When I was a kid and visited my father where he worked in midtown Manhattan, I was mesmerized by a game I observed on street corners all over New York. All I had to do was weave my way through of a small circle of spectators to get a front row spot for watching a slick street dude flipping what looked like three cards on top of a cardboard box. The con man usually had slicked back hair, and was wearing fancy foreign-made clothes.
Inevitably, after a few seconds, somebody in the crowd would put money down on what was clear to all of us was the wrong card. If you watched these con games enough, as I did, you could almost predict to the exact second, when “the shill” would make his move, to set up an unsuspecting “mark” to step forward and challenge the dealer, convinced he could win where the “shill” did not shine.
The other, more sinister, part of the 3-Card Monte con going on, was happening out among the crowd. My father, a street-smart son of Brooklyn, would motion to me to look at a few strategically spaced guys around the perimeter of the spectators’ circle and watch how smoothly they could pick the pockets of the people around them, all distracted by the intensity of the game being played on the cardboard box. The hands of the con men were quicker than almost everyone’s eyes, if you didn’t know what was going on.
Three Card Monte has been on my mind a lot during this Presidential election, since Donald Trump has perfected the technique and conned millions of Americans to watch his lips, no matter how revolting the words flowing from them are, while his tiny little hands–and his minions– were quickly moving elsewhere. Like a 3-Card Monte player’s outrageous moves in plain sight up on the cardboard soapbox, Trump trash-talks Mexicans, women, the disabled, immigrants, blacks, babies and Gold Star military families. His histrionics are so unfathomable to normal people, indefensible and continuous, that few of us are watching what his shills are doing out among the crowd.
Pulitizer Prize winning author and journalist James B. Stewart collapsed Trump’s flimsy cardboard soapbox this week in his New York Times, “Common Sense,” column entitled “Tax Cuts for Americans Like Trump.” Stewart, who has written such powerful non-fiction books Den of Thieves, Tangled Webs, and Blood Sport, is skilled at explaining the intricacies of Wall Street and the tax laws to his readers. He pointed out that the Trump tax plan will not only preserve the Real Estate tax breaks which have made it likely Trump has paid no income taxes at all for decades, but the Small Handed Scam Man will further enrich himself and fellow Real Estate developers to the tune of one trillion dollars in tax breaks over the next decade, at the expense of Americans who do pay their taxes.
The Trump ploy is so audacious, and the con so enormous, that it too, like virtually everything else emanating from this 3-Card Trumpy Trash Talker is beyond belief, unless you look at everything else Trump had done to enrich himself at the expense of others throughout his miserable lifetime. Nothing else matters: words, slurs, insults, laws, contracts, handshakes, marriages, morality, mobsters…nothing. He learned the technique of 3-Card Trumpy from his father, Fred, a con-artist in his own right, who lied about being Swedish for decades because it wasn’t good for his business during Hitler’s rise to power to admit he was German, and was sanctioned by the Federal & State governments for refusing to rent to Blacks. The Small Handed Scam Man’s other amoral mentor, Roy Cohn, paid zero federal income taxes throughout his entire lowlife, by scamming the City of New York, and taking millions of dollars under the table from Mobsters he represented in court.
So, don’t be distracted by the bluster and belching of fear and hate coming from the flatulent sounding con man standing atop the cardboard soapbox. Watch what his shills and sidemen are doing behind your back, and hold on to your pockets and your dignity, while I call the cops.