Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Donald: still being schooled on Trump University

If there’s someone on the American celebrimaginative scene who’s more stunningly ridiculous and obnoxious than Donald Trump, the name’s not coming to my mind just now.

I would say that he’s a latter-day P.T. Barnum, if P.T. Barnum had been born with a silver developer’s groundbreaking shovel in his hands. But P.T. Barnum actually gave us some worthwhile stuff: like General Tom Thumb and his equally diminutive bride Lavinia, the Barnum & Bailey Circus (if you like that sort of thing), and a stuffed elephant granted to Tufts University, which gives Tufts its team name, The Jumbos.

He also gave us an adage to live by – “There’s a sucker born every day”  - even if it’s more likely that it was said not by him, but about him, in reference to the folks he was duping.

What’d we ever get from The Donald? “You’re fired,” birther nonsense, and bad hair jokes.

Anyway, there’s plenty of wisdom packed into that one little sentence.  While most of us would take it as a caution – i.e., don’t be a sucker - Mr. Trump apparently adopted it as words to live by. It may even be on Trump’s coat of arms. (Dollar sign rampant, hair piece couchant.)

And now, a couple of years after his Trump University had to rebrand itself as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, and shroud all Trump U’s wisdom and knowledge behind the firewall of its virtually ivy-covered virtual halls by password-protecting it, the New York state AG is going after Trump for defrauding “students” out of their hard-earned (or hard-borrowed) cash in hopes of becoming a Trump Mini-Me:

…saying the real estate mogul helped run a phony "Trump University" that promised to make students rich but instead steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars, and even failed to deliver promised apprenticeships.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump but instead all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of "The Apprentice" TV star. (Source: Huffington Post.)

While it’s hard to imagine someone so limited in intellectual capacity that they’d let themselves be fleeced out of $35K like this, such is the hold that “brand” and “celebrity” and the lure of “get rich quick” have on the American psyche.

Meanwhile, Trump – no doubt delighted to have this free publicity opportunity handed to him during the summer doldrums -  has countered by claiming that the lawsuit is without grounds – sort of like Trump U, come to think of it – and that the AG is motivated by politics.  Trump’s attorney is arguing that the AG is trying to extort campaign contributions. But surely the AG is canny enough to realize that it’s hard to grift a grifter.

Trump’s man also says that:

… Trump University provided nearly 11,000 testimonials to Schneiderman from students praising the program and said 98 percent of students in a survey termed the program "excellent."

Ah, but what does this mean if you don’t know the measurement scale:

Would you rate your experience with Trump University: a) excellent; b) better than excellent; c) unbelievably better than better than excellent; d) all of the above. In order for us to provide you with a colored photograph (suitable for framing) of you yourself standing in front of a life-size cardboard pop-up of Mr. Trump, you must answer this question.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that 98 percent of those who were capable of convincing themselves that matriculated at Trump U was a good idea were equally capable of convincing themselves that the experience had been excellent.

The $40 million that Schneiderman seeks will be used to repay Trump U alumni.

There may, indeed, be a sucker born every minute, but sometimes those suckers have a moment of WTF clarity – sucker’s remorse, as it were – and sometimes the attorney general steps in and decides that even suckers deserve consumer protection.

Personally – if somewhat maliciously – I’d love to see this lawsuit succeed, if only to find out whether Trump has the $40 million on hand to pay it off.

Here was Pink Slip’s take on Trump University -  Hey, Donald Trump. Wossamotta U? – from May 2011.

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