Déjà Vu in Trump Hearings
It all came back to me – my telephone interview with the popinjay proprietor of a doomed gambling den.
Watching the Jan. 6 hearings on Monday, I heard former toadies Bill Barr and Bill Stepien talk about the emptiness of Donald J. Trump, who lost the 2020 election and then went blank when aides tried to tell him it was over.
Could not take in information or considered opinion, even when it was meant to help him in his chosen field, that is to say, the presidency.
Then I remembered -- the good old days of 1999, when Trump was not trying to wreck the United States of America but instead was merely bringing down the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
In addition to siphoning money from people with a gambling jones, the Taj also ran boxing cards, for people who like to see others bleed.
Always hustling his faux-golden appearance, Trump was up front when a boxer named Stephan Johnson was beaten unconscious and lugged off to the hospital where he died within hours.
As an abolitionist toward boxing (tempered by liking so many boxers I met), I wondered if the death of Stephan Johnson might touch some primitive form of Trumpian conscience.
So I made a call to Trump's gatekeeper, asking for an interview. They knew me. I had grown up not far from the Trump Tara, knew his older brother Fred (a nice guy), and had also met Ivana Trump through a New York Czech connection.
Plus, I had seen Ivana – twice as smart as her husband – try to coach the man through press sessions regarding the New York Generals football team he owned. I could see he did not have a grip on details. Now I was wondering how he could explain his part in boxing, in the death of Stephan Johnson.
Over the phone, he was dim-wittedly vague, coming up with cliché after cliché about boxing:
''I love boxing, but it's a dangerous sport.”
''I hate what happened. 'It's something you have to get through. I think boxing is an alternative.' In some cases, the boxing ring is better than anything else.''
''You have to understand that we do not sanction the fights,'' Trump said. ''That is done by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Commission. All we are is the venue -- and fighting is popular. Every fight sells out. We have other things like gymnastics; they don't sell out. All I know is, boxing sells out.''
I’ve talked to other boxing people who made more complex arguments for boxing. But Trump was inarticulate. Flat. Empty. Didn’t know. Didn’t care.
The world has since seen what is really inside -- the raging egocentric sending the deluded and the deranged out to do battle at the Capitol, telling them he would be along shortly.
Now we are getting sworn testimony from people who served him, like Barr, who back-stabbed his old law and church pal Robert Mueller. Even Bill Barr had enough of Trump.
Solid Republican campaigners and lawyers and advisors describe him as not able to follow their advice that it was over.
Sounds like the guy on my phone in 1999 -- the good old days, when he merely wrecked his businesses, and his family.
How far would Trump go? His inability to know truth has even scared off Ivanka Trump, the oldest child, the one he sent off to mingle with European leaders, much to their disdain. This committee showed taped testimony from Ivanka, whose furtive eyes darted from side to side, looking for the nearest escape hole.
In this spectacle of a nation in trouble, I found two positive scenes:
--The former head of the Fox election evaluation grew, Chris Stirewald, was asked how his group on election night, 2020, had analyzed the incoming returns in the pivotal state of Arizona. With visible pride, Stirewald told about the experts from both parties, who reached the judgment that absentee ballots, counted later, would swing the state to Joe Biden. Fox beat the opposition – that is a big thing in journalism -- and they were correct. As a journalist, I felt great pride in what this guy and his staff had done. For his proven expertise, the network of Tucker Carlson fired him.
--One of the panel members, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, noted that Bill Stepien had been scheduled to give live testimony Monday, but had rushed home when his wife went into labor. (With little notice, the committee staff pulled out vital segments of his previously taped testimony.)
I was touched when Rep. Lofgren noted that Stepien had every right to go home to be with his wife. Let me just add that if the other party were running a hearing, and that happened, I would not expect such a note of grace
(My interview with the inarticulate Donald Trump, when he was merely a New York joke, in 1999.)
6/13/2022 04:21:51 pm
George, your insight reinforces my less well-informed perception of the former Sociopath-in-Chief*.
6/13/2022 04:57:02 pm
Whatever will the US Navy do with all of its Chiefs? I think they will remain Chiefs. In a time of rapidly multiplying stupidity this nonsense should get some kind of prize.
6/13/2022 05:01:39 pm
Everything Trump touches eventually turns to shit. Everyone who sells their soul to him ends up diminished, or worse. I'm counting on the Georgia State Attorney General to nail his ass. He needs to be removed from the discussion of who will be the Republican nominee in the next election. Prison time would be a bonus.
6/13/2022 05:04:33 pm
Andy, you buried the lede! Hearing, shmearing — the news is about 188th Street, which I would ascend each morning, after the Q-43 bus dropped me off on Hillside Avenue, on my way to high school at 86-86 Palo Alto Street. If you live in the area, as I infer you do, could you please take a few photos for me of the high school and the surrounding area? I’d be so grateful. George has my e-mail address.
6/13/2022 05:15:58 pm
Sorry for any distraction. 188 Street is the boundary (official or not) between George's and Mario's (who was his son?) side and the former Sociopath-in-Chi*f's side. Walking distance but . . . .
Alan D. Levine
6/13/2022 05:20:35 pm
It's not Trump who worries me. It's my fellow Americans.He's just the symptom.
6/13/2022 07:36:59 pm
alan,,,i've been saying that ever since the lardass in chief was elected.
6/13/2022 08:01:56 pm
ah,,,my editor....tens OF millions and two bruces didn't write this....
6/14/2022 08:56:49 am
Alan Levine: I totally agree with you. I don;t recognize the anger and prejudice raging out of that sector. Trump is so clearly limited and disturbed. How can they not see it? He suits their purpose. Oy. Thanks for writing. GV
6/14/2022 09:11:31 am
and speaking of.....has anybody heard from brian, this site's #1 (only?) trumpite?
6/13/2022 05:49:45 pm
Rudy this afternoon after the hearing, “I was not drunk. You can ask anyone who was there.”
6/14/2022 09:09:02 am
roy...it was pretty cruel of them to actually ask.
6/13/2022 06:28:17 pm
6/13/2022 06:50:43 pm
Trump was flying to Denver, Commercial airline about 1993, a rehabilitation therapist from our center for children and adults with disabilites, was heading there to take training in Human Resources Manager, I wanted her to become the Personnel Director for the entire center complex. The Airline upgraded her to first class and the good luck ended when she was seated next to him. He complained bitterly to the flight attendents that he had spent a lot of money for his seat.
6/15/2022 12:27:29 pm
Great comments from John and Ed, who were out and about when Trump was grifting his way up.....They could see the emptiness of the man, complicated by his inability to learn. He also attracted blowhards and simpletons. I remember being on Amtrak from Penn toward DC and two guys with suits and briefcases were talking at full volume about "Donald's" plan for Atlantic City. Finally, I showed them my press/police pass and said, politely, "you know, I can hear every word you say. Do you really want me to know your business plans?"
6/15/2022 12:37:23 pm
6/15/2022 01:22:48 pm
I had read that Trump had companies that sold. Over-priced services to the AC casinos, getting rich while they failed, sticking workers, contractors and stock holders. Here is a brief from your hometown newspaper... even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.
6/14/2022 11:01:52 am
We are all products of our up-bring and the various mentors who we had along the way. This covers gamut from positive to negative. Over time, most of us develop a moral sense of right and wrong.
6/15/2022 12:28:18 pm
Whoops, Alan has seen Trump up close, also. Nothing there, GV
6/15/2022 01:27:58 pm
ed....remember he had to pay a $25 million fine for his famous trump university scam.
6/15/2022 11:58:02 pm
Thanks very much to Alan for mentioning Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.” I hadn't heard about it. Just checked it out on Google; sounds very worthwhile. To get a sense of the high regard it's held in, check the "Reviews" section on this Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Their-Own-Land-Mourning/dp/1620972255/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.