Were he not an immigrant-bashing bully and fraud, Donald Trump could have scored big-time with a remarkable true life tale when he visits Scotland this weekend.
He could have begun by recounting how 7-year-old Mary Anne MacLeod had stood with an expectant crowd on the shore of the remote, Gaelic-speaking island of Lewis on New Year’s Day of 1919.
More than 1,000 of the island’s young men had been killed during World War I, perhaps the highest casualty rate anywhere in the British Isles. Two months after the armistice and hours into the New Year, the survivors were returning home, crammed aboard a yacht that had been converted for military service.
The people waiting at the harbor’s edge grew excited upon seeing His Majesty’s Yacht Iolaire come into view. But anticipation must have turned to horror as fisherman such as little Mary Anne’s father saw that the ship had missed the entrance to the harbor and was headed for the rocks known as the Beasts of Holm.
As the rocks lived up to their name, a retuning sailor named John Finlay MacLeod—one of Mary Anne’s clan if not a close relation—managed to escape the wreck and swim ashore with a line that 40 other passengers used to save themselves. Another 39 survived. But 205 men perished, and Mary would later recall seeing the dead loaded onto carts after they washed ashore on an island that had already suffered such terrible losses during the war.
“The villages of Lewis are like places of the dead,” the newspaper The Scotsman reported. “The homes of the island are full of lamentation—grief that cannot be comforted. Scarcely a family has escaped the loss of a near blood relative. Many have had sorrow heaped upon sorrow.”
With no young men to marry, the island’s young women began to emigrate, these including Mary Anne’s older sister. Mary Anne followed her to New York in 1930, and there she met a son of German immigrants, Fred Trump.
By all accounts, Mary Anne Trump, née MacLeod, brought honor of her own to her clan. She fit the thrifty Scot stereotype enough that she regularly visited the laundries in her husband’s apartment buildings and checked the washing machines for forgotten coins. But she was also a notably generous philanthropist. She put the Trump name not on a tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, but on a pavilion at Jamaica Hospital in Queens.
When her son Donald was around the age she had been at the time of the Iolaire disaster, she returned home with him safely past the Beasts of Holm and visited the croft—a patch of land and a small stone cottage—where she had been raised.
Maybe English had since supplanted the native language. Or perhaps Mary Anne became so Americanized over the ensuing years that the family of her own she was raising back in New York forgot that English had in fact been her second language.
After she was mugged at the age of 79, her family rushed to Booth Memorial Hospital in Queens. She had suffered a head injury along with broken ribs, and her family decided that she was speaking gibberish. An Irish nurse came over and corrected them.
“That’s not gibberish,” the nurse said. ‘That’s Gaelic.”
The new trauma had apparently caused Mary Anne to revert to her roots, in what should have been a reminder to her Donald that he is the son of an immigrant. Another lesson that did not stick accompanied the crime itself.
The mugger had not been some felonious Mexican, but the native-born 16-year-old son of a Long Island Rail Road executive. He had knocked Trump’s mother down and snatched her purse—containing all of $14—and fled, only to be chased down and detained by an African American truck driver named Lawrence Herbert.
“He did a great service to a lot of black people because, as you know, Lawrence is black and the mugger happened to be white with blond hair,” Donald told the press at the time.
The problem for Trump should he now tell this tale in Scotland is signaled by the Mexican flags that folks living around his golf course in Aberdeen have raised in anticipation of his arrival. Even Trump might hesitate to invoke the image of young Gaelic-speaking Mary Anne when he is faced by fluttering reminders of his shameful bigotry toward immigrants.
What is Trump going to say, that the nice white immigrants like his mother are fine, but we have to build a huge wall to keep out those other ones? And how would that jibe with the end of his mother’s tale, when she was mugged by a white teen who was then caught by a black Good Samaritan?
Whatever he might choose to say, the Mexican flags announce displeasure not only with Trump’s race baiting, but also with his behavior in Scotland while building the course in Aberdeen.
Here enters another kind of tale, one of gross exaggeration and strong-arm tactics by a man who described himself as being “Scotch.” He got past environmental concerns by promising thousands of jobs, but fewer than 150 materialized. He described people living around the course as “living like pigs” and pressured them to sell out at the price he offered and to move. He built walls around the home of one resistant resident.
And then there is the wind farm that Trump knew was already being planned for some distance away when he acquired the property. Trump announced what he described as an “international campaign” to “save Scotland” by convincing the government to kill the project.
Scotland’s senior official, First Minister Alex Salmond, failed to yield. And before there was “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary,” there became “Mad Alex.” A pre-tweet happy Trump informed Salmond by letter, “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.”
Trump filed suit and fought the wind farm all the way to the highest court in Britain, only to lose. As noted by Bloomberg News and The Washington Post, Trump reported to British authorities that the Aberdeen course has lost nearly $7 million in the past four years. He apparently hoped the number would bolster his argument that what he describes as “the greatest golf course in the world” is already in financial trouble and might shut down if its view is marred by huge turbines.
The sticky bit for Trump is that the financial disclosure forms he filed with U.S. authorities as a presidential candidate report that Aberdeen made more than $4 million in 2015 and the first two quarters of 2014. He apparently hoped that this number would contribute to his assertion that he is “really, really rich.”
Whether or not Hillary Clinton is a “world class liar,” Trump proved anew that he is a liar in a class all his own when he explained to Bloomberg News the discrepancy between the claim to the Brits that he had lost millions and the claim to the U.S. that he had made millions on the very same property.
“Projected future income,” he said of the U.S. number.
Projected future income does seem to be what Trump has in mind as he makes this trip to Scotland that makes no real sense. The stated purpose of the trip is to preside over a ribbon-cutting at a second Trump golf resort in Scotland, one in Turnberry that he has recently renovated. The second property features a lighthouse, but that does not promise to keep this other resort from also losing millions.
He must actually believe that the power of the Trump name and the magical presence of The Donald will result in future income rising to what he has already claimed in the U.S. filings. Trump has invited reporters to join the jaunt, so long as they are willing to pay $10,000 round trip, not including food and lodging, likely at Trump places at Trump prices for Trump profits.
As dispatched in an email with a “TRUMP: Make America Great Again” letterhead, the itinerary reads:
“Donald J. Trump Travel Schedule for Scotland
Scotland Trip June 24 – June 25, 2016
Friday, June 24: Turnberry
10:00 AM: Official Press Conference
11:00 AM: Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting
11:30 AM: Photo Opportunity at Turnberry Lighthouse
Saturday, June 25: Aberdeen
TBD: Possible Press Activity”
At the bottom were these words:
“Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.”
The plan may well be for the whole jaunt to be paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., just as it has paid for events at any number of other Trump venues. Figure on campaign dollars—along with whatever bucks reporters cough up—making less of a lie of that “future income.”
Trump goes down as the first presidential candidate who is his own pimp. He will be flying 3,000 miles to look in a mirror and say, “Yeah, Donald, baby, go out there and strut it and get it and bring it back to the Donald!”
Pimp Donny, come to the homeland of that little girl who stood on the shore of Lewis.
Or maybe, just as they would say in his mother’s native tongue, amadan!
Meaning fool, idiot.
As it happens, Trump will be holding that “official press conference” in Turnberry hours after the expected announcement of the results in the referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union or leave.
Opinions in Scotland have been as divided as elsewhere. But with Trump’s timely presence comes an unexpectedly happy twist to the tale of this mendacious MacLeod once removed.
The Scotsman, the same newspaper that in 1919 spoke of the “grief that cannot be comforted” on the island of Mary Anne’s birth, noted in 2012 that her Donald has a unique effect on Scotland. The effect, as described in the paper by Lesley Riddoch, is all the more powerful now.
“It’s hard to think of a less sympathetic character in the eyes of most Scots,” Riddoch reported. “The Donald is almost the anti-Scot personified. Left and right, unionist and nationalist, man and woman, young and old—it takes quite a lot to unite the people of this notoriously fractious little country in a collective shudder. But Donald Trump effortlessly manages to strike the wrong note in just about everything he does.”
If only Trump had that same effect with more of us back in his mother’s adopted homeland.
As it is, the amadan likely loses millions on a couple of golf courses in Scotland, but might end up making a few bucks pimping himself for president of the United States.
Pimp Donny the Scotchman!