Trump is Trump, and he always has been.
I will be upfront and begin this column by stating that I am not a Donald Trump fan. When I go the polls this November, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.
But unlike many pundits and average citizens , I have made my decision based on actually knowing Trump. I worked for him for three years in Atlantic City. From 1987 to 1990, I was senior executive at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. The last half of my time with Donald, I was the president and chief operating officer of the business.
At the time, Trump Plaza was the No. 1 casino on the East Coast. The property dominated the competitive landscape from both a revenue and earnings standpoint. We had a national presence through the sport of boxing — hosting 33 world-championship fights during my time alone. We hosted the first pay-per-view event for rock and roll with the Rolling Stones. We produced the largest professional cycling event ever in the United Sates, the Tour de Trump. We had a strong, positive image, and Trump Plaza was the place to be in Atlantic City.
It is now history what happened to Trump’s casinos after I left the organization: All three of his properties eventually were routed through the bankruptcy courts as a result of his mismanagement. I ended up writing a book about my experience with Trump, “Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump — His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall.”
Yes, it was a “tell-all” book. But it was written to set the record straight on lies Trump told about three of my friends and fellow executives who tragically died in a helicopter accident. You see, Donald Trump tried to blame these men, after their deaths, for his lack of experience, basic business acumen and greed. I owed it to my friends to not let him get away with it.
Over the course of the past 26 years, I have been contacted maybe two dozen times by people in the media doing stories about Trump, always asking for a comment on something he was doing or had said. I developed a very simple response to these requests. I always politely told the reporters that I could not comment: “My book stands on its own, I have nothing to add. And besides, I have grown and changed over the years; I assume Donald has, too, so it would be unfair for me to comment.”
I assumed the Trump I knew back then had changed. Last summer changed my thinking.
The day Trump announced he was running for president — the day he declared war on all Mexican people by calling them rapists and drug dealers, and vowed to wall them out of the United States — I remember saying to myself aloud, “Oh my God, Donald Trump has not changed at all in 26 years!”
How could someone not grow as a human being over all that time?
Back then, Donald Trump’s ego was as big as it is today. He was short-tempered, he was judgmental without facts, he judged people based on their clothes or the color of their skin. His attention span was so small it was almost impossible to have a strategic conversation with him about the business. He would say something one minute and change his mind the next. He would demand something be done one way, only to criticize that directive later, never taking blame. He never said he was sorry for anything. He was crude and sexist toward women, he was a philandering fool publicly. He would humiliate his wife without a second thought.
Donald Trump was humorless, cold and selfish. He would hurt the little guy if he could see even the slightest gain for himself. He refused to pay his bills, he sued anyone who got in his way. He threatened people like myself for telling the truth.
I am horrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency. I know first-hand that he lacks the intelligence, nor does he have the attention span to process the complexities of running our great country. The vision of him sitting in the War Room during a national crisis should frighten every American. Sitting with the Joint Chiefs, secretary of defense, secretary of state and others, he would be forced to do something he is not capable of doing: listening to others.
In the coming weeks, the Trump campaign is going to try and present a “new” Donald Trump, a more presidential Donald Trump.
There are going to be claims that he now “gets it,” and he will be on message to beat Hillary Clinton. And when he does go off script, they will spin, blaming someone else. There will be constant reassurances from Trump’s surrogates that he understands what it takes to lead the country.
Well, from where I sit, Trump has not changed one bit . He was not capable of running his business without hurting others back then; he is not capable of running our country today without hurting others.
Whatever Trump does, it will be to serve himself. Donald Trump is Donald Trump.
I am sorry to say there is no change coming.
Jack O’Donnell is a Tucson resident and businessman.