Trump University, Veterans Charities, and the Willful Suspension of Disbelief

There are two stories in the news today that are providing quite a bit of embarrassment for conservatives who have decided that party loyalty demands that they board the Trump train. The first is the revelation that Donald Trump only got around to disbursing most of the money to Veterans groups (including ALL of the $1M he promised repeatedly that he had already donated) after he was shamed into doing so by the media.

The second is that the media has gotten around to reading the documents that were released from the Trump University case, and as expected, they tell the tale of an operation that was specifically designed to scam vulnerable people out of a lot of money.

The problem with both of these stories, from Trump’s perspective, is that they are so easily relatable by ordinary people. Everyone has seen and knows of people who constantly brag about doing things for other people, but who never come through. I think everyone knows or has known one of these people at some point, and they are pretty universally reviled. They are always the first to say the WILL be there to help out with something, but when the time comes to be present, or to fork over the money, they are harder to find than Donald Trump’s tax returns. The fact that Trump handed over the check, after over four months of delay, on the same day the WaPo had him dead to rights on the issue, clearly shows Trump to be exactly that person.

The Trump University story is even more damaging, because I think almost everyone has gone to one of these scam seminars at some point. Many people have been suckered by one (although probably not many to the tune of $35,000). The promises that were made in the Trump University promotional materials sound all too familiar. The sales techniques described by former Trump University employees are techniques we’ve all been subjected to at least once. What’s described in the witness testimony that’s been released is not just a scam, it’s a scam almost all Americans have run across at least once, and recognize on sight.

Now, the Trump campaign has come up with some explanations and deflections for both of these stories. With regards to the veterans’ charities, they say it’s because Trump had to vet all the organizations to make sure they were legit. However, the fact that Trump ultimately ended up giving his $1M check to a group that he had a pre-existing relationship with, and the fact that none of the groups who talked to the Post indicated that they had ever been contacted by the Trump campaign about any due diligence at all kind of indicates that’s all a lie.

With regards to the Trump University problem, Trump’s attempted deflection is that the judge is a Mexican (he isn’t) and that they have found exactly two people (out of 40,000 Trump University victims) who have actually engaged in the real estate dealings Trump University was supposed to teach you to do (although one declared bankruptcy less than two years after finishing Trump University).

Here’s the thing: to believe that Trump is as blameless as he portrays himself, you have to engage in a  humongous amount of suspension of disbelief. Any person possessed of even marginal intelligence would look at the facts as presented and conclude that Trump University was a scam, and that Trump never intended to donate to any veterans group until the Washington Post shamed him into it. You have to be willing to give Trump significantly more of the benefit of the doubt than you would give any other ordinary person who wasn’t, say, in your immediate family.

But that’s exactly what jumping on the Trump Train means. It means believing, in spite of what you see right before your eyes, that President Trump won’t be exactly the slow rolling disaster that Candidate Trump has been.

And what’s problematic about these two stories in particular is that if you believe them, they don’t just show that Trump is the garden variety dishonest politician – they show that he is something much worse. Someone who actively and habitually takes advantage of those who are less fortunate in spite of his own (alleged) personal vast wealth. And regardless of what you think about whether his political instincts are better than Hillary’s, you have to ask yourself if you’re comfortable having such a man have the amount of power that the President of the United States has.

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