If you’re feeling compassionate this morning — and after the Trump-Biden debate last night you may not be — consider the Americans who voted for Trump only later to bitterly regret it.
Initially, they believed him. They did not suspect he was flagrantly, juicily, shamelessly lying to them every time he opened his mouth. Some of them were raised to believe that rich men don’t lie, their bank account is as fat as they say it is, their businesses are legitimate and their plans are beneficent rather than avaricious. They felt protective of a misunderstood man.
What a bunch of suckers.
But we can all be conned. We think we know the ways of the world, are a good judge of character, could never be scammed by a man like Trump. But when life flips us over hard — job loss, family death, divorce — we become vulnerable, dream of rescue and might easily overlook odd behaviour in a man who promises wealth and happiness. Voters do it.
Victims do it too. Toronto Life has just published a story about a man like that, a Ponzi schemer fresh from jail for fraud who then went after an easier target, extracting money from lonely women on online dating sites.
These women got played by a type now familiar to us, a Trump writ small, fleecing women serially and then simultaneously.
Victoria Smith, a divorced mother of teenagers, had qualities that, surprise surprise, really appealed to Shaun Rootenberg when her profile appeared online in 2013. She had money combined with emotional need. His need was money.
Dr. Kim Barker, medical officer of health for Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, was a newly single mother of three alone in new city after years doing charitable work overseas. Best of all, she was legally blind. On eHarmony with men whose photos she could scarcely see, she was a dream candidate.
Barker worried that she was too armoured and needed to trust people more. Here’s how Shaun Rootenberg alias Rothberg presented himself, Katharine Laidlaw of Toronto Life writes. “A gregarious and engaging storyteller, practically brimming with extraordinary, rollicking stories of his business career, of making millions off a deal and of champagne-soaked dinners with the billionaire Richard Branson.”
Rootenberg, now Rothberg, dreamed about playing in the World Cup, which was absurd but Smith decided to find it charming. He repeatedly said he drove an Aston Martin but didn’t. He called himself a businessman with “ventures” like an app called Trivia for Good, gaming with a charitable angle of all things.
Rootenberg told Dr. Barker that he was flying to London weekly for a venture would “transform media and advertising.” When she discovered his real name and prison record, he claimed it was a miscarriage of justice and needed someone to believe in him. She did.
Sympathetic and protective, she hired him as chief financial officer and nearly ruined her career. She is now a medical officer of health in New Brunswick.
All his life, Rootenberg had been “self-mythologizing” and a “chronic exaggerator,” like a Trump. “There’s a difference between thieves and fraudsters,” one former Rootenberg friend said. “Both are stealing from you, but one of them’s doing it right in front of you.”
Rootenberg displayed so many red flags he looked like a hat stand. In Canada, owning a Porsche is considered de trop, brash and boastful. It should have been a warning. He always paid in cash, another hint. What kind of boyfriend wants a joint bank account with a woman and his name on her credit card?
Trump, who has allegedly told more than 20,000 lies since taking office, is constantly being called out. “Fake news,” he says.
His newly revealed tax returns show he is a terrible businessman, possibly a money launderer, and if he isn’t re-elected, will probably end up in prison.
Convicted of fraud, Rootenberg, now in his 50s, awaits sentencing. This cold, heartless man is wriggling now, saying his dignity was offended by strip-searches, the judge was biased, etc. He’s doing what Trump will soon do, flailing, weaseling and saying it’s all so terribly unfair.
Trump scammed a nation, Rootenberg a few minnows. But the self-pity, that’s identical.