Donald Trump has been called a narcissist and a sociopath. Though to be fair, I think one cannot exist without the other. But I confess, I’m no psychologist. I don’t even play one on TV. Not even on Twitter. I do however know a con man when I see one. Con men in fact have many characteristics of narcissists and sociopaths, but I’ll leave the scientific labeling to the experts.
There are many different types of con men. Different levels exist from the street con to the deluxe models like Bernie Madoff. It’s these higher-end types that take you for everything you’ve got. A $20 bet on a Three-card Monte game won’t do it for them. They want your savings, your business, your house. Everything. And yes, some want more. Only your undying support, your faith and your devotion will satisfy them.
In 2010, my wife and I met a con man that we shall refer to as Hans the Asshole. We owned a custom cabinet shop and were fortunate enough to make it through the recession mostly because we’d invested in machines. That is not to say we were fine. We were still hurting, still behind on all bills, still asking for extensions, but we were still there. And by then, our business had actually started to do well. It was the digging out of the giant hole that was the problem.
This, I have since learned, is when con men are most likely to strike. Contrary to logic, con men do not normally look to take advantage of you when you’ve got your shit together. They are looking for those who are swimming against the current or at least feel like they are. This is because you are more vulnerable when struggling, more apt to make bad judgements and bad decisions.
Hans moved into the business next to ours. One day he came over and asked us to cut a piece of wood for him seeing as how his machines had not yet arrived. Day after day he’d stand outside looking for that machine delivery. Then he’d walk over and talk about his frustrations. Frustrations that as small business owners, designers and high end cabinet makers we knew all too well. Pity is the first thing a con man will get from you. If he can get your pity, he can get almost anything.
We discussed design, cabinet making and the economy. He learned that we were college educated, artisans and gay. We learned he was from Germany, studied and built yachts and was now designing and making his own furniture. He was wealthy, his wife was a doctor, he had high end billionaire clients and work orders coming out his ears. He loved our work and complemented us constantly. He was liberal leaning like us and supported gay rights. What we learned about him was interesting and familiar…
What he learned about us was not so much interesting to him but more useful. While we thought we were getting to know him, he was studying us; cataloging our likes and dislikes. Eventually, he was in our shop every day borrowing machines or asking us about designs and uses of wood. It did not dawn on us that his machines never came, that his wife didn’t have her own transportation or that he had no pictures of his work. We’d been too busy staying afloat to notice. And when our boat began to sink, we didn’t notice because we were trying to catch our collective breath.
Then my wife had a nervous breakdown from the stress and ended up in the hospital. When I arrived, Hans and his wife were already sitting on the end her bed talking with her. Perhaps it was my law enforcement background or perhaps because I was raised by an extremely manipulative alcoholic mother, but it stunk to me and I took offense to them being there. in days following while my wife rested, I began working longer and harder than I ever had in my life. Our business was making more than enough to get us righted. The only question was if the landlord would give us time.
She did, but only because Hans went to bat for us saying he needed our machines to make his product. If we went, so did he. This was not something we knew about at the time nor had we asked for him to do so. Another con man trick; you will feel obligated because they will do an act of kindness for you. Grateful nonetheless, he then asked us to make cabinetry for his house and even paid up front. We became so thankful that we wanted to allow him to use our machines whenever he needed and even built and finished many of his pieces no charge. We would set aside our jobs to get his done. But then things started to become lopsided. He was tearing up our machines and not fixing them. He started using wood and finishing products without replacing them. He left our shop in shambles. Eventually, the relationship turned bitter and we attempted to part ways since we had more than paid him back.
When you call a con out, prepare for a dirty fight, crotch kicks and all. His wife went on the internet and complained in fake reviews that we ripped them off. The reviews were removed when they kept changing the amount of their claim and when we provided documents proving otherwise. All save one that was; Angie’s List threatened us left and right but we never caved in. After all, none of this was true, and we were able to prove it. Hans the Asshole eventually threatened us with frivolous lawsuits, spit on our windows and screamed obscenities outside of our business day after day. He tried to get neighbors to bear false witness against us and even admitted to producing noxious fumes that would flow into our area for forty days in an attempt to ruin our business. No longer the gay rights supporter he would yell homophobic obscenities at us. Eventually we won a restraining order against him when he threatened to kill us.
We never talked to any neighbors about Hans. Gossiping wasn’t our game. It was his. Neighbors in the complex began asking us if it was true that we owed him money. The landlord told us that Hans had stated to her that we owed them so much money that we’d signed over the business to him. He’d been going around to anyone that would listen to him, telling lies. We weren’t interested in proving our innocence to neighbors who’d known us for fourteen plus years. If they didn’t know who were by then, they never would. We did attempt to warn them, but they wouldn’t or couldn’t listen.
Why did they believe Hans? Simple. He was conning them as well. They pitied him thinking we’d stolen his money. He promised them jobs, pretended to be like them. He could play any part well. If you were rich, he was. If you were a blue collar worker, he’d don a baseball cap so you thought he was like you. And because they would never do such things themselves, they couldn’t believe he would. They believed him because he had an accent, was a white male and his wife was a doctor. He even went so far as to have the landlord show him buildings to buy. Month after month, he would have them walk him through potential buildings only for them to be too small, too large, not this or that.
They had all spent hours upon hours working for him in hopes of getting more work before they realized he was a fraud. He took their work and refused to pay them. Then they understood. Then they figured him out. They demanded their money only for him to yell at them and threaten to sue them. In the end, the landlord kicked him out for not paying rent. He threatened to sue her too if she came after him for payment. Like everyone else, she just wanted him gone.
That was his game. Have landlords show him sites, scout the neighbors for things he needed, figure out neighbors’ weaknesses and become whatever they needed him to be, use the neighbors with promises of jobs, threaten with lawsuits, ruin their names and reputations in hopes of taking over their businesses and then move somewhere else and start all over. He wasn’t a yacht builder, a designer, a wealthy connected businessman. His wife wasn’t even a doctor. Their house was paid for by her parents. Their debts paid by them as well. He had so many lawsuits against him there was no point is getting in line. Plus he liked to tie up your complaint in court and cost you more than it was worth. Even his so called jobs consisted of one job that he’d conned some rich guy into.
Hans the Asshole and Don are one in the same. When I watch Trump’s rallies, I see Hans. When he says he’s a winner, that is the con’s mantra. Winning means getting over on someone else whether it be tangible or not. Trump studies his supporters and then tells them what they want to hear, what they need to hear. You want Hillary locked up? Sure. You’re afraid of Islamic terrorists? I’ll take care of that. You want better paying jobs? Why not? Want big bankers and corporations out of government? Okay. Win. Win. Win.
But like Hans, when you look at the details, there’s nothing there. There’s no plan. He never gave any plan to build a wall or to force companies to pay their employees better. There’s no plan to replace Obama Care. He cannot lock Hillary up when even the FBI Director says there was no crime. But that’s not what his supporters wanted to hear. That’s not what they wanted to believe. They were too wrapped up in their own problems to see him for what he was and still is.
Now comes the truth. They see him appointing the same bankers and corporate leaders as administrations before him did. He now admits he had no intention on locking Hillary up. He can’t even save their jobs without bribing the company owners with his own supporters tax money. He’s going to let Ryan take their social security and Medicare. He admitted they can’t build the wall. And now they are starting to understand. Now they see. Trump is only Trump because of his daddy’s money. He’s lied about his wealth, his foreign business ties and his abilities. He’s a fraud. And if you confront him, just like Hans he will threaten you with legal action. Winning meant Trump winning the election and that was it.
But just like our neighbors, Trump supporters will not abandon their false hopes until it is too late. They will continue to explain away his contradictions, his lies until it affects them personally. They will be blind until it hits them in the face. When their bank accounts run dry and their businesses close, when they lose their job, insurance and homes, that is when they will turn on him. Let’s hope no other neighborhood offers him a safe haven when that time comes.