Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Donald Trump, the working man's worst nightmare

Brian J. Walsh is a veteran Republican communications and campaign consultant in Washington. Over the past 20 years, he has worked as a high-ranking staff person for Republican members of both the House and Senate, and also served as communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, devoted to electing and re-electing Republicans to the Senate. In other words, his partisan loyalties are well-established.

But while watching Monday night's debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in particular an exchange about Trump's practice of stiffing those who do work for him, Walsh felt compelled to make a confession:

That's just one of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of such stories, of course, some of which end with Trump's victims being driven into financial ruin. During the debate, Clinton mentioned the specific case of Andrew Tesoro, the architect who designed the clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, N.Y.

According to Tesoro, he was owed $140,000 for his work, but Trump refused to pay. Like Walsh's father, Tesoro was told by Trump attorneys that yes, he could take the case to court, and yes, he would probably even win. But they threatened to drag the case out for so long and force him to rack up so much in legal fees that he would end up losing by winning.

They instead offered him $50,000, which Tesoro reluctantly accepted.

However, when Tesoro sent Trump a revised bill for the agreed-upon $50,000, Trump again refused to pay.

"I met with Mr. Trump," Tesoro told Forbes. "He said, you’re a nice guy, you’re a good architect, I’ll give you half of that $50,000. I walked away with $25,000." The loss sent Tesoro's business into a tailspin, forcing him to dip into savings set aside for his son's college education in order to keep his five-employee firm alive.

Confronted by that history during the debate, Trump tried to wave it away. "Maybe he didn't do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work," he grumped.

Maybe. But in a letter written at the time of the work, Trump praised Tesoro as an architect "with great spirit and imagination" who "had done a fine job for me." As Tesoro also notes, everybody else on that project -- "the carpenters, the tile guy, the landscape consultant, the mechanical engineering consultant, other vendors and tradespeople"-- got bullied the same way.

UPDATE: Here's a dismaying compilation of case after case in which Trump refused to pay what he had agreed to pay, then dared his victim to go to court: http://correctrecord.org/fact-check-phil-ruffin-lies-about-trumps-record-paying-his-bills/

In a sane world, it would not be conceivable for a man like Trump to proclaim himself the champion of the working class and small business owner, the very people whom he has bullied and treated as dirt throughout his career. Voters would look at that claim, and look at his personal and business history, and laugh him out of the room.

Of course, in that sane world it also would not be possible for a billionaire presidential candidate to boast about paying zero in federal income taxes, saying "That makes me smart," as if paying taxes were something only stupid people did.

A politician who has repeatedly said that the problem with American workers is that they make too much money would, in a sane world, be rejected by anybody who collects a weekly paycheck. Someone who rails against businesses that move jobs to China, but who himself manufactures his ties and other products in China, would be dismissed as a fraud. And someone who reaps good publicity from dozens of public charitable pledges that he never had any intention of carrying out would be shamed out of any further role in public life.

But as you know, we no longer live in such a world.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.