Donald’s Rope-a-Dope

Trump delivers a KNOCK OUT PUNCH like a KING!

I worked with President Donald Trump and his team back in the 80’s when he was building his infamous empire in Atlantic City. Considering all the bribery and extortion charges surrounding his political friends at the time, including two Atlantic City mayors jailed for corruption, and since he’s became president, I haven’t talked much about my old business relationship with the U.S. president.

In light of Covid-19 however, I think it’s time to share what I know about the type of NEGOTIATOR Donald Trump was, and it seems still is. Just for clarity, my team played a small but pivotal role in helping bring large casinos to Atlantic City. It wasn’t a big project like Covid-19, but it was big enough to give us ringside seats to The Greatest Show on Earth!

I wrote this article to share insight into why and how Trump does what he does. The more you know about him, the better you’ll be able to predict what he’s going to do. It’ll be easier for you and your business to stay ahead of his game whether it is fisheries related or otherwise.

For starters, contrary to what Trump tirelessly promotes, I’ve always thought and still do that the U.S. was and still is great. In marketing speak, Making America Great Again is a fear-based slogan designed to keep Americans off balance. You guys south of the 49 are as fine as you’ve ever been, so relax and don’t let Trump undermine your confidence just so he can appear superior. America is going to need all the juice you can muster to fight off Covid-19 over the next few months, so don’t squander your energy.

From 1978 to 1994 I co-managed business and promotions operations for a well-known international recording artist. Our Canadian team helped Trump establish Vegas-style main room entertainment on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. During the first phase of our project, we weren’t exactly sure what Trump was doing, but rumours were rife that he had already orchestrated a number of dubious deals in Atlantic City regarding licensing.

Knowing Trump the way I remember him, I’m pretty sure he’d characterize it as creative, at best though, personally, I’d give it a “wtf” rating. Years later in a book by Wayne Barrett called “TRUMP: The Greatest Show on Earth” the author alleges that some of what Trump was involved in was illegal, and that the mob was implicated – east coast Old Money. If you haven’t read Barrett’s book, do so whether you are a friend or foe of The Donald. You’ll learn a lot about the man and the myth. You’ll also learn how to set up a mayor with a sex worker so you can take clandestine pictures and use them for leverage. Blackmail is not original, and it’s not creative, but it is resourceful. The moral to the story is that when you can’t secure casino licensing, one solution is to replace the current political players with those who are more cooperative. Again, read the book and decide for yourself. Trump surrounded himself and made friends with local politicians and civic leaders who were convicted and imprisoned for bribery and extortion.

You’re probably wondering; How the heck did a kid from Canada end up in Atlantic City? Well, it was in the 80s, and I arrived in AC via Las Vegas where I co-managed shows in many of the big showrooms at casinos like the Riviera, Caesars Palace, and Harrah’s. I was one of a team of three managers for Canada’s first superstar crooner. By the time I was thirty I had considerable experience managing high end shows with the most creative promoters in the world at venues like Radio City Music Hall, the 65,000 seat Houston Astrodome, and the Greek Theater in LA, plus every major city in United States, Canada and around the world. I worked shows with promoters like the late great Bill Graham from San Francisco, who was legendary at generating live performance profit. He was also a genuinely nice, ethical guy, and highly professional especially compared to greenhorn promoters like Trump. I also worked daily alongside razor sharp Hollywood and NYC entertainment agents – guys that shoved players like our man D through the pipe at breakneck speed. Trump proved to be an easy mark over the years for these aggressive negotiators. One of the reasons Trump failed in Atlantic City was because he was outgunned by people much smarter. Everyone recognized Trump’s trademark bluff and bluster, and some let him hang himself when it served their purpose.

Trump wanted to work with our act because we knew how to make money better than most other performers, and we did it consistently for many years. When other entertainers sold $20 concert tickets (yeah amazing right), we developed a marketing strategy to sell out shows at $100 a seat! We were middle-of-the-road safe, and highly respected by everyone in the industry. Hanging out with us improved Trump’s reputation, but at the time we didn’t really get why it was so important for him – we now know.

In a round-about way, we taught Trump how to negotiate entertainment deals. Well, we didn’t exactly teach him, but he eventually learned from mistakes he consistently made with us. We had ten years of entertainment success under our belt, a decade more than Trump, and it showed. Even if you didn’t like Trump personally, it was hard to not love his money. Key members of his team had considerable industry experience, although most were pushed very hard to follow what he preached. As you’ve seen, it’s Trump’s way or the highway – You’re Fired! His team constantly looked for angles and loopholes, even sometimes to the inadvertent detriment of his bottom line. Many quietly took from him too, just like he took from others.

In the beginning, we thought Trump was fascinating. We changed our minds however when we put the pieces together regarding his associates. Trump didn’t treat them, or anyone with respect, especially his in-house Atlantic City team. It was the small stuff that gave him away. For example, we’d produced shows for Trump for a year or so, and during one run, a key member of his entertainment team had a birthday. Trump doesn’t recognize stuff like that because it distracts from making money – no kidding. We on the other hand, valued this woman’s extra effort so we threw her a party that even the star of our show attended, which is a big deal when the star is an international celebrity. We had partnered successfully with promoters all over the world, and Trump was the most out-of-touch promoter we had ever encountered.

One of the first quirks we learned about Trump was that he overpaid for almost everything, and it was mostly because he rarely did his homework. He’s not detail oriented. Plus, he wasn’t well-liked by his staff, which meant they let a lot of things slide in a passive-aggressive way that he would never know about – I’m sure you’ve had similar bosses. I’ve worked with a few people like this over the years, and in my experience, micromanaging rarely works. In comparison, I also managed high profile projects where two other U.S. presidents were involved, Ronald Reagan and the late George H.W. Bush. Politics aside, based on my personal experience, I consider these presidents and their teams head-and-shoulders above Trump. Again, it’s the little things that stick out; Bush for example sent me a warm thank you letter after we met, and surprisingly, White House Christmas tree ornaments for a couple of years.

Trump on the flipside, couldn’t even get our airport transportation right, and left our entourage stranded in Philly one afternoon. The incompetent driver who eventually showed up was very nearly shot in front of us. Airport police wanted to arrest Trump’s driver for causing a peace officer bodily injury with a vehicle – bruised wrist when the mirror hit him as he was trying to stop our vehicle. It took intense negotiating and bribes with a fistful of show tickets for me to smooth things over.

Regardless of challenges like this, we looked forward to producing Atlantic City shows for Trump because it was so lucrative. You could however, always count on a Trump project to be incredibly chaotic and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. I suspect that some members of his team heightened the chaos purposely as a distraction so they could covertly work other streams under Trump’s radar.

When everything was taken into account, Trump not only paid out almost double what we would command at other venues, he also paid for supplemental expenses that no other promoters in the world would normally consider. At first we thought it was a pissing match with the mob in Las Vegas, and maybe it was in part, but we soon realized it was also a byproduct of his ego and of not wanting to reveal he didn’t know what he was doing as an entertainment promoter. Thankfully, he had a few key people who took personal pride in making sure contracts rolled out as planned, which was both good and bad. If it wasn’t explained precisely in your contract, Trump wouldn’t budge. He constantly scoured everything for loopholes. For example, if you didn’t clearly state that you required a professional driver for the star limo, he’d send anyone available from his casino, kitchen staff or whomever – no kidding. We had to expressly state in future riders that we wanted professional, trained limousine drivers with new, safe cars that were properly insured and clean.

When someone on Trump’s team dropped the ball though, and we were under a deadline, it was interesting to watch him throw money around so voluminously. Trump’s slush fund depth was impressive. I’d never met anyone like Trump who fixed all his bad decisions with injections of more money. It was like watching Edgar the Bug, the alien cockroach in Men In Black squeezing into human skin – terrifying and hypnotic at the same time. In the beginning, we gave Trump a number of opportunities to redeem himself and strike better deals because we wanted to see his Atlantic City casino succeed, but he never walked through our open door. After we saw the type of a person he was though, our agents went for the jugular each time without hesitation or guilt.  Our motto of “Never let your short term greed get in the way of your long term greed” was temporarily shelved because it was difficult to envision or maintain anything long term with Trump.

It was more like smash and grab.

In my opinion, and considering my entertainment history, an easy way to understand Trump is to think of him as a BOXING PROMOTER, not a traditional business person, or a politician, or president.

Today, in 2020 it would be a mistake to let political myth cloud your judgment.

Trump boasts repeatedly that he operates on intuition. From a negotiating perspective, it indicates he’ll react emotionally. When you identify a psychological weak spot that is this pronounced, you can influence someone who is as reactive as Trump in a way that causes them to bounce wildly from one emotion to the next.

We see still it with Trump every day regarding Covid-19.

Trump’s ad hominem attacks have now become the answer to the question – regardless of the question.

Skillful reporters have learned to bait Trump to elicit the reaction they want.

His team also plays him, just like reporters.

Trump’s “TELL” is his ego – no big surprise.  

He fancies himself a lady’s man.

During the same period that we worked projects with Trump he was also pals and doing business with wild-man boxing promoter Don King, the infamous impresario who went to prison for manslaughter. King promoted Mike Tyson fights that were held in Atlantic City, right next door to Trump properties and his casinos. Trump sponsored and co-promoted the fights.

When President Trump gets excited his promoter’s persona kicks in and he automatically goes into Ring Announcer mode. As long as the message isn’t too serious, it can be fun to watch his performance and envision him standing in the middle of a boxing ring hyping the next great thing – in the red corner, weighing in at …

Trump and King have very similar communication styles that always begin with bluster.

The louder the better because it’s intimidating for the inexperienced on the receiving end.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

This GQ article is outrageous and a fun piece of politico-promo entertainment. Some of it is only sucker punch accurate, but I like it because it does provide incredible insight into the psychology hacks traded between Trump and Tyson.

Trump and Tyson are both streetwise, KNOCK OUT Promoters who spar and play off of each other for their respective audiences.

As a result of hanging out with his bud Mike, Trump developed a series of linguistic traits that have become his hallmark. Intimidation is at the top of the list – you’ve seen it many times. Trump also often pretends he knows what he’s talking about, and when he knows he’s pushing the envelope, he repeats his words. He is repetitious in part because he’s an experienced pitchman and he wants to make sure you heard it, but that’s not the full MO of someone who stretches the line of reality like this president. People who boast and bluff have very specific speaking patterns, and Trump hits all the markers. Repeating is also a stall, and gives Trump time to make up a narrative, and by “make up,” I mean create a storyline. When he slips into repeat mode, he also often looks for someone to back up his claimAm I right? Of course I’m right, and if you don’t agree who cares. You’re a nobody. Am I right?

Rapid fire verbal intimidation works the same way a boxer delivers a flurry of hits – it throws you off balance.

In the United States of America, 20,054 people have died of Covid-19 as of April 11, 2020 – surpassing Italy.

Canada has only 600 deaths in the same period, which means that PER CAPITA, USA has well over 3X more deaths than their neighbors. It’s tragic.

I’m sure I don’t have to repeat myself for it to sink in.

Trump’s pattern is ominous.

Trump has a finely-honed penchant for painting a worst case scenario, because then, when it doesn’t occur he can claim he saved the day. It’s a kid’s game of tripping your friend, and before he falls you grab him and yell, I saved your life, you own me a quarter.

Trump did it again a few days ago regarding Covid-19 predictions about how many Americans could die as a result of the virus. Trump hyped a data modelling prediction that tops out at 240,000 American deaths.

It’s not just the number that is alarming, it’s how Trump delivers and wraps information like this in fear. It’s just data modelling, but Trump makes it sound like it’s a foregone conclusion unless he, the dragon-slayer, saves the day.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in comparison presents info like this in a way that inspires and makes it clear that each person in our entire country has personal responsibility to pull their weight to suppress Covid-19.

Experts immediately asked Trump where he was getting his numbers, but to no avail.

Trudeau’s team in comparison carefully explained how data modelling of Covid-19 works.

Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is contributing up to $100 million to fight Covid-19 disagrees with Trump. Gates said the number of U.S. citizens who could die will be much lower as long as Americans work together. I agree, but it’s also possible that Trump is already so far over his head that no amount of money thrown at it at this late date will do any good. It’s a fact we all know after watching other countries like Italy and Spain.

Teamwork is key to managing Covid-19.

Responsible Americans will find this next part about teams, and whom you pick as friends and colleagues, sobering …

Apparently, Trump and Don King are still friends.

Trump and Mike Tyson were also best buddies. Tyson was managed by King, and also advised by Trump in different capacities.

Here’s a video of Tyson talking about King bribing fight judges.

Here’s an even more disturbing video of Tyson explaining his current relationship with Trump.

Don King is an even more flamboyant promoter than Trump. I’m betting King was Trump’s mentor when they hung out. Both of their speech patterns and tone are inflected with the same promoter razzle dazzle.

Trump, King, and Tyson are the trifecta of bad actors.

King, was convicted of manslaughter and served time in prison. He killed two men in separate incidents over a thirteen year period. One he shot in the back and the other he stomped to death.

Tyson was convicted of rape and also served prison time.

These 3 Musketeers were inseparable and fed off of, and on each other.

Another time while we were doing a show in Atlantic City, Tyson was preparing to fight next door at the AC convention center. We were all staying in the same Trump hotel and I thought it would be interesting to meet Tyson, the man and the emerging myth – before his rape charges of course. The star of our show did too, so I called Trump’s handler and asked him to set it up. He came back a couple of days later and said that Donald didn’t think it would be a good idea. I asked why, and he said Tyson was too volatile, and that they couldn’t guarantee what he might do to our star. We all laughed and I asked him to try again. A couple of days later he returned and said Donald still thought it was a “very bad idea”, but if we insisted he would set it up with one stipulation; We would have to sign a waiver stating that if Tyson hurt our star, Trump wouldn’t be responsible.

We took a pass.

Tyson’s rap sheet today is longer than his arm and includes battery and threatening of more than one woman, including the rape of his wife. Who knew?  Trump apparently.

Let’s get back to HOW Trump, the PROMOTER, is selling Covid-19 to Americans.

I suspect that the reason Trump is proclaiming such a high death rate is because when it does NOT happen, and the odds are very high it won’t, he’ll jump up and claim he saved America.

He has nothing to lose because if it turns out he really is that bad of a leader, and the death toll does reach his knock out prediction of 240,000, he’ll simply blame someone else – most likely China. A blind mole will see that punch coming.

Trump’s modus operandi is to leverage fear to make himself look good. We’ve all seen it numerous times.

I like the more studied approach of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

You might not agree with Trudeau’s politics, but he’s not blowing Covid-19 issues out of proportion and generating fear.

Unlike Trump, Trudeau is calming Canadians from coast to coast to coast. So far, they are doing what he asks and taking personal responsibility.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to us like adults, unlike Trump who considers Americans pawns to his KING – seniors especially.

Maurice Cardinal has been a fisheries marketing and communications advisor and writer in British Columbia for almost a decade and has worked with leading organisations, NGOs, and governments in Canada and abroad.