Saturday, June 11, 2016

Trump University will cost the Republican Party plenty

This piece first appeared in Asia Times.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has relied on a string of controversial declarations designed to insult certain segments of the American society and reap the free publicity resulting from the media coverage. When the offended party responds with a vigorous protest, Trump then backs down and modifies his positions to mollify the outrage.

His latest stunt is so over the top that this time he may not have a way to back down. He declared that the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, presiding over litigations over the Trump University could not be impartial because his parents are originally from Mexico, even though Judge Curiel was born in Indiana and is obviously an American in order to serve on the federal district court.

Leading Republican figures, many of whom have only recently and grudgingly rallied around Trump as the presumptive GOP candidate for president, are aghast and scrambling to find ways of disassociating from Trump’s racism and keeping from being splattered by the mud.

Apparently, Trump expects Judge Curiel to accede to his request to dismiss lawsuits against him and the Trump University on summary judgment. A summary judgment is rendered when it’s obvious to the presiding judge that the plaintiff has no case. Since Judge Curiel does not agree with Trump’s point of view, he is therefore biased. As Trump has publicly asserted, the judge is biased because he is Hispanic.

Of the total federal cases, less than 15% were thrown out on summary judgment arising from the flimsiness of the cases. The lawsuits filed against Trump and Trump University were on behalf of former students accusing the operation of fraud, false advertising and unfair business practices. There is no prima facie indication that the suits are frivolous.

So why is Trump accusing the presiding federal district judge that he is biased? A connoisseur of litigation, Trump has personally been involved in thousands of lawsuits, both as plaintiff and as defendant. He wallows in legal disputes.

A well-known practice, when you are a billionaire and the legal case is going against you, is to get the judge to recuse him or herself on the grounds of potential conflict.

What if there are no grounds for claiming conflict of interest? You create some. Through circular reasoning, you first accuse the judge of not being fair, and then you appear in court to ask the judge to vacate his/her seat because the judge has been accused of not being fair.

If you are rich, you can afford to keep finding excuses and reasons to keep the court from hearing the case. Trump claims to be rich but he can’t afford to lose the suits involving the now defunct Trump University. The potential damage to his pocket book and to his reputation would be enormous.

Trump likes to declare that he is running for president on “America First.” Actually he is running on Donald Trump first. Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump.

He puts his personal interest, which is trying to get the suits against him dismissed, ahead of what’s good for the Republican Party and for the country.

Some pundits say Trump’s run for the presidency will be a disaster to befall the Republican Party; the setback could be worse than even when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

It’s too early to make a prognosis on exactly how badly the 2016 election will turn out, but we do know one important distinction between Trump and Goldwater.

Goldwater enunciated his ideas of conservatism and ran on his principles. Unlike Trump, he was gentlemanly and did not indulge in hate mongering.

Goldwater’s political messages did persuade the African American community that there was no room in the GOP tent for them. Ever since then, the black vote has been lopsidedly cast in favor of Democratic political candidates.

On the other hand, Trump’s equal opportunity slamming of ethnic, religious and sexual orientation groups has offended nearly everyone except for perhaps a small cohort of white male voters.

The consequences of Trump’s run for president could become a fearful burden that the Republican Party will have to bear for generations to come.

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