Donald Trump: The man behind the candidate

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Donald Trump. Photo by Michael Vadon

“We are going to make this great, great country even greater.” Donald Trump has relied on promises like that to rally crowds and win support in the polls. A few perspectives on Trump from To The Point guests:

Ernie Bach, CEO of Bach Enterprises, which includes many car dealerships in Massachusetts, thinks Trump is the most qualified candidate, “a proven great manager.”

“His company is a tremendous company that takes management skills and one the great things about Mr Trump is he has the ability to surround himself with extremely talented people,” Bach said.

Trump has said often that he doesn’t need any money from anybody else to finance his campaign and therefore he won’t owe anybody anything. Bach held a fundraiser for Trump last summer but says he never expected anything back from Trump or the other candidates – Democrat, Republican, or independent – that he contributed to. He said Trump has taken some contributions but much less than the other candidates, and will go down in history as the only presidential candidate who’s ever substantially financed his entire campaign.

David Cay Johnston, a law professor at Syracuse University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, calls Trump an enormous welfare recipient.
“In one deal alone he got $400 million from the taxpayers of New York City. He has a long history of refusing to pay people who did work for him and there are hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits against him by vendors, contractors, consultants who say that they did the work and weren’t paid. He was found by a federal judge to have conspired to cheat about 150 illegal immigrants who were involved in demolishing the Bonwit Teller (department store) building in Manhattan, the site of what is now Trump Tower.”

Johnston said Trump was not a great manager because he tends to hire and promote executives who give him the “Yes, sir” he demands. Johnston said Trump has a history of looking the other way on license violations for which low-level employees in the casino industry were removed and even prosecuted, and of borrowing money he doesn’t pay back.

Wayne Barrett, a fellow with the Nation Institute and longtime Village Voice investigative reporter, wrote a critical 1992 book about Trump called “The Deals and the Downfall.”

“He makes money,” Barrett said. But he said Trump went from being a very successful, meticulous builder to being a brand marketer whose skills at building are long gone.

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, said there is plenty of time left for voters to decide whether questionable things Trump may have done are are disqualifying or worse than what’s in other candidates’ pasts.

“No one’s going to be perfect,” Shermer said. “You just have to kind of look through the field and see who you like, not who is the least worst. I don’t think we’re in that position. But things I like about Donald Trump: First of all this idea of deal making. And not providing, say, a 14-point plan on every single thing he’s going to do – like the boxer who has a plan for every round of the 12-round match and then gets punched in the nose in the first 10 seconds and that’s the end of his strategy.”

If some Trump positions seem extreme, that’s not unusual in politics or in deal-making, Shermer said. He said Trump gets away with boastfulness because he does it in a charming and amusing way, so it’s “part of the personality, it’s what comes with the package.”

Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and strategist, said focus groups and surveys show that Republican voters like the contrast between Trump’s rough, improvised speeches and President Obama’s smooth and scripted style, but also like Trump’s message.

“Trump is saying everything’s going to be so great and I recognize that it is simplistic. I recognize that is almost jingoistic,” Luntz said. But it appeals to voters who believe America is losing its exceptionalism. They see Trump as genuine and authentic, Luntz said.

Barrett maintained that racial identity issues are at the core of Trump’s appeal. Luntz said that Trump may be the worst Republican nominee to appeal to Latinos but that 15 to 20 percent of his supporters are African-American, three times higher than the usual black Republican vote.

Below is an automated transcript of this show. Disclaimer: This is not 100 percent accurate: