By Coleman Luck
There are many people who believe strongly that America is built on “Judeo-Christian” principles. In particular, this is a battle-cry for conservatives and most of all, for evangelical Christian conservatives. Now, when I hear those words, I’m never quite certain what they mean. I’m never quite sure that the person saying them knows what they mean either. As we are in this election season, maybe we should put some flesh on them.
No matter what your political perspective, wouldn’t you say that a baseline “Judeo-Christian” principle is the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have done to you”? It’s a direct command of Jesus and His teaching comes straight from the Old Testament. We could say that, if ever there was a Judeo-Christian principle that is one. It covers the widest possible range of ethical territory. Whether you are a billionaire or a pauper it applies to you.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether the Golden Rule is just an outdated platitude or not? If it is just a meaningless platitude, never again should we say that America is built on Judeo-Christian principles because whatever it was built on, it isn’t that way now. To be more accurate we should say that America is nothing more than a garbage dump that sits on the ruins of a palace. But let’s hope that is not case. Let’s hope that “Judeo Christian principles” still do mean something. You’re not going to rebuild the palace with nothing but the garbage that covers it.
I hope we can agree about one thing. If we say that we believe in Judeo-Christian principles, we should constantly attempt to apply them in every area of life. Isn’t that true? Shouldn’t that include our selection of leaders? Isn’t this a rational statement? If we want a president who will “make America great again” we need to find a person who believes and lives the founding principles of our republic in his or her daily life. That doesn’t mean an individual is perfect, but the general trend in that person’s life, their reputation, is strongly in that ethical direction – application of the Golden Rule.
And you know exactly what I’m talking about on a very practical level. If you’re going to choose a plumber, you want someone who is honest, a person who is going to deal with you the same way he would want to be dealt with himself. The Golden Rule. To find a good plumber, you ask around. You want to know a plumber’s reputation from people who have used his services before you bring him into your home. If at all possible, you don’t just settle for what he says about himself in the yellow pages or a TV ad. Shouldn’t the same concern be shown in choosing a President?
I have been blessed to have many, many wonderful friends. Literally, I have friends around the world in a wide range of occupations. One of those occupations is the construction business. That business is like so many others. If you own a significant construction company, you are part of a relatively small community. Everybody knows everybody else. They bid on the same major projects. They meet at conventions. They talk.
I have been very curious as to why no one who does business with Mr. Donald Trump is speaking up. Obviously, he has dealt with many hundreds of companies around the world. There seems to be total silence from that group, which is odd. Just as odd is the fact that no reporters are seeking out these people and asking questions about their experiences. I have a friend who is involved in a construction company in a major city. They are a significant organization. I asked him if his company had ever worked on a Trump project? Could he tell me anything about the way Mr. Trump conducts his business? What is his reputation? It’s the same question I would ask if I were searching for a plumber. Here is his reply:
“Hi Coleman: There’s not much to tell. The only person who makes money on a Trump job is Trump. In order to get permission to build a building in a city like ours you have to first prove that there is a need for that design and that people want such a building. Before you ever break ground you have to sell a percentage of the units. (This varies city by city) So, the builder will put out what’s commonly referred to as “a Friends & Family” offering. The builder will sell a percentage of the units at a discounted rate when the building is still just drawings.
This is a win-win deal for everyone. The first to buy-in get a unit for a substantially discounted rate, which they will sell at market value when the building is completed. (They’re taking a chunk of risk because how many buildings are never completed from the idea phase?) In this way, the builder proves that there’s a want for his design/building and the builder receives a chunk of operating capital. We were invited to buy-in at the Friends & Family stage of Trump’s XXXXXXXX building.
I really wanted to do it. If memory serves, we were considering a 2 million dollar unit which was being offered to us at 1.2 and all we had to do was come up with the deposit which might have been 200k. (Again, the numbers are from memory, but this is what happened.) I really wanted to buy in but my partner said, “No, just watch. Trump is Trump and he’s not going to let anyone else make any money off his building.” And my partner was dead right. About two weeks before the building was opened for occupancy Trump refunded everyone’s deposit – dollar for dollar – and said nope, nobody owns these units but me.
Now think about that. He considered what he did being shrewd and honest. He did give back to everyone their money. But, all the people who bought in did so with the hopes of making a profit down the road as they resold their units after completion. None of them will make a dime. They served Trump’s purpose.
We had lots of opportunities to work on that building. We never submitted a single bid – just because Trump is Trump. And he did in our city exactly what he’s always done. He accepts bids and nickels and dimes you down to the point where it’s the last moment you’ll stay at the table and keep the talks going. Then after the work is complete and you submit your bill, he pays it at 80%. When you try and collect, he walks you into a conference room full of lawyers and introduces all of them to you. Then he tells you to sue him. Go ahead, a decade from now you’ll win. But between now and then his lawyers will keep the case so tied up in red-tape that it’s going to cost you more money to win than you’ll ever get out of the suit.
Most professionals see lawsuits as an unending nightmare, simply not worth the reward in the long run. Eventually they walk away. That’s what Trump counts on. And that is exactly how he behaved in our city. Nobody we know who worked on that building made a dime. Everyone we know who worked there lost money. That’s just how this guy operates. And there is a percentage of the human race that respects this man because they believe he’s a shrewd, “take no prisoners” businessman. I consider it lying and immoral. “
End of statement.
Clearly, none of this information is first-hand, but I’ve known my friend for a long time and I do trust him. If I got this kind of news about a plumber, at the very least, it would cause me to ask a lot more questions before I brought him into my home.
So how are we to view all of this as we search for a good plumber to fix the foul sewage system of government and “make America great again”? Is Mr. Trump honest? Apparently, regarding the letter of the law, the answer is yes. It seems clear that nothing he does is illegal. But just because it’s legal does that mean it’s moral? Is he trustworthy, a man of his word? Well, that’s an entirely different question, isn’t it? A deeper question would be, does he have any concept of the Golden Rule, that baseline of “Judeo-Christian principles”? If the answer comes back probably not, is that the man you want to make the “father of your country”, the moral leader of America, because, for better or worse, that’s what the president has always been?
Conservative Christians hated the immorality of President Clinton. They hated the argument that what the man did in his private life, the awful, destructive choices he made, should not be considered when assessing his effectiveness as president. They want those destructive choices of the past to be used against Hillary Clinton right now. But they seem quite willing to accept the possibility of a different kind of immorality in their own candidate. They defend him without question no matter what he does or says, making the same kind of excuses for him that Democrats made years ago. Far worse, some consider a vicious way of treating people in business to be a strength that qualifies him to be leader of the free world.
I asked my friend, if all you say is true, why do people do business with Mr. Trump at all? He answered, “Because they want the prestige of working on a Trump project even if they’re going to lose money.” Perhaps therein lies the answer to why there is so much silence. The people who have consciously chosen to be screwed don’t want to look like idiots. Celebrity has gotten Mr. Trump a long way. Should it take him to the White House? To a shrewd businessman like Mr. Trump, contracts are flexible and always open to reinterpretation and renegotiation. Once he gets to the White House, what will the renegotiation look like? And certainly, there will be one. How will he deal on the international stage when he doesn’t get what he wants in a negotiation, when his form of intimidation doesn’t work and even backfires? What about the word of the United States, should that mean anything?
Certainly, as he runs for President, Mr. Trump means every promise that he is making right now. They will hold until he has won the deal. As we consider hiring this plumber, we need to ask some serious questions. What kind of country do we want? Do honesty and integrity mean anything? Should a person’s word mean anything? Or is it all just about winning, the Art of the Deal? Perhaps Mr. Trump is the right man for the job, a man who represents everything that this nation has become. If that’s true and if you are willing to set aside every “Judeo-Christian principle” to hire a man just because you think he will “get the job done” at least be honest. The principles you say you espouse don’t really mean anything at all.