Skip to content Skip to footer

William Rivers Pitt | Icarus J. Trump and the Long Fall

Fraud? It’s called business, which makes him smart.

Donald Trump boards a plane after a campaign rally in Mesa, Arizona, on December 16, 2015. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Part of the Series

“There are 8 million stories in the Naked City,” intoned the narrator of the 1948 film noir masterpiece of the same name. The same can be said for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Actually, 8 million stories may be too low a number. Take this past Friday, for example. After a week of thrashing about trying to pretend Secretary Hillary Clinton didn’t eat his lunch during Monday’s debate, Trump got hold of his phone and went on an all-night Twitter rampage. A post at 10:16 pm Thursday night was followed by subsequent Friday morning screeds at 3:20 am, 5:14 am, 5:19 am and 5:30 am before he trailed off at 8:50 am with one last wail about sources and beauty pageants and sex tapes.

Does the man sleep? Or does he hang upside down in the belfry of Trump Tower like some anthropomorphic orange bat, tweeting madly while his aides try to knock the phone out of his hands with long poles and lobbed fistfuls of old brie? That’s just one story. The vast collection of all the others accumulated during this deranged toboggan ride could very well hedge the definition of infinity.

Therein, however, lies the magic of it, the genius, even if it is all completely unintended. Trump is the SUU-11A Gatling mini-gun of politics, capable of laying down 6,000 rounds of ammunition in one minute. The mini-gun can denude a forest with a couple of sweeps of its spinning, fire-spitting barrel. Trump managed to lay the entire corporate “news” media low with the same degree of firepower. He wasn’t firing lead, however; he was firing nonsense and bedlam.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, “Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016.”

A typical week of Trump coverage, only slightly embellished: Last night, Trump tweeted that Clinton intends to sell the Sixth Fleet to Iran as reports swirled that he used money from his charitable foundation to pay for a giant golden calf made of hairs taken from his own comb, but here’s some breaking news about yet another caterer he stiffed on a job while tweeting his theories on how President Obama was born on Neptune and flew here like Superman, but is so selfish that he won’t use his superpowers to destroy ISIS … what’s that, Bob? Trump bribed an attorney general and ran a fake college and solicited campaign donations from foreign leaders and is in bed with Russian President Vladmir Putin and violated the Cuba embargo and his money-laundering charity foundation isn’t allowed to collect donations and he lost a billion dollars while maybe paying no taxes? Oh, I give up. Let’s talk about Clinton’s health for a week after we check in on the Pitt-Jolie divorce.

They call the man “Master Troll” for a reason. Every time some supposedly campaign-ending shoe drops, Trump slings six lesser shoes out the window that make the media scatter like geese. Deliberate, or merely a happy accident born of manic self-delusion on the part of this wholly naked emperor? In the end, it doesn’t matter. Trump has somehow managed over the last year to make Teflon look like flypaper by comparison. The sheer number of stories has been, amazingly, the rock that gives him shelter.

All that, however, may be coming to a conclusion at speed. Trump and the “news” media may be spending their time on Miss Universe for the moment, but legal officials in a variety of districts are looking long and hard at his highly questionable business practices. The much-ballyhooed Trump Foundation, according to a bombshell report by The Washington Post, lacks the certification required by charities to collect money. Even under the most lenient of circumstances, Trump may get fined and be forced to return all those donations. Dovetail that with the myriad reports of his serial misuse of those charity funds, and suddenly he’s got some pretty heavy potential criminal charges staring him dead in the face. He brazenly flouted the embargo against Cuba, another breach of the law, and had his surrogates go on TV to call it no big deal. Yeah, he did it. It’s called business, which makes him smart.

Oh, and not for nothing, but Trump is notorious for stiffing contractors who provide services for him. There are dozens of lawsuits pending against him for just that, and more stories appear every day. Trump even stiffed the caterer who successfully managed his wedding to Marla Maples. His pattern in this was as simple as it was sinister: “I know you are new at this,” he is alleged to have said, “and when you tell people you catered my wedding, you will get more business than you could ever dream of. So I am doing you a favor. And when I do favors, I don’t pay. End of discussion.”

When threatened with a lawsuit by those he refused to pay, Trump would tell the aggrieved party to go right ahead; a suit would cost more than the bill in question. One wonders if there is an enterprising lawyer out there willing to pull all these people together into a class-action lawsuit against Trump. Even better, perhaps an eager prosecutor could put together a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case against him. This isn’t a one-off here and there; it is a years-long pattern of fraud that has left a long trail of very angry, financially damaged people in its wake.

Mr. Law and Order indeed.

The ancient Greeks were masterful at telling tales of doom by hubris. Trump calls to mind Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with waxen wings and fell to his death in the sea. It is almost amusing: Had Trump decided not to run for president, it is almost certain that none of these terrible stories would have come to light, and he could have merrily continued practicing the dark art of being a greedy self-centered jerk until his dying day.

Instead, he lurched for the sun, and now his whole empire is under close scrutiny. The scab is off the wound. Even if he wins in November, which is hardly out of the question, that scrutiny won’t cease. Donald Trump may wind up being the first president to be impeached before he learns how to use the phone in the Oval Office. I wonder if his kids are worried about their inheritance. I would be. Remember Wile E. Coyote going off the cliff while holding a sign that read, “Was this trip really necessary?” It’s fairly certain a number of people associated with the campaign are thinking exactly that … while wondering if they’ll actually get paid.

It’s a long way down, Donald. Icarus can tell you all about it. Maybe your wings should have been made of sterner stuff. Maybe you should have simply stayed home. Just another story in Hubris City.

We have hours left to raise $12,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.