Donald Trump announced yesterday he's suing Univision for $500 million — yes, a half-billion dollars — over its refusal to air his Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. To put that into perspective, the original deal between Trump and Univision was worth just $13.5 million — and Univision will still pay him that money; it simply won't air the pageants. It's a fantastical number with no basis in reality, designed more as a show of force and to attract attention. Of course, Trump is not a man who values either subtlety or making public statements that are in any way bound by facts or reason.
In fact, Trump's entire silly fight with Univision, sparked by his comments about Mexicans in his presidential announcement speech, proves that although Trump may be a good businessman — and an even better caricature of one — he's not fit for politics in any serious way.
This has nothing to do with Trump's policy positions per se. Before we split ways on ideologies, most Americans can agree there are some traits we'd like our politicians on both sides of the aisle to have: honesty, humbleness, a grasp on basic facts and figures, a reserved temper not prone to sudden outbursts, etc. Granted, we don't always elect politicians with those virtues, but we at least like to pretend we value them.
Trump seems to lack all of them.
Let's start with the words that got him into trouble in the first place. From his presidential campaign announcement speech:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Now, if Trump wanted to make a case about why we need to build a wall at the Mexican border, he could have used things like, oh, actual facts and statistics. He could have highlighted individual instances of "people that have lots of problems" crossing the border. The man has money. You figure he could have at least paid someone to Google something for him.
Instead, he talked in broad assumptions in a way that made it seem all but "some" Mexicans (he assumes) are nothing more than common criminals and rapists. In fact, the way he worded this makes it seem like he's saying all Mexicans crossing the border, not just those who were doing so illegally, are bad people bringing drugs and disorder along with them.
Though he hasn't apologized for the remarks, Trump has also tried to reiterate in his defense that he has lots of Hispanic friends and business connections in Mexico. He might have been better served by keeping that in mind while drafting that speech.
Instead, Trump blabbered broadly and offensively. More concerning for a man who considers himself a master of hiring and making judgments about people is that he doesn't seem to have hired anyone experienced enough in politics to tell him not to do that.
It's simply not presidential behavior, though it may make for great reality TV.
Then, of course, came the pushback, kicked off by Univision's decision to drop its airings of the pageants.
Trump clapped back by claiming a conspiracy theory centered on Univision bowing to the Mexican government. Does Trump have any proof to assert this? No. His lawsuit also claims Univision employees used their connections with former colleagues at NBC to pressure that network to drop ties with him too. (For the record, NBC owns Univision's primary competitor, Telemundo.)
For a man who hounded President Obama for so long about releasing his long-form birth certificate, Trump himself doesn't seem to bother backing up any of his claims with actual evidence.
Then came Trump's trifling ban on Univision employees from using the facilities at the Trump National Doral Miami golf course and resort, as well as his leaking of Univision anchor Jorge Ramos' cell phone number on social media.
It's petty stuff, for sure, and the kind of trivial score-settling we tend to detest in politicians. Plus, do we really want our leader — who has access to more classified information than perhaps anyone in the world — prone to leaking things out of spite?
Now comes the $500 million lawsuit. Univision has dismissed it as "both factually false and legally ridiculous." Though independent legal experts haven't dug into the suit, it seems to be so. For example, Trump claims Univision is impeding on his First Amendment rights. That amendment stops the government from punishing you for saying what you want, not from private companies deciding to stop doing business with you because they find you to be a buffoon. Civics 101, folks.
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But this is what Trump does. It's how he has survived and thrived.
Trump didn't rise to national celebrity because he's the most successful businessman in America. (It's often forgotten that he was born into a rich family and inherited an already-successful company from his father and that multiple Trump projects have been driven into bankruptcy.) It's because, well, he provided the most fodder for New York gossip columns and tabloids. Trump has managed to ride that gossip snark to further success, establishing himself as a divisive icon. He was Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian before their time, and he has scored a long-running, successful reality-TV show, signature fragrances, a clothing line, and lots of money from licensing his name to business projects he wasn't otherwise much involved in (much like Hilton and Kardashian).
He goes out and plays a character in public, giving his audience (in this case, red-meat Republican primary voters) what they want. Maybe he thought that tactic would work in politics, but the irony is that in the process, he's doing harm to his business brand all while proving exactly why he's not fit for the White House.