Quotes: “Cruelty is fed, not weakened, by tears.” “To know who controls you, look at who you can’t criticize.” (Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, c. a.d. 117).
In the news: Trump’s niece: he lies, cheats, is cruel — and he’s cheap” (William Goldschlag & Dan Janison, Newsday, 7.08.20)
In context: Donald Trump was a mere 33 years of age when construction of the Trump Tower began in 1979. It started with the razing of the historid Bonwit Teller building. By then he was well-skilled in working the legal, political, financial and media. systems to erect the gaudy tourist trap based on the push extracted from his father.
Staggered population of the building began in 1983, its residential units filling rapidly but retail and commercial spaces slow to fill around the cavernous atrium, a public space requirement for permits and code exemptions.
By the mid-eighties, the Trump Organization was housed on the 26th floor and a tiny cooperative named On Paper was hired to set up the files then still stored in cardboard boxes on an upper floor. The On Paper venture was a cooperative of artists who handled office temp assignments as a group. They spotted each other if one was called away for a musical tour or theatrical gig. They were coordinated, reliable, competent and well-connected enough to gain entry into businesses like the Trump Organization. They were also observant to details that were irrelevant in the business world.
The group worked with the Organization through the mid-eighties, when dad Fred still popped in to revel in his son’t progress, when Ivana breezed through glamorously and when younger brother Robert was an executive no less immune to the Trump toxin than any other employee at any level. The group was on site when the Marla Maples scandal struck. The group witnessed the Trump ritual of summoning the Organization men, turning on the speakerphone and letting Marla beg for forgiveness after a spat as the men snickered.
Brother Robert was among those men but he hung back. He was the nice brother, acting as a foil for his brother and as conciliator with those growing fed up with Donald’s ruthless aggression. In particular need of assuaging were contractors who had performed work but whose invoices were not be honored for some disputed reason to be settled by courts if the contractor could afford the drawn-out damage.
Immediately obvious to the observant was the lack of correlation between aesthetics, function and design. Women were required to wear high heels,a hazard on the slippery sloped marble of the atrium when it rained. The custom-built file cabinets were appointed with clumsy drawer-pulls that fell off in use. The files themselves were a bramble-bush of projects and off-shoot companies that came and went faster than could be indexed.
.”Don’t worry about the files,” a sympathetic Trump executive consoled one day. “The real files are safely stored in a private residence off the premises.”
Such candor was rare. The hallmark of the Trump Organization in those early days was stress beyond endurance. The bad breath of indigestion was endemic. Antacids were a staple. A summons to the central office caused shakes all around. A good review from Donald redoubled anxiety. Who would find a pink slip on the desk in the morning for reasons unknown? They would leave with no one spilling a clue about why it had happened.
When it came to Donald and his staff, even Robert couldn’t help. Mirrors placed strategically kept the entire office under surveillance. Nervous people messed up, made mistakes. Repression inhibits top performance. It cripples the will to excel regardless of reason for joining the enterprise. The opportunity was certainly seductive and the environs glamorous. Perhaps most seductive was the challenge of being able to endure.
Even in those early Trump Organization days, Donald was a bulldozing humanoid. There was no stopping his quest to bend the world to his will. If he had a soft side, it was no doubt hidden even from him. Under legal duress, Black staff was hired and whisked away when Donald neared. War was waged on disabled vets with special peddling permits operating on Fifth Avenue near the Trump Tower.
With business equals, betters or underlings, Donald relished toying with those shackled by humanity. Some endured and others even thrived. They were the ones comfortable in the Donald Trump world of cutthroat gamesmanship.
Nice brother Robert was not among the spineless. He didn’t last past the Atlantic City casinos debacle that began with a botched opening night due to cut-rate, fast-tracked construction skimping on operating regulations. Donald excoriated Robert and demanded he assume responsibility. Robert didn’t wait to be fired. He walked out on Donald and never looked back.
Apprentice Donald has honed his skills since the early Trump Tower days. He no longer bothers with nice people who make sense in dealing with the rest of the world. He goes straight for the jugular in everyone who crosses his path. He plays them now with the grand powers of the Office he occupies as President of the United States.
The nice people who still believe in Donald Trump haven’t caught on to the Trump playbook. Like his trampling of Constitutional and legal norms, his caging of immigrant children and his use of the People’s White House for his political campaign, the devastating Corvid global pandemic for Donald is nothing more than a new venture.
Covid provides Donald the opportunity to showcase just how far he can go with his snake oil skills. Aside from the Trump allies profiting from their ability to survive, the Trump base consists of those willing to suspend disbelief in the contradictions of a documented liar brandishing his power.