BY FROMA HARROP
Respected news sources have described those 16 televised minutes of shouting between Donald Trump and “Chuck and Nancy” as an “altercation” and a “lurid” exchange. To New York ears, it was just a discussion.
As Johnny Carson [the late “Tonight Show” host] once said, “anytime four New Yorkers get into a cab together without arguing, a bank robbery has just taken place.”
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, a Californian, jabbed Trump with some facts, but in a conciliatory tone. It was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of Brooklyn, who dragged the son of Queens out of the study and into the street.
Soon it was two New Yorkers waving their arms and talking over each other. And though Trump is a highly gifted TV performer, he’s clearly not the only one. The most dangerous place in Washington, the joke goes, is between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera.
Schumer: Democrats “have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the government, and that’s what we’re urging you to do – not threaten to shut down the government … ”
Trump: “You don’t want to shut down the government, Chuck.”
Schumer: ” … because you can’t get your way.”
Trump. “The last time you shut it down, you got killed.”
Schumer, undeterred: “Let me say something, Mr. President. You just say, ‘My way, or we’ll shut down the government.'”
[Headline in the New York Daily News: “Wall or Nothing.”]
Pelosi reminded Trump that the midterm elections changed the power dynamics in the Democrats’ favor. Trump responded with trademark repetition.
Trump: “We’ve gained in the Senate. Nancy? We’ve gained in the Senate. Excuse me. Did we win the Senate? We won the Senate.”
Schumer turned from Trump and looked at the cameras: “When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble.”
Schumer then baited Trump into saying something easy to take out of context. Trump said: “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Schumer smiled. Mike Pence, or a statue of him, sat in silence.
By New York standards, Trump is neither the world’s greatest performer nor the most masterful negotiator. And perhaps most damaging to the image he seeks to project, he’s not the biggest and best billionaire, either.
Enter Michael Bloomberg, possible challenger to Trump in 2020. Founder of the Bloomberg empire, the former New York mayor is also mega-rich, with a net worth put at $50 billion. Trump’s billions are counted in the low single digits.
“I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one,” Bloomberg told the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Then he got down to business: “Through his career, Donald Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies and thousands of lawsuits and angry stockholders and contractors who feel cheated and disillusioned customers who feel they’ve been ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business. God help us!”
But Bloomberg wasn’t finished. He contrasted his self-made fortune with Trump’s inherited one. “I built a business, and I didn’t start it with a million-dollar check from my father,” he said.
A native of Massachusetts, Bloomberg is more self-contained in his delivery than the children of New York’s outer boroughs. But Bloomberg sure knows where to direct a punch.
It will be interesting to see an entrepreneur of awesome wealth run against a man with none of that. In the meantime, get used to discussions between Trump and congressional leaders of a more voluble nature. That shouldn’t be too hard. We’ve already gotten used to so much.
– Froma Harrop’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer