When Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono called Trump a “grifter” in Senate questioning of Attorney General Barr the other day, I thought to myself either she or I fail to know the meaning of the word. Turns out I am right and she is wrong. Whatever she thinks a grifter is, it hardly applies to a man who became a billionaire in Manhattan real estate.
A grifter is a petty swindler who cheats you out of something by being smarter than you, even if it’s just for that transaction. It’s usually a small transaction so you don’t have to think too much about it. You feel foolish later when you realize you were had. You vow to not let it happen again, but you don’t mourn over the loss because it isn’t big enough to be worth it.
Roger Ebert had a good take on the movie, The Grifters, starring John Cusack and Anjelica Huston:
Con men are more appealing than run-of-the-mill villains, who want to take your money because they are stronger or more dangerous than you are. Con men want to take it because they’re smarter than you are. And there is hardly ever a con man who isn’t likable, because, after all, if he can’t win your confidence, how can he take your money? Movies about con men are seductive because the audience is on both sides of the moral issues: We want to see justice done, of course, but at the same time we’re intrigued by the audacity of this character who is trying to out-think his opposition.
Trump is smart, likable, and seductive in the sense of being able to gain your confidence that he can and will do what he says he can and will do. A grifter is a roving bandit of sorts because he rarely has the chance to pull another con on the same person. Once grifted you’ll be wise to the grifter’s pitch and won’t fall for it in any new form again.
If Trump were a bandit he’d be a stationary bandit, not a roving bandit or a grifter. Mazie Hirono was wrong about that. Well, she was wrong about every word she uttered that day, including “and” and “the.”
A roving bandit will take as much from you as he can. It doesn’t matter that he can screw you only one time, he’ll move on to other marks. Trump can’t be a roving bandit or a grifter for two reasons.
He doesn’t want the small takings that grifters settle for. He also can’t be a stationary bandit because until he became president, he was a private citizen without the power to rob the same people over and over.
There’s a limited numbers of tycoons in America for Trump to do business with. If just one of them could make a credible case that Trump swindled them the rest would soon find out. If Trump had ever done such a thing even once he would have lost too many valuable connections to have ever achieved the success he built over decades.
Stationary bandits mainly exist in government where they can screw you over and over and you can’t do anything about it no matter how many other people you tell. Nothing is new to them, they’re getting the same treatment. You may get some sympathy and little else.
Meanwhile the politicians and bureaucrats are plotting their next fleecing. Even they might more properly be called roving than stationary bandits. The roving bandit will take all he can get even if he leaves you destitute. A stationary bandit will not take everything you have. He or she will leave you with enough capital to rebuild your bank account so they can come back next year and stick it to you again.
That’s not Donald J. Trump. He genuinely cares about people. He steals from no one, you would not be afraid to let him baby sit your daughter. Good will has always been a requirement for true success in life. Trump is one of the most successful tycoons we’ve ever seen. He didn’t get that way by lying and stealing. He’s a pleasant person according to most who have had business dealings with him.
One of the oldest and greatest guides to understanding American politics is captured in the sage advice: “follow the money.” As America is the richest nation on the globe, there is a lot to be followed. The federal leviathan is awash in trillions of dollars in cash. Countless lawyers, lobbyists, and public officials, by their control of or access to our government, have grown rich. Hillary and Bill Clinton notoriously are Exhibit A, but we are in the process of learning that the current front-runner in the Democratic sweepstakes for the 2020 nomination, Joe Biden, also managed successfully to siphon off a few million for himself and his family.
One way of understanding the still unbelievable hostility for Donald Trump is that he had made his fortune before entering government, and because he owes nothing to the denizens of the deep state and the swamp, they cannot control him. Thus the incessant attempts by the Democrats, and their allies in the federal bureaucracy and the mainstream media to neutralize this threat to their hegemony.
Trump can deliver a booming economy and they hate him all the more because while they might like the economic successful he brings, they don’t want him to get the credit for it. He couldn’t give it to them if he wanted to, we all know too much about them. Mazie Hirono is an example. She’s a vicious, nasty foul-mouthed old hag who has no business making a great man like William Barr put up with her vacuous nonsense.