Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Chip Off The Old Blockhead

The New York Times has been looking into how the Trumps -- father and son -- have done business. Consider the following anecdote:

She seemed like the model tenant. A 33-year-old nurse who was living at the Y.W.C.A. in Harlem, she had come to rent a one-bedroom at the still-unfinished Wilshire Apartments in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens. She filled out what the rental agent remembers as a “beautiful application.” She did not even want to look at the unit.

There was just one hitch: Maxine Brown was black.

Stanley Leibowitz, the rental agent, talked to his boss, Fred C. Trump.
“I asked him what to do and he says, ‘Take the application and put it in a drawer and leave it there,’” Mr. Leibowitz, now 88, recalled in an interview.

It was late 1963 — just months before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act — and the tall, mustachioed Fred Trump was approaching the apex of his building career. He was about to complete the jewel in the crown of his middle-class housing empire: seven 23-story towers, called Trump Village, spread across nearly 40 acres in Coney Island.

He was also grooming his heir. His son Donald, 17, would soon enroll at Fordham University in the Bronx, living at his parents’ home in Queens and spending much of his free time touring construction sites in his father’s Cadillac, driven by a black chauffeur.

“His father was his idol,” Mr. Leibowitz recalled. “Anytime he would come into the building, Donald would be by his side.”

Over the next decade, as Donald J. Trump assumed an increasingly prominent role in the business, the company’s practice of turning away potential black tenants was painstakingly documented by activists and organizations that viewed equal housing as the next frontier in the civil rights struggle.

And, when the Trumps were accused of discrimination in housing -- under the new Civil Rights Act -- young Mr. Trump reacted with what has now become a familiar routine:

“Absolutely ridiculous,” he was quoted as saying of the government’s allegations.

 Looking back, Mr. Trump’s response to the lawsuit can be seen as presaging his handling of subsequent challenges, in business and in politics. Rather than quietly trying to settle — as another New York developer had done a couple of years earlier — he turned the lawsuit into a protracted battle, complete with angry denials, character assassination, charges that the government was trying to force him to rent to “welfare recipients” and a $100 million countersuit accusing the Justice Department of defamation.

Mr. Trump is obviously a boar. And he's a chip off the old blockhead.



Lorne said...

It sounds like Donald learned his life lessons from his father, Owen. At least there is a patrimonial consistency here. One can only wonder about his mother.

Owen Gray said...

I read that his older brother died at the age of 43 from alcoholism, Lorne. It was a wealthy household. Somehow I doubt that it was a happy household.

Toby said...

Owen, what do you think of the theory that the power structure behind the Clintons is doing everything it can to discredit Trump in an effort to make Hillary attractive to voters?

Owen Gray said...

I think there's some truth to that, Toby. But I also think that Trump proves the truth behind Mark Twain's statement that it's better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you're stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.