It’s tempting, if only in the spirit of entertainment, to recap the latest night of Republican repugnance by dwelling on the history-making moment when the frontrunner touted the dimensions of his genitalia.
“Look at those hands,” Donald Trump said, flashing their awesome heft. “Are they small hands?” (Of course not, because Der Leader does everything big.) “If they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.”
Can the imploding Republican party sink any lower? Hey folks, it’s only March.
As for Der Leader’s “guarantee,” well, that’s the sole Trump assertion none of us care to verify. If that makes him bully-in-chief of his seventh-grade locker room, fine. I’m far more interested in the debate episode that stripped away the braggadocio and gave us the con artist. It was like that Oz moment when the great and powerful wizard is exposed as a huckster. How delicious it was last night to see the man behind the curtain.
Because Trump University (it was never a real university) is a veritable metaphor for the man.
Midway through the debate (will these freak shows never cease? another one comes next week), Marco Rubio pointed out that thousands of people had “signed up for this fake university.” He was referring to the now-defunct school (it was never a real school) that had promised to guide students down the path to Trumpian financial success. Trump is currently being sued by the New York attorney general’s office, which is seeking $40 million in damages and accuses Trump of “engaging in specific fraudulent, deceptive and illegal acts.” Trmp is also being targeted by two class action lawsuits in California. All told, as many as 5000 people — mostly of modest means – put up a lot of money, claim they were taught absolutely nothing, and now they want their money back.
Yeah, Trump is innocent until a court judges him guilty, and last night he said that he’s right and that all his accusers are wrong. Problem is, he weakens his own case in the court of public opinion by lying so blatantly. This guy’s credibility gap is already wider than the Grand Canyon.
In one of his many attempts to trump Rubio, he yelled: “We have a 98 percent approval rating from the people who took the course. We have an ‘A’ rating from the Better Business Bureau.” But moderator Megyn Kelly stepped in to perform a basic fact-check: “The rating from the Better Business Bureau was a D-minus.”
She got that right! She continued: “That’s the latest publicly available rating in 2010, and it was the result of a number of complaints they had.” Trump refused to accept that fact (Der Leader is always right), and tried to top her with another lie — “it was elevated to an A” — but there’s no documentation for that claim, and the “school” was disbanded in 2011 anyway.
As for his other claim last night (“we have a 98 percent approval rating” from the students), that’s another con. According to published reports, students initially got free presentations, after which they were encouraged to fill out a survey and give Trump a positive rating – in exchange for receiving discounts on the hefty tuition (roughly $35,000). Some students were also led to believe that they had to give a positive rating in order to receive a certificate of completion.
As one student, Robert Guillo, said in a sworn affadavit, “The evaluations did not reflect my actual opinion of the courses …. A lot of the information they taught seemed to come from the website zillow.com, or could have been easily gathered from the IRS website. After the first seminar, I began to realize I had been taken.”
Turned out, the instructors weren’t very good. In a video for the students, Trump had promised: “We are going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific, terrific brains, successful. We are going to have the best of the best…and these are all people who are going to be handpicked by me.” (Does that pie-in-the-sky bluster sound familiar?)
Problem is, he has already admitted that his promise was a crock. In a recent deposition, conducted by lawyers on behalf of suing plaintiffs, he was asked: “Did you do anything personally to confirm the expertise of any of the Trump University mentors?” His response: “No, I didn’t.”
Luckily for Trump, that exchange didn’t come up last night. But no matter, he was eviscerated anyway. Megyn Kelly did the most damage, because, as John Adams once said, facts are stubborn things.
She explained the case this way: “There is a class-action suit of over 5000 plaintiffs against you, Mr. Trump, and it involves veterans, and it involves teachers, and it involves so-called little guys, working class, and lower-working class and middle class who say that they were fleeced, who say that it was a scam. The class has been certified, and in that case you counter-sued the lead plaintiff alleging that you were being defamed.”
Yeah, he said, that lead plaintiff is “getting out of the case because it’s so bad for her.”
“But stand by,” Kelly said. “The court threw out your counter-suit, and made you pay almost $800,000 dollars in legal fees of hers …. This is what the Court of Appeals found. They said that the plaintiffs against you are like the Madoff victims.”
Trump: “Oh, give me a break.”
Kelly: “This is what the Court of Appeals said.”
Trump: “Give me a break.”
So. We can probably assume that the chumps who love Trump the candidate will not be deterred by the rich documentation that reveals Trump to be a serial exploiter of chumps. This is the GOP’s core dilemma. It’s possible, however, that debacles like Trump University (which show that he’s no friend of the average Joe) could slow his march in the primaries yet to come — and stoke hope in the hearts of sane Republicans that their party can be salvaged in the end.
And who knows, maybe Mitt Romney is sizing himself up by closely assessing his hands.