Pardon me for citing facts that speak ill of our president while he and first lady are ill at the White House, but…one thing we know for sure about Donald John Trump is he was his father’s son, and one thing we can surmise Fred Trump passed on to his second son is this – the real measure of power is disrespect – the more disrespect you can show for more people, the more you put your own power on display.
As a teenager, young Don was invited along by his Dad to watch as he disrespected tenants at his various housing units. What he saw was Fred bullying poorer people, to pay their rent NOW or face eviction; to back off making formal complaints about leaking windows or sagging floors, if they ever wanted any repairs to be made.
And Fred didn’t just spew disrespect directly at his customers, he also let Donald know how he felt about the various honest jobbers and suppliers with whom he contracted, and corrupt union leaders and politicians who were either silent or praise-singing partners in his projects. They all, at least in the telling and acting out, needed Fred Trump more than he needed them. Showing them proved power.
Thus, in the first presidential debate last week, President Donald Trump, the most powerful guy in the room, snarled condescension and disrespect at his opponent Joe Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace.
In Donald Trump’s World Wrestling Federation-style that’s just empty trash talk, guff that sounds tough. But this wasn’t an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout, this was a presidential debate, and among the things most disrespected by the president was that occasion, and the election it was meant to inform, and the Constitution and the democracy of the United States of which the election and the presidency are crucial parts.
But most of all, Donald Trump’s disrespect was aimed at you and me, at voters, at citizens – those non-military “losers” and “suckers” – whose ballots and judgments he is by law and custom obliged to respect. Trump called the voting so far rigged and shameful. He said the results, if he didn’t like them, must be wrong and would be contested, perhaps by his lawyers, perhaps by his thugs.
“Stand down and stand by,” he ordered the right-wing menace machine called The Proud Boys. “We’ll see what happens,” he equivocated, when asked if he would vacate the White House peacefully if the vote count went against him.
A mighty theme song for the Dump Trump campaign might be Otis Reddings great hit covered even more mightily by Aretha Franklin – “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”
And disrespect? What does that mean to Americans? Oh, sock it to him, sock it to him. Paint R-E-S-P-E-C-T on that boy’s orange jumpsuit and let him wear it for all his years in prison.
From 2009 to 2016 he was a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer who taught the tax, property, and regulatory law of the ancient world at Syracuse University College of Law and the Whitman School of Management. From July 2011 until September 2012 he was a columnist for Reuters, writing, and producing video commentaries, on worldwide issues of tax, accounting, economics, public finance and business. Johnston is the board president of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has also written for Al Jazeera English and America in recent years.
Johnston is the founder and editor-in-chief of the investigative news site DCReport.org. Since 2014, he has written three books: Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality, The Making of Donald Trump and It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America.