There are many facts about Trump that most people seem eager to ignore or not consider. Let me list a few.
1)Donald Trump spent many years as a real estate developer in New York. He was fairly successful at it.
2)If you want to build a building in New York, he you have to negotiate, or “make deals,” with a variety of different people: politicians, unions, the media, rival real estate developers, contractors, construction companies, etc.
3)These are difficult negotiations and very complex. All of the involved parties — including Trump but certainly the politicians — are morally suspect in one way or another. These are all rough people.
4)These negotiations are about “making a deal.” Think about how often Trump uses the word “deal” in his public talks.
5)For a deal to get done, there will be winners and losers. The losers will be rival real estate tycoons. The winner will be Trump, if we are talking about a building being built with Trump’s name on it. But others will win. Some politicians will win because they are providing jobs to key groups. Union leaders will win for the same reason. Contractors and construction companies will win business. The media will win if they can break the story about the new deal (this is why Trump had such a good relationship with the media until he became the Republican nominee, and then suddenly, inexplicably, he became Hitler. It would seem strange if not for the fact that the same thing happened to Bush, McCain, Romney, etc).
6)Trump has spent most of his life doing this. His experiences will inform how he approaches his job as president.
7)Trump understands marketing. He puts his name on buildings. He says memorable, catchy things. He had a very popular reality show all about him. He understands modern media and entertainment better than just about anybody. He knows how to capture the attention of key groups and tell people what they want to hear. But most of all, he is an entertainer. If you have never done so, take a half-hour to watch a Trump rally. It really is quite entertaining.
8)So, let’s review: Trump will approach politics, both domestic and foreign, the same way he approached his job as a real estate developer. Trump wins if he builds something. All of his life, he won if he got a big shiny building with his name on it. How does this translate into politics? It should be obvious: Trump wins if he looks good, if he gets reelected and if the U.S. economy improves (ie, he “built” something). But note: in Trump’s world, other people win when he wins. In real estate, jobs are created and certain pressure groups win — bigly. So, the deal is not just about Trump winning — it is about most people winning (in Trump’s mind).
Dear reader, have you internalized these eight points? If not, please read them again, because U.S. politics with Trump as president will never make sense to you if you don’t internalize those eight points.
Now, let’s look at some questions about Trump’s behavior.
Why is he so loud-mouthed and rude and bigoted? This really is a silly question, but it is one that Americans seem to obsess about. People: he is a real estate developer from New York. How else would you expect him to behave? But I will note again that very few people seemed to care about his behavior until 2016, and there is a long, long list of minority politicians, Democrats, Socialists, women, gay people and transgender people who *loved* Trump until he became a serious Republican presidential candidate. He has not changed, but they have. So, who is to blame — him or them?
Why does he seem to support American enemies and not support traditional allies? This is a very good question, but when you internalize the eight points above the answer becomes obvious: Trump sees international relations the way a real estate developer from New York would be expected to see them. From Trump’s perspective, international relations are just like doing a real estate deal. Trump sees Putin like a rival real estate tycoon. He sees Xi and Kim as other rival real estate tycoons. Now, remember real estate tycoons are sometimes rivals, but sometimes they cooperate to build things together so they both win. But meanwhile, he wants to play them all against each other with the end goal of winning. Trump only wins if he “builds” something. That something for him is the US economy. He believes that if he can “build” the US economy he will be reelected, which is the clear sign of “winning.”
So, why does he sometimes say nice things about Putin and bad things about the EU and long-time US allies? It is all about the negotiation. He is trying to manipulate Putin to get things out of him that he wants. What does he want? Russian cooperation against ISIS. He does not want Russia to invade another country on his watch. That will make Trump look bad. In this world, Russian interference in the U.S. election is irrelevant. The US has intervened and manipulated dozens of elections over the years, and both Putin and Trump know that. So, Trump’s meeting with Putin is kind of like two mafia dons meeting with each other. The claim that Trump is somehow controlled by Putin is just laughable. No serious person can even consider it. The point of the meeting is to find areas of mutual interest, which happens all of the time with business rivals.
Consider how Trump negotiated with Kim: he would praise him (trying to manipulate him), and if Kim did something “not nice” he would threaten to cancel the meeting, and then the meeting was back on, and during the meeting Trump went out of his way to play nice with him. He knows that Kim is used to being treated like a god. So, he treated him with respect. What did it cost Trump? Absolutely nothing. He wants a “win.” What is a “win?” Some kind of deal where North Korea gives up nukes, which causes Trump to win a Nobel Peace Prize and to brag that he did something nobody else could do.
To be clear, everything Trump does is about furthering Trump’s interests. In the case of Russia, what Trump wants and what we should want are perfectly aligned: we should want a “win.” A win is where we don’t go to war with Russia, where we work together to defeat ISIS, where we do business together peacefully, where Putin does not invade another country. I am sorry to say this so bluntly, but the idea that Trump somehow colluded with Putin or is controlled by Putin or is a Russian agent is so stupid that anybody saying such things should be seen as either insane or blindly partisan or so unintelligent that you should not waste your time arguing with them because life is way too short.
So why did Trump go to the UK and insult the prime minister and the EU?It is all part of his negotiating style. Again, you need to see that Trump sees these other world leaders as sometime rivals and sometime partners, as if they were other real estate developers. He wants a bilateral trade deal with the UK separate from the EU. He either wants to 1)manipulate Teresa May into doing a deal with the U.S. or 2)force her out so he can deal with a prime minister he likes better, ie Boris Johnson. I have no idea if it will work, but his goal is obvious.
Will Trump’s tactics work?If forced to make a prediction, I will say that when it comes to foreign policy Trump will win more than lose. Again, you need to understand what winning means to Trump. Winning means: avoiding another big war. Winning means: bilateral trade deals that are good for the U.S. (In Trump’s world, multilateral deals are difficult and unlikely to work — what works is one on one deals). Winning means: the economy grows and more people are employed and more buildings and factories get built. Really winning bigly means North Korea gives up nukes and Russia does not invade one of its neighbors. Really winning means ISIS is destroyed. Winning means China opens up its markets in a way it never has to U.S. goods. And I am hopeful that winning may even mean the U.S. begins to get out of the Middle East and that government spending begins to decrease or stabilize, rather than increase. I have no idea if all of these things will happen, but I predict some of them will.
Why is Trump obsessed with immigration?Trump has been talking about immigration for decades. Besides deal-making, it is his favorite subject. Remember, Trump is about winning. If new people are coming into the U.S. and taking jobs from Americans, this means Americans lose (in Trump’s mind). By the way, this was also Bernie Sanders’ position for decades, but somehow Bernie gets a pass and Trump is “literally Hitler.” Trump talks about the “big, beautiful wall” constantly because it is good marketing and it is a good visual. People can imagine a wall keeping them safe. So, at the end of the day, Trump talks about immigration all of the time because 1)he wants to win and 2)it is good politics.
Doesn’t Trump fail all of the time — the White House is in chaos and he didn’t repeal Obamacare?Trump’s management style is deliberately chaotic. I worked for a boss like this once, so it makes perfect sense to me. Trump wants all of his subordinates to be rivals with each other because if they are fighting with each other they have less time to be disloyal to him. I would never, ever, EVER work in that environment — again life is way too short — but I understand it. His administration has made plenty of mistakes, but they have also gotten a lot done. Just ask liberals in DC what they feel about all of the regulations being repealed or all of the conservative justices getting approved. If Trump is so incompetent, why is he getting so many things done? When it comes to Obamacare, my personal opinion is Trump never truly wanted to repeal it. You will notice that he never talks about the true elephants in the room when it comes to government spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. I think Trump does not want his fingerprints to be on Obamacare’s repeal. He wants it to die quietly, which is happening behind the scenes. (Republicans in Congress obviously are also to blame for Obamacare not being repealed).
Isn’t Trump a bad, immoral man?Yes and no. As I said above, Trump is a New York real estate developer. Of course he has done and said very, very bad things during his life. But, strangely, he is a teetotaler, and his kids all love him. Even his ex-wives appear to like him. I happen to think almost all politicians, and certainly all U.S. presidents, are both good and bad. If you don’t like the way Trump talks, you should read a biography of LBJ and check out how he talked all of his life. If you don’t like Trump’s many affairs, you should learn a bit more about the private lives of FDR, Ike and JFK. I find the “Trump is a bad man” claims to be insufferable, to be quite frank. If you are expecting a politician to be moral all of the time, you will always, and I mean always, be disappointed — if you are honest with yourself. By all accounts, Obama was a good family man, but he had a personal kill list and he ordered the death of a U.S. citizen by drone. I could go on and on about the literally hundreds of horrible things Obama did as president, but if you are a partisan Obama supporter and Trump hater it would be a waste of time, and, again, life is too short. If you are interested in my opinion on the subject, I would encourage you to read this post titled “The inevitable hypocrisy of the political morality police.”
So, are you saying Trump will be a good president?Like all presidents, Trump will do some good things and some bad things. This is what I predicted way back in May 2016, and it has come true. I disagree with Trump on many things — the increase in government spending is absolutely scandalous, and I don’t agree with his trade or immigration policies. But the economy is doing quite well overall, people are working, and government regulations are being taken from the books. Trump is appointing excellent federal judges, and he got tax reform passed. But the main point of this post was to try to explain Trump’s behavior. I find that otherwise intelligent people simply don’t understand him at all. Hopefully this post will help.