant on a park bench yelling at pigeons.
All of Donald Trump’s Lies
“The New York Times has printed every lie Donald Trump has told since taking office. The effort deserves the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.” Bill Moyers
“The Biggest Lie of All”
Donald Trump revealed his true racist core, as well as his rank ignorance, the minute he manipulated his way onto the airwaves as a self-appointed spokesman for the Birther movement. And as if that wasn’t offensive enough, the con artist with the vocabulary of an 8-year-old had the colossal gall to question the validity of President Obama’s Harvard and Columbia University credentials. All to the growing delight of his base of supporters who apparently and willingly absorb his hateful rhetoric through the prism of racist, nativist thoughts they already have. So even if they know they are being conned, the pay off for them is greater than the alternative, and they will continue their lemming-like support to the very end.
By embracing this lie and promoting it at every given opportunity, Trump seized this country’s landscape of racial hatred and re-fashioned it into a red baseball cap MAGA hat wearing cult. Hoards of 30 Percenters who are too naïve and/or dumb to realize that they’ve been had. Or that the dopey red signature caps they’re wearing were specifically created to disguise Trump’s own thinning platinum-blond wreck of a comb-over coif. His hijacking of the Republican party is now complete. He owns it. And now, following the forced exits of Department of Justice seat-holder and stand-in, Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker, the newly-minted Attorney General William Barr can rest on the laurel of his June 2018 unsolicited 20-page audition memo, which apparently caught Trump’s attention and secured the AG position for him. Barr forecast his partisan leanings and intentions in his treatise to the Justice Department. He criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and stated his position that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Barr fit the role perfectly, and as Trump is often quoted as saying: “He’s right out of Central Casting”. Right. Perfect casting for Trump’s persistent search and casting call for his very own Roy Cohn protector.
Bamboozled! Hornswoggled! Hoodwinked! Scammed!
Since the beginning of time, there have been duplicitous people living among us who seek to cheat others for their own benefit and enrichment. Some engage in criminal behavior and financial crimes out of desperation, others are simply born with this proclivity, as a cursory perusal through any one of the life stories of the most notorious con artists in human history would reveal. A vast number of these individuals fit the profile of what came to be known as “the bad seed”. A theory which describes them as being a person who was born with a genetic predisposition for bad behavior. Congenitally disposed to wrongdoing; who is innately bad and corrupt by nature; a precocious con artist who uses a false facade to manipulate people to get what he wants; preternaturally unprincipled; has a harmful influence on other people; is incapable of human empathy. And a high-functioning sociopath without conscience.
There is actually a science to the study of con men, and Trump ticks all the boxes. As Maria Konnikova explains in her recent book The Confidence Game, con artists are experts at sizing people up, figuring out what they want, and selling it to them.
Bloomberg clearly had Trump’s number. And during his DNC speech, he wasted no time hammering and excoriating Trump. And as the audience roared with approval, the understanding was clear. He was referencing notorious con artists from our recent past. Men who had perfected the art and science of the con job. And he was boldly inserting Donald Trump’s name into that infamous hall of fame list where it belonged.
Throughout history, there have been a number of these shrewd and cunning practitioners of the con who shocked our moral sensibilities. From audacious snake-oil salesmen of yesteryear to modern day manipulators, swindlers and grafters, and more recently, the ubiquitous Internet stalker, the Nigerian prince. Men like Bernie Cornfeld (Con Timeline: 1962–1973) the prominent businessman and mutual funds huckster. George Parker (Con Timeline: 1920s) the man who sold the Brooklyn Bridge. Frank Abagnale (Con Timeline: 1963–1969) the great imposter and check forger. David Hampton (Con Timeline: 1980s) the prolific young imposter who duped wealthy Manhattanites and claimed to be the son of actor, Sidney Poitier. Lou Pearlman (Con Timeline: 1980–2007) record producer, 1990s boy band impresario and embezzler.
And the absolute king con of all time, Charles Carlo Ponzi (Con Timeline: 1919–1924) creator/perfector of the “Ponzi Scheme”. Smooth, charming and gregarious, his bio reads: “He was a genius. One of the most outrageously inventive con men in history. Movie star handsome and he boasted a smirk that could charm the dress off of the Pope.”
Ponzi’s investment fraud con is permanently associated with his name and he held the “greatest con artist of all time” title until New York financier, Bernie Madoff (Con Timeline: 1980s — 2009) outdid him with his own version of the scheme. Over two decades, Madoff conned his investors out of $65 billion dollars and is currently serving a 150-year prison term. Madoff now has the dubious distinction of being the admitted perpetrator and operator of the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
The world of the con artist is rarified, set apart from the lives and concerns of decent, ordinary people. The practitioners exist in this parallel universe, bereft of morality, devoid of empathy and remorse, in constant search of praise, adulation and competitive descriptions such as “the smoothest con man that ever lived” and “the most notorious con man in history” and “the ballsiest con artist of all time”.
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
As noted by numerous psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health professionals, the con artist exhibits specific and identical characteristics of the human psyche, e.g., pathological narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A pattern of abnormal behavior that is characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a complete lack of understanding of others’ feelings. As Donald Trump continues to demonstrate over and over again with bizarre and inappropriate public behavior, in addition to vulgar and vengeful Tweets — he fits this profile.
What can be said of a 72-year-old man, a father and a grandfather with several adult children as well as an adolescent age son, who would publicly mock a reporter who has a physical disability? Even worse, when the famed and internationally renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking said of him:
“He is a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.”
Trump fired back at Hawking on Twitter with this ignorant Tweet:
“R2D2 Hawking is a terrible scientist. I love the universe. He has Lou Gehrig’s disease, but none of his class. Think he’s very smart but the law for constant surface gravity on the event horizon of a black hole is very stupid.”
Therapists have long recognized that these individuals have no capacity for care, concern or love and they constantly think of themselves as victims and must strike back at the perceived injurer. Subsequently, their pride and self-worth comes from the success of the con.
“99.99% of what a sociopath says is a lie. Deliberate manipulation in lies, up layers of lies, upon lies. They have no conscience.”
“When these individuals operate without a conscience they are able to do horrible things we would never dream of doing — and there is no moral compass or guilt feelings to stop them.” Deborah Ettel, Ph.D. Psychology
Attorney, Mike Cernovich writes in The Social Psychology of Con Artists, “A great con artist is a great persuader. A con man must persuade a mark to trust him…by using principles of social psychology… persuasion; reciprocation; commitment and consistency.” The con man studies his mark and gains their confidence with promises and lies. Hence the term: “Confidence Man”.
Enter Donald J. Trump. A modern-day con man and huckster who lies with extraordinary ease.
When the opportunistic reality TV show host manipulated his way into the political discourse by questioning President Barack Obama’s legitimacy and demanding to see his birth certificate, he was taking the measure of the hate-filled national angst that was triggered by the Tea Party movement. In a very short time, Donald Trump became the self-appointed Birther spokesman for the GOP and he reeked of racism with each offensive demand to see the president’s papers. And as former president Jimmy Carter pointed out:
“He has tapped a waiting reservoir of inherent racism.”
For months the GOP establishment embraced Trump’s vile rhetoric, standing by and doing absolutely nothing to extinguish the flames of hatred he was clearly igniting. He was their guy. Their attack dog who said the things they couldn’t say publicly. Moreover, they were too busy with their behind-the-scenes plot to obstruct the president’s every effort. Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, secret meetings led by GOP whip Eric Cantor, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell were held to arrive at a general consensus and a meeting of the minds. The rule was “If he was for it, we had to be against it.” a former Senator said. And when the newly-sworn-in President went to the Hill to extend his hand, he was rejected and met with disdain and hostility. Doubters need look no further than the public declaration by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said: “Our number one priority is to make Obama a one-term president.”
Meanwhile, during this distraction, Donald Trump, the celebrity demagogue was working his con. Stirring up his rapidly growing base of uninformed and uneducated Americans, and like a human wrecking ball, fracturing and ultimately destroying the Republican Party. In a few short months, he succeeded in defeating 16 GOP Primary opponents and was now in control of the Party.
For several months, the bemused political media treated and covered Trump as infotainment. He was not expected to succeed past the televised freak show debates. But they underestimated something that the reality TV veteran had already figured out in the same way a stand-up comic learns to read the room. The expert con artist identifies and then targets his mark, gaining their confidence. Mirroring their deep-seated prejudices by convincing them that he shares their beliefs. The mark, in turn, feels obligated to reciprocate.
Trump seized on the fact that there still exists in this country profound levels of nativism, racism, tribalism, and antipathy, and he went about exploiting and using them to his advantage. By demonizing anyone and everyone outside of the white male demographic, he was assured of a following in massive numbers and the blind adoration on which he feeds. As evidenced by the size of the crowds attending his rallies as well as the number of devoted and obedient filibustering surrogates and sycophants appearing on every welcoming cable news television network. He succeeded beyond even his own wildest expectations.
To be sure, Trump’s enablers, the GOP, Fox News, and for the most part, the mainstream political media are largely to blame for his successful hijacking of their party. Having struck this Faustian bargain in exchange for votes and ratings, they left it up to the rest of America to deal with the subsequent fall-out and pay the heavy price. But the cowards in the Republican Party must shoulder the majority of the blame. The spinelessness and hypocrisy on the part of so many members of the GOP is simply stunning.
Entertainment factor and ratings notwithstanding, the news media and cable news journalists bear some blame as well. No politician in the history of this country has generated the kind of morbid fascination that Trump has. The amount of media attention that has been lavished upon him is mind-boggling. He has been given free rein and allowed to dominate the media landscape with racist views, vulgar comments about women and people with disabilities, unsubstantiated supermarket tabloid rumors, conspiracy theories, and endless Twitter rants and re-tweets from white supremacists. And yet, his face-to-face interviewers rarely, if ever challenge him on these proclivities or his endless stream of pathological lies. Although it’s quite possible that in his presence, the lies come so effortlessly and so quickly that it’s impossible to challenge them in real time, but it’s been utterly painful to watch as members of the press, and seasoned television journalists, allow him to bulldoze his way through their questions with precious little, if any follow-up. Or better yet, telling him to his face and in the moment that he is lying.
The Donald Trump presidency has become a morality play, as he continues to defile the office he holds illegitimately. With such an abundance of information on frequent disastrous developments in his administration as well as his business failures and sordid personal history, one has to wonder why the media was so slow to cover these facts. This is tantamount to journalistic malpractice. Countless opportunities have been missed to challenge him on his gross misrepresentations, forcing him to play by the rules. Something appears to happen to interviewers during one-on-one media encounters with Trump. There is a hypnotic effect that takes hold of the questioner. First comes the signature pouting posture. Then the fixed stare as the barrage of lies begins to form behind his puffy, aging eyes. Then comes the trance-like verbal paralysis during which the interviewer experiences Trump’s heightened focus and concentration as he disarms his victim. Finally, he owns them and they are powerless under his spell. The interviewer has no memory of what just happened, and Trump is free to move on to his next raucous rally where he regales his rowdy, vociferous followers with another tirade about members of the press being “the worst types of human beings on earth”, “dishonest,” “disgusting,” “slime” “scum.”
Recently, political strategist David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, caused a wide-spread media uprising when he said that Donald Trump “meets the clinical definition of a psychopath.” He was severely criticized for “diagnosing on air” and/or “misidentifying” what he and so many others have come to view as an obvious psychological disorder.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in psychiatry to recognize and identify the erratic and very public behaviors of a 72-year-old self-aggrandizing millionaire so desperate for praise and adulation that he will say and do anything to fill his dark and empty vessel of a soul.
Plouffe may have misspoken in his use of the word “psychopath”, meaning “sociopath”, but based on Donald Trump’s public behavior, the layman’s assessment is spot-on.
The GOP nominee’s increasingly troubling exhibitions and performances, on display at every rally and television appearance has caused many to wonder about and comment on his mental and emotional stability. Numerous psychological disorders, e.g., sociopath; pathological narcissist; and narcissistic disorder have been mentioned, and numerous mental health professionals describe individuals with narcissistic disorder as having:
· A grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
· An excessive need for admiration.
· Inability to refrain from bragging.
· Lack of understanding of others’ feelings.
· Lack of empathy for others.
· Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty.
“…The narcissist is an actor in a mono-drama…he feeds off other people who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest — in a word, to assure him that he exists.” Sam Vaknin Ph.D. — Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited
Not surprisingly, the majority of notorious con artists have been known to exhibit these exact characteristics, and Donald Trump seemingly is a perfect match for each one. However, as Hillary Clinton once said: “I’ll leave it up to the psychiatrists to make an appropriate diagnosis.”
By now, Trump’s enablers should’ve been in full panic mode over his vile behavior and erratic decisions. But simply stated, the weak, self-interested GOP has failed, the ratings whores (the political media) consistently caved, and the nation must now come to the realization that we are in the throes of the greatest con job in recent history. And seemingly tethered to this out-of-control mad man in the White House.
Sadly, the previous form of political journalism is a thing of the past. It has been overtaken and sullied by the reality TV culture and the mutually beneficial political discourse of previous generations is gone forever. Con man Donald Trump has used politics as a means of promoting his brand for his own further aggrandizement and enrichment, and the image of him arrogantly taking to the airwaves and tipping his goofy red baseball cap while snarling: “Suckers!” is not too farfetched. It is also not entirely a stretch of the imagination to predict that the title of his next ghostwritten and purportedly “bestselling” book is very likely to be “Trump: The Art of the Con”.
The reality is this. Donald Trump, a wealthy, psychologically damaged, egomaniacal man has embarrassed our country before the entire global citizenry and we have arrived at a time in our history that will surely live on in infamy. Our political journalists have lost sight of their duties and fallen in step with his lemming-like supporters and sycophants. As a result, millions of Americans have been conned and have fallen victim to Trump’s selfish manipulations. But the rest of us must continue to fight against this wave of willful ignorance by exposing the simple truth of who Donald Trump really is. A Con Man who pulled off the greatest con in modern history.
Since the beginning of time, there have been duplicitous people living among us who seek to cheat others for their own benefit and enrichment. Some engage in criminal behavior and financial crimes out of desperation, others are simply born with this proclivity, as a cursory perusal through any one of the life stories of the most notorious con artists in human history would reveal. A vast number of these individuals fit the profile of what came to be known as “the bad seed”. A theory which describes them as being a person who was born with a genetic predisposition for bad behavior. Congenitally disposed to wrongdoing; innately bad and corrupt by nature; a precocious con artist who uses a false facade to manipulate people to get what he wants; preternaturally unprincipled; has a harmful influence on other people; is incapable of human empathy; and a high-functioning sociopath without conscience.
The biographies of three of the most famous con men in American history, Charles Ponzi, George C. Parker, and Bernie Madoff, identify them as “swindler and con artist”, “American con man”, and “fraudster, and convicted felon”. Someday when historians approach the task of writing the biography of Donald J. Trump, he will have far surpassed his predecessors, and the phrase following his name will very likely be: “American con man, partial-term 45th President of the United States”.
Writer and NYU Visiting Scholar, Anand Giridharadas recently articulated all of this perfectly on MSNBC’s AM-Joy on March 25, 2018
“…We sometimes risk forgetting to have the moral conversation that this is all about:…this is the most degrading holder of this office in American history. This is the most mendacious holder of this office in American history. This is a person with zero moral character, without professional competence to do any job, let alone this one. With complete lack of character and integrity and kindness towards his fellow human beings…This is as bad a man as has ever governed our country, and so anyone who is ever surprised that he disappoints them about anything is a fool themselves.”
So the questions now confronting this nation are as follows:
Who will heal the damage done to our democracy? To the office of the presidency? To this nation’s collective psyche?
How will this nation recover after being so expertly conned?
Who will step up and take a stand, declaring a moment of reckoning?
Who will give us our desperately needed Edward R. Murrow, Joseph N. Welch moment as demonstrated in 1954 during the tense and explosive atmosphere of the Army-McCarthy hearings? When Murrow courageously removed the veil of journalistic objectivity and spoke honestly and directly about the dangerous authoritarian, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had been allowed to run amok.
And when Boston attorney, Welch, chief counsel for the U. S. Army, famously rebuked McCarthy for his reckless accusations.
From all recent indications, we have arrived at a similar moment in time. This moment will also go down in history. And similarly, the answer to the question is the same.