The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that no “private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” (emphasis added). This simple phrase protects property owners from government overreach. It ensures that should the fundamental right to property ever be infringed, it would be for the public good, as in to build roads and highways. Yet not everyone uses eminent domain in such an appreciable and benign manner. Not everyone has the same definition of public use.
To Donald Trump, “public use” means a place to park his limousines.
In the 1990s, Donald Trump tried to use eminent domain to eject and elderly widow from her long-time Atlantic City home because Trump wanted a new parking lot for his casino. The woman, Vera Coking, moved into the Atlantic City home in 1961 with her husband. It housed dreams and it housed family. But that didn’t stop Trump. His limousines needed a place to park and he wouldn’t let a widow stand in between him and his grandiose, elite parking lot goals.
So he tried to schmooze and bribe her. He offered her Neil Diamond tickets to soften her resolve and get her to leave her humble, 30-year abode.
That didn’t work, so he turned to his favorite tactic: bullying.
Trump Plaza soared 22-stories into the air and from its height, it rained mischief down onto Ms. Coking. Trump’s demolition crews burned her house’s roof, smashed its windows, and destroyed much of its top floors all because Ms. Coking refused to abandon her dream house and succumb to Trump’s egomania.
The widow proved too stubborn, so Trump – in his glory, vanity, and selfishness – turned to eminent domain. He sued Ms. Coking, trying to abuse eminent domain powers to advance the public good by building demolishing a home so limousines could sit next to the casino. His compensatory offer stood at just 25 percent that of another offer submitted years before – not just compensation but a brutal ruthlessness and rage whose ire found its way to a woman trying to protect the home in which she raised a family.
So Trump took the widow to court. He launched his army of lawyers on her, doing all he could to rob her of her home.
Unfortunately for Trump, justice won in the end: the court sided with Ms. Coking and allowed her to keep her home and 30 years of memories. Trump’s casino went on to flounder, his bullying to no avail.
It takes true toughness and true courage – true character – to try to steal a widow’s home.
For all his boisterousness and posturing and insults and fake braggadocio throughout the campaign, one personality trait cuts through the rest and shines immediately clear, both now and throughout time.
Trump is a bully.
And bullies are never, ever the tough individual they pretend to be.