We lost Wayne Barrett last week. He died just before the inawfulaguration, perhaps of a broken heart, having seen all of the facts he carefully documented over the years ignored in favor of tweets, lies, and propaganda, as the creature he’d called “a shocking threat to the world” crept into the White House.

If you’re dealing with Donald Trump, you’re gonna to get screwed. (Ed Koch) [395]

His tireless reporting exposed the corruption underlying generations of New York City government. Ed Koch and all his minions, Rudy Giuliani’s lies and posturing, and, most relevantly, the scams, the lies, and the bullying of New York City’s native, er, son, Donald T — p.

T — p tried to bribe Barrett out of writing this book, but he was young at the time. He hadn’t yet figured out that you didn’t have to bribe journalists, you just had to make them irrelevant.

Donald’s emotional range did not extend beyond the sensitivity to slights and profane outrage if he thought someone had tried to sucker him. Donald just coasted on a detached, emotionless playing, energized by his own compulsive ambition and oblivious to anyone else’s feelings. [137]

In our post-truth world of “alternative facts,” we hear T — p described as a “successful businessman,” as a “self-made man,” and as a “real estate developer.” I don’t have the energy to summarize Barrett’s incredibly detailed reporting; every one of those statements is a lie, every one of them was definitively disproved at length by Barrett and many others, and every one of them continues to be repeated as truth.

There is no god damn mayor in America worth $800,000. I can buy a U.S. Senator for $200,000. [95]

At the same time, we ignore the inconvenient truth:

  • T — p’s ties to organized crime (not just in Atlantic City — he used mob companies and illegal immigrants to build the Tower Of Moron on Fifth Avenue);
  • T — p’s deep involvement with some of the most corrupt figures in NYC (and US) history — Stanley Friedman, Roy Cohn, Meade Esposito;
  • The number of prominent politicians who fattened themselves at T — p’s trough and helped his career along (Abe Beame, Hugh Carey, Mario and Andrew Cuomo, among many others);
  • T — p’s constant reliance on an “array of Rube Goldberg nonfunctioning corporations,” as one Department of Gaming and Entertainment commissioner said in New Jersey;
  • The fact that most of T — p’s projects were built with government money (a “government bonanza of zoning variances and special permits”). Some of these subsidies continue costing NYC millions to this day;
  • His history of abusing tenants, for which he was repeatedly sanctioned by the courts and by city and state agencies (he and his father were forced to sign a consent decree for discriminating against black tenants, and T — p was later sued for not complying with the decree);
  • His enabling by major banks, to the point that they “resembled accomplices more than victims” in the collapse of his empire in the late 1980s;
  • The extent to which his failures were caused by his own incompetence, and his refusal to listen to smarter or more strategic people around him ( the president of New York City’s Urban Development Corporation once compared a project of T — p’s to “building a pool in the Sahara, and worrying about the water later.”) [356]
  • His history of stunningly offensive language and behavior (Among other things, Barrett mentions a gossip item from New York Newsday published on December 10, 1990, about a disgusting remark by T — p at a fundraiser for a foundation named for one of his casino executives who died in a helicopter crash: “Several people at the party told us that Trump mentioned one man’s daughter was having her 14th birthday, and said, ‘You shouldn’t mess with her — 14 will get you 20.’ It offended even diehards.”)
“You’re a very shallow person…”
“Of course. That’s one of my strengths. I never pretend to be anything else.” [137]

So we knew all this. One of the country’s best journalists laid it out for us more than 20 years ago. Other journalists have done even more comprehensive examinations of his corruption. But we live in a post-fact world, so the fact that T — p calls himself a successful real estate developer on TV makes it true.

We have gotten the “president” we deserve.

Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, by Wayne Barrett. HarperCollins, 1992. All page numbers refer to the hardcover first edition; the book was reissued last year as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.