Debunking Trump: He’s as phony as the Wizard of Oz

wizard-of-oz_curtainDonald Trump reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. All bluster and bombast, no substance, and no one to question his power or his veracity.

The pivotal scene in the classic 1939 movie may offer a clue as to how to break through Trump’s bullshit. Here’s the relevant dialogue [adapted from the original movie script]:





OZ’s VOICE: Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz? You ungrateful creatures!
[Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the Wizard at the controls of the throne apparatus — his back to the camera]

OZ’S VOICE: Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you audience tomorrow, instead of twenty years from now!

[The Wizard at the controls — his back to camera — he speaks into the microphone — he turns, looks, and sees that the curtain is gone — reacts and turns back to the controls –-]

OZ’S VOICE: The Great Oz has spoken! Oh – Oh!

[The Wizard peers out from behind the curtain. Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy and Scarecrow react as they look at the Wizard]

DOROTHY: Who are you?

[The Wizard peers out from curtain – he ducks back out of sight and his voice booms out again -]

OZ’S VOICE: Oh – I – Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Go – before I lose my temper! The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken!

[Dorothy goes over to the curtain and starts to pull it aside to reveal the Wizard at the controls– he reacts as he sees Dorothy — Dorothy questions him — the Wizard starts to speak into the microphone — then turns weakly back to Dorothy]

DOROTHY: Who are you?

OZ’S VOICE: Well, I — I — I am the Great and Powerful– Wizard of Oz.

DOROTHY: You are?

WIZARD: Uhhhh — yes…

DOROTHY: I don’t believe you!

WIZARD: No, I’m afraid it’s true. There’s no other Wizard except me.

SCARECROW: You humbug!

There it is. Trump, like the Wizard of Oz, is a humbug. What needs to be done is to pull back the curtain to reveal the truth. He’s a pumped-up bully. Maybe the way to stop him is to break down his image as the self-proclaimed world’s best negotiator, deal-maker, rich guy, hero of the angry white male—the things that his supporters love most about him. In other words, he should be “swift-boated.” [And oh, how it pains me to use that Karl-Rove-invented notion.]

Republicans and Democrats—as well as the shamefully complicit, ratings-driven media—have done a lousy job of debunking Trump. As much as I cringe at the practice of “opposition research,” this is a case where it would be useful. I’ve read that Republicans have only recently begun to dig into Trump’s dirty laundry pile. But I suspect there’s plenty of ammo in there. A few hints have begun to emerge, for example:

Is Trump really a New York power broker?

A New York Times article looks at Trump’s image as a Big Apple mover-and-shaker:

…the Republican candidate has given the impression as he crossed the country that he is a force to reckon with in the city of his birth.

But while Trump remains a visible brand name around the city’s five boroughs, it is much harder to discern his imprint as a classic power broker, someone who is feared and can make things happen with a phone call or a quiet aside with the right person at the right time.

His real estate holdings in New York are modest; he did not make the top 10 in lists of major condominium developers and power players in real estate in the city, as judged by several publications. He does not belong to trade groups like the Real Estate Board of New York or the Association for a Better New York. He rarely interacts with top politicians or government officials, or contributes to campaigns. Discussions about a bid for governor in 2014 never got off the ground.

Though he portrays himself as a major developer, his companies’ highest profile ownership stakes in real estate in New York include an office building on Wall Street; part of another on Avenue of the Americas; commercial space at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, where he lives; and parking below the Trump Plaza on East 61st Street.

The major banks, for their part, say they are leery of lending to him after having lost millions of dollars on past deals. Lawyers and contractors he has hired in the past say he is slow to pay his bills, and often shortchanges them. Even the few Wall Street executives who say privately that he is a friend are loath to speak publicly about him.

Is he as rich as he says? As charitable as he says?

While it’s hilariously ironic that Mitt Romney, of all people, would be the one to say that Trump should release his tax returns, he has a point. The Wall Street Journal has called for tax-return disclosure, wondering if Trump is actually worth the $5 or $6 billion that he claims. National Review —suddenly in a panic about Trump upsetting the established order—harbors a similar suspicion.

Is his presidential bid just a long con job?

Politico has reported that in 2013, Trump met with 25 New York political operatives, who were trying to persuade him to run for Governor. At that meeting, he reportedly laid out his cynical plan to run for President:

“He said, ‘I’m going to walk away with it and win it outright,’” a long-time New York political consultant recalled. “Trump told us, ‘I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.’”

These items strike me as the kind of arguments that could rattle Trump [which might be the only way to get him to self-destruct] and puncture his image as the best businessman, the richest guy around, and the anti-establishment candidate whose credentials, accomplishments and successes cannot be questioned.

I don’t relish siding with the Republican establishment on the need to stop Trump. I don’t give a crap about helping the Republican establishment maintain its power. After all, they made this happen all by themselves, and the candidates they favor are also beyond awful.

But I do worry that a Trump candidacy [and worse yet, a Trump presidency] would legitimize the irrationality and coarseness of political discourse, destroy any remaining thoughtfulness and restraint in governance and international relations, and smash the remnants of our democracy to smithereens.

I know that many Democrats are hoping, perversely, that Trump becomes the Republican nominee, because they’re convinced that he would spark a Democratic landslide in November. I say: Be careful what you wish for.

So, if there is a way to pull back the curtain on Trump in a way that would make his supporters run away, I’m for it.

But then again, even exposing Trump as the phony Wizard that he is might not work, either. And that is truly scary.