Donald’s Been no Surprise. So How Well do we Know Hillary?: Wells
We are spending too much time reaffirming Donald Trump’s MO as an ’80s-era Big Swinging Dick archetype.
Once the initial wave of surprise . . . oh, wait. There was no wave of surprise. Trump behaves execrably in the company of, and is accused of sexually assaulting, women.
Business journalists who followed Trump closely in the late ’80s and early ’90s do not fall down in stunned amazement upon hearing this news. The Trump story has always been about the crass omnipotence of money and the ability to parlay financial status into sexual power.
In this, Trump does not stand apart from a corporate culture in which women were objets (preferably scantily clad) and there was no need to contain crass talk to the mythic locker room. In describing Trump’s groping, octopus-like behaviour toward her, Jessica Leeds told the New York Times that such behaviour was not uncommon in the world of business. “We accepted it for years,” she told the Times. “We were taught it was our fault.”
As a representation of this, Trump was an Oreos-eating, elbow through-the-Monet kind of guy, recognizable to anyone who spent much time on Bay Street back in the day.
The symmetry that was worth noting was this week’s shuttering of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. The Taj, which opened in April of 1990, was fodder for never-ending state-of-wonder stories as industry observers predicted defaults on Trump’s $2 billion (U.S.) in bank debt, which did come to pass. The Wall Street Journal reflected in late 1990: “In August, after his lenders were stunned to learn Trump Organization had a projected negative cash flow of over $100 million, close to 90 banks signed off on a deal to give him money and time to work out his problems.”
Taj Mahal bondholders had vowed not to let Mr. Trump keep control of the casino after he defaulted on the debt. And yet, noted the Journal, “he persuaded them to do just that.”
Serial bankruptcies followed. Corporate raider and Trump ally Carl Icahn took control of the now defunct casino. Trump, aided by the metastasis of reality television, defied expectations that he would have about as much contemporary currency as Ivan Boesky or Michael Milken. That’s the surprise, not his predatory behaviour.
Which brings me to Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s treatmen of women has not only been a boon to Clinton’s polling numbers, especially among women voters. It has served to soften the examination of the candidate herself. I have gone on at length about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Clinton’s about-face on that file. This is not about fingering a lie, but in fully understanding the trade position of, potentially, the next president of the United States.
It was then-President Bill Clinton who drank the globalization Kool-Aid, dismantling trade barriers to food imports to Haiti, resulting in the dumping of tariff-free American rice on the streets of Port-au-Prince. He would later deem his epic misjudgment a “mistake” and a “devil’s bargain,” telling the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: “I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people.”
Some will undoubtedly argue the unfairness of burdening Hillary Clinton with her husband’s actions. But it’s not so easy to separate one from another. I recall passing through an agricultural landscape in northern Haiti after the 2010 earthquake as rumours grew of another industrial park for garment factories. Hundreds of farmers lost their fields to what became the Caracol Industrial Park, a collaboration between the Clinton Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the U.S. State Department, under the guidance of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
At the time of those rumours, the locals were talking about the potential for 120,000 jobs. At the time Caracol opened, in the fall of 2012, the target was 60,000. According to US Aid, just 6,200 were employed as of April, 2015. Who wins? A country that should be self-sufficient through agriculture? Or the Haitian business elite, ordering up cheap T-shirts for Wal-Mart, on whose board Hillary Clinton used to sit.
It was Secretary of State Clinton who pressured then-President René Préval to accommodate Michel Martelly in a post-earthquake two-person electoral runoff, which resulted in Martelly becoming president. It was UN special envoy Bill Clinton who met with Martelly ally Sean Penn to address the same issue. “Watching the scene,” wrote Edwidge Danticat in The New Yorker last December, “one is again reminded that Haiti’s version of democracy is often decided in small rooms where no Haitians are present.”
We should be curious now about those small rooms, or those closed rooms where Clinton would pronounce that, say, financial reform is best left to the industry itself.
Who is Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump is a mystery to no one.
Jennifer Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org