February 26, 2016

Donald Trump vs. Personal Integrity: The Ongoing Battle for Coexistence

There are countless powerful resumé-related arguments to be made as to why Donald Trump should not be President of the United States. Yet, setting aside all of those admittedly weighty considerations, I believe that the essential part of the puzzle that should preclude his election to the presidency is his character. 
 A reverence for truth, and personal integrity, are two of the qualities that any good leader of a free republic must possess. Without them, the society over which he/she presides is in jeopardy of relying on a leader with an uncertain and flexible moral foundation, and therefore a future based on arbitrary decision-making, resting on conceivably questionable motives.

There isn’t room for discussion of both Donald Trump’s reverence (or lack thereof) for truth and his personal integrity, so let’s leave an analysis of the former for another time, and focus on the latter.

It is through the study of the history of a man’s motives, and reactions to events, that his personal integrity can often be discerned, so let’s examine just four seemingly small, but actually quite telling, such combinations of motives and event-reactions that seem to typify Trump’s lifelong behaviors:

(1) We all know that, in 1993, Donald Trump attempted to abuse the Founders’ Constitutional intent regarding the use of eminent domain when he tried to use that legal concept to force an elderly woman out of her home in order to construct a limousine waiting area outside one of his Atlantic City casinos. The end of their protracted legal battle resulted in a court allowing Vera Coking to remain in her home, which she continued to do for seventeen more years until health problems forced her to move to a retirement home nearer to her children and grandchildren.

During the legal battle between Trump and Coking, Trump accused her of being a money hungry, anti-progress person (and worse) and stated that, if her home were preserved, people would be forced to “stare at a terrible house instead of staring at beautiful fountains and beautiful other things that would be good.”

Even today, more than twenty years later, Trump insists that he had every right to attempt to force Vera Coking out of her home, simply because he offered her more than it was worth (which is a matter of contention among some people who are familiar with the legal battle).

Let’s look at just that aspect of the man’s character:

What does it tell us when a man believes that the only value of a person’s home rests in the dollar signs that a potential buyer might attach to it? Vera Coking had lived in her home for thirty years. She had raised her children there before the passing of her husband, and she intended to live there for the rest of her life, God willing. Yet a perfect stranger feels (even today) that he has the power to simply declare that the intrinsic, memory-rich, nostalgic value that house held for her is meaningless. The almighty dollar, and the prospect of major profits pouring into the pockets of a billionaire real estate investor, invariably trumps the individual’s right to define what is deeply important, and precious, to her.

Trump’s statement, “They’re staring at a terrible house instead of staring at beautiful fountains and beautiful other things that would be good,” is the utterance of a dictator. What leader of a free society believes he has the inherent power, as a result of his position, to call another person’s house terrible simply because it isn’t being used to turn a large profit, and to declare that beautiful fountains are good? The man believes that he, not an average American citizen, has the right to define what is terrible and what is good, even when the object of the discussion is something about which he has no knowledge or acquaintance, and something about which that average citizen knows every corner, and every warm, personally indelible family memory.

This, by the way, was Vera’s “terrible house.”

(2) Mr. Trump just this week discovered that Marlene Ricketts, part owner of the Chicago Cubs, has donated three million dollars to a super PAC that is running ads against his candidacy. Ms. Ricketts’ donations have been completely above board and were properly reported in public documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Donald Trump’s response upon hearing about the donations? He went on Twitter and accused Marlene Ricketts of “secretly” spending money against him, and then proceeded to threaten her family’s peace of mind and reputation, tweeting, “I hear the Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $‘s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

Keep in mind, this is a man who is seeking the presidency of the United States, and the leadership of the free world, attacking an American citizen for doing nothing more than exercising her right to spend her money as she sees fit. And then he publicly threatens to expose supposed skeletons in her family’s closet as a result of her exercise of that right.

That, in plain English, is called extortion.

(3) Several years ago, when Donald Trump was seriously considering running for president, he issued an open invitation to the leaders of several prestigious Christian organizations, among them Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the Iowa-based Christian organization, Family Leader, to stay at one of his hotels if they were ever in New York. Vander Plaats claims that he declined the offer, but Trump told him that he would be “deeply offended” if Vander Plaats came into the city and stayed anywhere else.

Not wanting to “offend” Trump, and appreciating the ability to save his organization the cost of an overnight stay, Vander Plaats and his wife twice took Trump up on his offer, staying in one of his hotels when they were in the city on business.

After Trump made his intentions to run for president known, Vander Plaats arranged for Trump to speak at Iowa’s Land Investment Expo last year. When Trump wanted to charge the organizers for having him speak, Vander Plaats advised against it, and suggested that he instead consider it a goodwill gesture. Trump ignored Vander Plaats’ suggestion, and did indeed demand $100,000 for speaking at the event.

Fast forward to last month and we find Bob Vander Plaats now disillusioned with Donald Trump as a presidential candidate after having learned more about him. Vander Plaats decided to endorse Ted Cruz before the Iowa Caucuses.

Keep in mind all of the above, and then read what Donald Trump tweeted about this upstanding leader of a respectable Christian organization:

"Why doesn’t phony Bob Vander Plaats tell his followers all the times he asked for him and his family to stay at my hotels. He didn’t like paying.“

"Vander Plaats begged me to do an event while asking organizers for $100,000 for himself. A bad guy!”

"Bob Vander Plaats is a total phony and con man. When I wouldn’t give him free hotels and much more, he endorsed Cruz.“

The Des Moines Register investigated Trump’s claim regarding Vander Plaats receiving $100,000 as a result of Trump speaking at the Expo and discovered that Vander Plaats received nothing for arranging that speech, and Trump did indeed demand, and received, $100,000 for speaking.

Enough said?

(4) The story of Trump University (2005-2011) paints a grotesque picture of a heartless man, who has absolutely no compassion for more than five thousand innocent everyday Americans, some of whom he allegedly bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money.

Trump claimed, over and over, to be completely involved with the university, having hand-picked the "professors”, and having kept a close watch over the formulation/content of the curriculum, and yet most of his “professors” turned out to be people he had never met, and, worse than that, they were simply high-pressure sales associates, with absolutely no educational background at all. Two of these professorial “experts in successful real estate investment” even filed for personal bankruptcy during the time they were teaching at this so-called university, and a few of them were even in the midst of their own business bankruptcy proceedings when they were hired to teach classes on how to get rich in real estate.

As if the empty promises weren’t bad enough, and as if bilking hundreds of ordinary Americans (many of whom are plaintiffs in two suits filed in California and New York against the defunct university) out of tens of thousands of dollars each weren’t enough, Trump, to this day, claims that this entire endeavor was nothing more than an altruistic, charitable venture, and that all of his profits would go to charity, *yet Trump himself reportedly pocketed $5 million of the $40 million poured into the organization by unsuspecting average Americans, enriching his own personal many-billion-dollar coffers at the expense of the little people whose votes he is courting by means of his faux compassion for the American middle class.

The “university” also used constant bait-and-switch tactics, conning their students to invest in more and more expensive “classes,” some of which were nothing more than field trips to examine ghetto areas and promises of get-rich-quick schemes to invest in them, and instructing them to arrange with their banks to dramatically increase the credit limits on their credit cards so as to be able to afford the (often useless) “classes."

When accompanied by nothing more meaningful than grandiose words, a man’s personal integrity comes into serious question and his promises, such as his phony, non-existent "hands-on” connection to his university, appear meaningless. Donald Trump’s candidacy for president consists, in large part, of nothing more than empty promises, followed by angry tirades, or worse, aimed at those who dare question the sincerity, viability or depth of those promises.

Just ask Vera Coking, the Ricketts Family, Bob Vander Plaats and the students of Trump University. They’ll tell you an earful.

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