Ever tried making a list of the positive effects of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy?
Let's see. It delayed the Michele Bachmann, Frontrunner political era.
More important, it inoculated us against ever taking anything Trump had to say seriously. Once you watched the Donald on national TV, confidently and casually saying he had his "people" in Hawaii, producing massive new evidence that Barack Obama hadn't been born in America, you realized not only that he'd say anything to sound important, but also that he probably actually believed the fictional blather he was spewing out.
This brings me to You've Been Trumped, a documentary about Trump's attempts to build a massive golf course in Scotland. The film just had its U.S. premier at the Hamptons Film Festival.
The film pits the humble residents of a picturesque Scottish coastal town (the setting of the 80's film Local Hero against Trump, and makes it clear from the get-go who's playing the villain. On the one side there's the elderly Molly Forbes, tenderly raising her chickens and showing the camera crew the prizes her father won for his championship plowing.
On the other side there's Trump, with his minions, and Donald Jr. and a former Miss Scotland and a whole bunch of beaming but unidentified politicians, walking across the bleak and gorgeous Aberdeenshire dunes and explaining that they'll be greatly improved by being turned into a golf course.
The ants in Trump's picnic are a few local residents who don't want to sell their land and get out of the way. "If we build a $300 million or $400 million hotel, I don't think you want the windows looking down into a slum," Trump says haughtily. His particular target is a farmer named Michael Forbes, whose shabby but apparently well-tended property Trump terms "disgusting. He lives like a pig."
We have learned in New York that Trump's idea of beauty is something new and gilded. The idea that the guy who filled up the West Side's riverside with an endless line of high-rent high-rise boxes could be complaining about what anybody else does to a view is, at minimum, ironic.
He promises 6,000 jobs to the Aberdeen economy, but the film director, Anthony Baxter, marshals experts who say the jobs will go to low-paid laborers from places other than Scotland. He says the environmental community is crazy about his plan, but Baxter produces several environmentalists who say that they hate the whole plan and know of nobody who feels otherwise.
Meanwhile, the poor local residents who get in Trump's way find that their water is cut off, then the electricity. Baxter and his crew confront a Trump official about the length of time that the residents have been waterless and he retorts: "You keep mentioning a week. Is that a turn of phrase?" Soon police are tracking Baxter down at the home of another resistant resident, handcuffing him and carting him off to the slammer.
The utilities apparently get turned back on at some point, but not before Trump has built a huge berm between the residents and the rest of the world. The wild dunes seem to be turning into tidy little humps of sand. The rare and gorgeous landscape is flat and muddy. That won't last long, of course. Soon there will be putting greens.
I have to admit I went into this one cold, hoping that at the end the locals would triumph and send Trump and his golf clubs packing. No such luck. The course, which Trump has naturally announced will be "the greatest in the world" is still being constructed.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization issued a press release denouncing the documentary and noting that "during these challenging economic times our project has employed hundreds." Well, it's not 6,000. But I'm sure Trump has people looking into that, too.