Josh Marshal at Talking Points Memo was trying the other day to organize his thoughts about Donald J. Trump’s natural habitat — the world of New York City real estate movers and shakers. Predators of New York sums it up nicely.
There’s something about New York, New York City, that is, that is at the root of the Trump phenomenon. This comes from watching the Trump story unfold over the last three years. It also comes from my own experiences living here for fifteen years.
New York City is a liberal city, probably the most progressive big city in the country, as far as it goes. Yet its power structure, its money class includes a whole community of people with extreme wealth who live in a culture in which predation and acquisition is the norm.
There’s a whole ecosystem of these predators, operating in the city’s real estate world, its investor class, on Wall Street. When I heard those tape recordings of a young Donald Trump and Roy Cohn hard-selling that Forbes reporter on the idea Trump had a net worth of literally 100 times his actual net worth I recognized it. I heard the high-velocity hard sell voice – back at it again and again and again, bam, bam, bam – it was the same carnivorous voice I’d had with this other guy a month or two earlier. It’s of a piece with the various Trump rackets we’ve learned about. It’s the Scaramucci talk. Whatever world he was in before he left the Mayor’s office, Giuliani has marinated in that world for the almost two decades since he left office. Roger Ailes was part of it.
Read the whole thing — then take a look at some other observations being made. Marshall references Frank Rich’s piece in New York Magazine, The Original Donald Trump, looking at the career of Roy Cohn. (I posted about it here.) From Rich:
…One might be tempted — just as fruitlessly — to speculate on what might have happened if more of New York’s elites had intervened back then, nonviolently, to block or seriously challenge Trump’s path to power. They had plenty of provocation and opportunities to do so. Trump practiced bigotry on a grand scale, was a world-class liar, and ripped off customers, investors, and the city itself. Yet for many among New York’s upper register, there was no horror he could commit that would merit his excommunication. As with Cohn before him, the more outrageously and reprehensibly Trump behaved, the more the top rungs of society were titillated by him. They could cop out of any moral judgments or actions by rationalizing him as an entertaining con man: a cheesy, cynical, dumbed-down Gatsby who fit the city’s tacky 1980s Gilded Age much as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s more romantic prototype had the soigné Jazz Age of the 1920s. And so most of those who might have stopped Trump gawked like the rest of us as he scrambled up the city’s ladder, grabbing anything that wasn’t nailed down.
There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.
What Trump is doing in Washington is what he has always done — and it says something about America and both political parties that this has not been a secret or a surprise. The Republican Party has embraced him — because it works. The Democratic Party seems all at sixes and sevens — after all, it wasn’t that many years ago that the Clintons had no problems intersecting with Trump’s orbit. Chuck Schumer has been swimming in this New York City scene for decades — can he even tell the difference any more?
Part of Trump’s skills set has been the way he’s dealt with the media. He was expert at playing the NYC tabloid scene to get what he wanted. He’s up front about it too, as Leslie Stahl is only now telling us.
“At one point, he started to attack the press,” Stahl said. “There were no cameras in there.”
“I said, ‘You know, this is getting tired. Why are you doing it over and over? It’s boring and it’s time to end that. You know, you’ve won … why do you keep hammering at this?'” Stahl recalled.
“And he said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.’“
Day after day Trump makes outrageous statements (or his staff makes them up for him), and then he walks them back or denies them, or comes out with some new nonsense — yet the press continues to avoid calling him out on it — much as they’ve been neutered by years of attacks from Republicans, who have become expert at ‘working the refs’. See the connection to the late Roger Ailes referenced by Marshall up in the second quote. FOX news has roots in the same environment that gave us Trump — and what’s ‘normal’ in a New York City of predators is now going national.
Marshall notes the seeming paradox of a supposedly liberal city like New York producing predators like Trump. Kevin Drum is taking note of a similar trend, and he’s not happy about it. Beware the “Reasonable” Take on the Mueller Investigation.
Perhaps I’m hypersensitive to this kind of thing, but I’ve noticed an uptick in “reasonable” takes on the Mueller investigation lately. I’ve seen this from both liberals and conservatives and it goes something like this:
(He lists 5 talking points — the fifth is the kicker:
5) Bottom line: There’s some smoke here, and the Trump folks deserve to pay a price for their actions. But it’s hardly Watergate 2.0.
Given the lack of reaction appropriate to the scale of the blatant corruption coming from the Trump regime — (Digby has a strong piece on why this isn’t like the original Watergate. Hint — no Republicans abandoning Trump.) — Drum’s take from a guy who is not exactly a hair-on-fire panic monger is worth noting.
I’m not surprised to hear some conservatives promoting the “reasonable” version of the Mueller investigation. But I am surprised that even some liberals are starting to hint at accepting it. I sure hope this doesn’t gain any more traction. There’s no need to go all X-Files on this, but there’s also no reason to downplay any of it. What Trump has done, and is still doing, almost certainly is Watergate 2.0.
IF we get through this, IF we can take back our government, IF we can transform the Democratic Party that has been so hapless in the face of all this — we really need to do something about the human predators in our midst.