Less than a month ago, the Trump administration adopted a new “zero tolerance” policy. Under it, migrant children are now being separated from their parents and held in detention centers together with unaccompanied minors crossing in the US.
Yesterday (Jun. 13), a group of journalists was allowed in one of the detainment centers, in Brownsville, Texas. They found that the former Walmart had several murals of Donald Trump for children to look at, including one at the entrance with the quote, “Sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” It’s in both English and Spanish.
This isn’t new: A mural of Barack Obama was also featured in at least one detention center, along with a quote about America being a country of immigrants.
Trump’s quote does not originate from any presidential speech or policy announcement, however. His observation on war and battle comes from the former real estate developer’s co-authored book, The Art of the Deal. In its original context, the line refers to evicting tenants (p. 249).
In its original context, the line refers to evicting tenants. In the book, Trump writes about how he tried to push the tenants of 100 Central Park South—a New York City building he bought in 1981—out of their rent-controlled and rent-protected apartments. His tactics caused him to be sued by the city. As the New York Times wrote in 1985:
The city and state papers allege that Mr. Trump and his agents proceeded to try to force out the 60 or more tenants by the following tactics: ”threats of imminent demolition,” ”spurious litigation,” ”drastic decreases in essential services,” ”persistent delay in repairing defective conditions with life-threatening potential,” ”instructing employees to obtain information about the private lives (and) sex habits of the tenants,” and ”engaging in a psychological tug- of-war to wear the tenants down which has had a deleterious effect upon the health and well-being of said tenants, many of whom are elderly and are particularly vulnerable to defendants’ persistent course of conduct.”
Back then, Trump promised to fight back (saying “Trump is not going to be harassed”), but tenants succeeded in delaying the demolition.
Ultimately, he gave up. The building was instead converted into a condo in 1989. In the book, he frames it as a victory:
They succeeded. But by delaying me for several years during which real estate values soared, and by forcing me to totally change my original plans, they inadvertently helped me come up with a less expensive and more profitable project.