01 Jun 2016

Interviewing Trump

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TrumpEgotismCartoon

The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Wolff interviews The Donald at his Rodeo Drive mansion (which he visits roughly once a year). His conclusion is that Trump is having the time of his life.

Trump will turn 70 on June 14, but he shows no sign of fatigue even as our conversation drifts toward 11 p.m. He’s been at this since either 4 a.m. or 6 a.m. (he offers different times at different moments). “Today, I’m up at six in the morning, I’m meeting some of the biggest people in the world. I then had to give a speech to a big group, then I had to give a speech at 12 to [Dole Food mogul] David Murdock, [real estate magnate] Donald Bren, tremendous guys. Then I had to drive to Anaheim and give a speech in front of thousands of people. Then I came back and did more meetings, then I did a fundraiser tonight, then I did Kimmel. And now you. You’re not a two-minute interview guy.”

He hands me a water bottle from the refrigerator (it only contains water and about a dozen pints of ice cream), and we walk through the dark house decorated with hotel-like furniture (a four-star rather than a five-star hotel lobby). He reclines, still in his standard boxy suit, tie slightly loosened, with his Haagen-Dazs on an overstuffed couch in the living room (he asks me not to put my water bottle on the fabric-covered ottoman).

If there’s any pattern to his conversation, it’s that he’s vague on all subjects outside himself, his campaign and the media. Everything else is mere distraction. But I press him about Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who, earlier in the day, has admitted to funding the $140 million Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker. Thiel also is his most prominent Silicon Valley backer and will go to the convention in July as a pledged delegate. But Trump needs reminding who he is, and then concludes he must be a friend of his son-in-law Jared. (“Wow, I love him! So he funded it for Hulk Hogan? You think Hulk Hogan would have enough money, but he probably doesn’t.”) Indeed, Trump doesn’t appear to be interested in Silicon Valley, except to roll off his numbers on each social media platform. (“On Facebook, I have close to 8 million people. On Twitter, I have 8.5 million. On Instagram, I have over a million people. I’m inching on 20 million people. I have friends, somebody that’s a great writer, where they write a book and call me up and say, ‘Can you do me a favor, can you tweet it?’ ” “Can you,” I interject, “tweet my book, please?” “I will!”)

Finishing his pint, he reflects again on the remarkableness of the campaign, asking his traveling staffers, Corey Lewandowski and press secretary Hope Hicks, as well as his son-in-law, to confirm again how remarkable it is. Lewandowski recites the latest polls (as of press time, they show Trump inching to within a few percentage points of Clinton in a head-to-head matchup), and Trump, with something beyond confidence, seems to declare de facto victory.

I broach his problems with women and Hispanics and the common wisdom that he’ll have to do at least as well with these groups as Mitt Romney did in 2012. The “pivot” is the word more politico pros are using to refer to his expected turn to the center. “Unless,” I offer, “you think you can remake the electoral math.” He says he absolutely can. So no pivot. “It’ll be different math than they’ve ever seen.” He is, he says, bigger than anything anyone has ever seen. “I have a much bigger base than Romney. Romney was a stiff!” And he’ll be bigger with the people he’s bigger with, but also he’ll be bigger with women and Hispanics and blacks, too. He believes, no matter what positions he holds or slurs he has made, that he is irresistible.

Read the whole thing.

The interview reveals what we already knew: Trump is pathologically narcissistic and egotistical, Trump is surprisingly ill-informed, and Trump is shameless. But Trump-supporters do not care. They think this bozo is their personal messiah, who is going to wreak vengeance on the national elites on their behalf and make petite bourgeois America once again feel like the center of the universe.

The problem, it turns out, is that so much of the Republican base is made up of people who may actually be even stupider than the liberals. They do not follow politics. They don’t really know who voted how, who takes what positions, or who actually accomplished what. They have no understanding of political reality or sense of history. As far as these people are concerned, the Republican elites in Washington have enjoyed perfect control of Congress for decades and decades, and have only failed to thwart Obama, win the Culture Wars. throw out all the Mexicans, and repeal Obamacare because they are in cahoots with the enemy. Paul Ryan is a RINO, Ted Cruz is a RINO. Everybody is a RINO. One of my commenters today complained that the Republican-controlled House and Senate failed to “abolish Obamacare.”

In reality, estimates of the number of attempts to repeal Obamacare vary, but as of last January it was something like 62 times. Republicans have tried both straight-up votes and the Budget Reconciliation process again and again and again. Additionally, Republicans arranged to challenge the Obamacare mandate via the court system, successfully getting to the Supreme Court twice, with good arguments, only to fail each time. (There are those who believe Chief Justice Roberts was gotten at, and compelled to change his vote.)

So, all those political geniuses out there, whose expertise is primarily based upon Reality Television, are counting on The Donald to supply the principled leadership that professional Republican political leaders lack. They complain bitterly that the GOP nominated Mitt Romney, the governor who passed Romneycare in Massachusetts last time, but they do not care a bit that Donald Trump has come out for Single-Payer Healthcare and has been historically to the left of Romney on essentially everything.

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SDD

The Cult of Trump 2016 has some similarities to the Cult of Obama 2008. Both rallied supporters with vague phrases like Hope & Change and Make America Great Again — largely blank pages upon which worshipers could write their own interpretations. Problematic past histories, which should have been seen as tellingly predictive (like Obama’s association with Jeremiah Wright or Trump’s support of Democrats) were ignored. Both promised to “transform” America (in Obama’s case, not an empty promise). When asked to describe why they support the candidates, enthusiasts would use personal descriptions rather than any sort of policy agreement. He’s clean, handsome and articulate (to use Joe Biden’s words) and He’s says what he thinks, won’t back down,

There’s a radio talk show host who uses a delightful tactic with callers who are rabid supporters of Hillary or Trump. He simply asks them, “What do you think have been Hillary’s greatest accomplishments?” and “What important legislation do you think President Trump would get passed in his first term?” The stuttering responses (or confused silences) are highly entertaining. If you’re talking about a teen idol, “he’s so cool” is probably a sufficient explanation of your adoration. When you’re talking about a candidate for President, there ought to be more substantial reasons. But often there are not.



Weetabix

“The interview reveals what we already knew: Trump is pathologically narcissistic and egotistical, Trump is surprisingly ill-informed, and Trump is shameless. But Trump-supporters do not care. They think this bozo is their personal messiah, who is going to wreak vengeance on the national elites on their behalf and make petite bourgeois America once again feel like the center of the universe.”

Didn’t that same thing work for Obama? Twice?



JDZ

I agree. Trump is just like Obama: a Pop Culture celebrity candidate, offering voters a blank screen on which they are being invited to project their own favorite personal fantasies.



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