….and Trump's rivals have gotten desperate. Ted Cruz has said that Trump has ties to the Mafia because he did business with S&A Construction, which had been controlled by "Fat Tony" Salerno.
In recent days, Marco Rubio has accused Trump of wetting his pants during the debate, of having small hands, and of having a spray tan. Some of these were responses in kind to some of the mockery Trump had leveled at him. Rubio also said that Trump University was a fraudulent enterprise.
Let's look at the two serious accusations.
The Mafia connection is almost certainly true. It's near impossible to get any major construction done in New York City without the Mob being involved in some way. For a long time they controlled the construction unions and the hauling business. So, Trump basically had no choice but to do business with Mob-controlled entities. Was he aware that he was dealing with the Mafia? Probably. But he also realized that he wouldn't get anything done without at least rubbing shoulders with them.
Is any of this akin to hiring the Mafia to do hits on your rivals? Of course not.
It's a little like saying Warren Buffett is mobbed up because several of the companies he's owned have in the past used Teamsters labor for their trucking needs, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was for a long time controlled by the Mafia. That's ridiculous; no one has ever seriously accused Buffett of having Mafia ties. But, Buffett never ran for office against Ted Cruz.
(Full disclosure: I rented an apartment in the city which was undoubtedly built by Mob-controlled unions. I went to business school with a woman I'm pretty sure was Carlo Gambino's granddaughter. And my first trash pick-up service in Connecticut was likely Mob-connected. Does this make me a Mafioso? Honestly, I'd like to see myself as The Godfather; that would certainly have made for a more exciting and glamorous life than the dull one I've led. But, unfortunately, I'm not.)
For those of you who would still condemn Trump for his ties, try starting a casino in Atlantic City yourself without ever dealing with Mob-connected figures. You've got a better shot at taking a walk in the rain and not getting wet.
Now, to the second accusation. Is Trump University a fraud? Yeah, basically. When I first heard of it a few years ago, I just assumed that it was a Tony Robbins-style production, a lot of rah rah you-can-do-it pep talks interspersed with a few finance and real estate courses. It turns out there was a certain bait and switch element to the school as well, as they tried to entice students into taking ever more expensive courses.
Was it any more of a fraud than most universities? Not by much. Try getting a good job with a degree in sociology or philosophy or political science or women's studies these days. On top of that, much of what you'll be taught in the social sciences at a typical liberal arts college is more propaganda than fact.
That said, there is something of the huckster about Trump, and the fact that he would start such a school in the first place does say something negative about him -- in a way that having had to deal with the Mafia does not.
Anyway, neither of these accusations will likely have any short term effect. Trump is going to win today, as is Hillary, and the focus will inevitably shift to the general election.
It's going to be a long, ugly campaign; both Rubio and Cruz play softball compared to the Clintons.