Monday, August 17, 2015

The Freewheelin' Donald Trump




There seems absolutely no getting away from this guy.  Chuck Todd tries to take on the Donald in a one-on-one interview that probably gives us the most unfiltered Trump yet.   To Chuck's credit, he challenges the real estate mogul on a number of premises, albeit ever so mildly.

I won't call them positions, since Donald is very careful to avoid taking a hard and fast stance on anything, like hedging his condemnation of Planned Parenthood by saying he only wants to cut the money for abortions.  When Todd presses him at the 5:30 mark as to whether it is worth shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood, Trump casually claims ignorance and says he has to look into the matter, citing wildly divergent figures as to the percentage of money earmarked for abortions.  Unfortunately, Todd could have verified the abortion figures for Trump, as it is readily available, but instead he leads Trump to discuss his plan to ride the world of ISIS.

For all the talk that Todd made Trump sweat, I don't see much sweating here.  What I did see was a man who is very quick on his feet as a real estate and entertainment mogul should be, but very short on facts.  Todd does ask the Donald who he seeks for military advice, resulting in Donald obviously reaching for names before coming up with Bolton and Jacobs, who he apparently listens to on television.  Todd clarifies by asking if Trump means John Bolton and Colonel Jack Jacobs and the Donald says yes.  Trump then rambles on about how he had cautioned leaders not to go into Iraq, but now that we've fucked things up we've got to do something about it, citing oil as the main means ISIS uses to fund its military operations.  Again, Todd chooses not to refute any of Trump's claims, even if General Ray Odierno called Trump out recently on the oil claim.

Sadly, Todd gives Trump a 40-minute platform to spout off on pretty much everything with only the occasional interjection to keep the hair piece relatively on track.  Trump's Iranian claims at the 17:30 mark defy all credulity but Chuck only asks, "what do you do on day one?" referencing Robert Gates who recently regarded it as a "flawed deal," but backs it anyway.  This just allows Donald to tell us how adroit he is at renegotiating contracts and that he would make this one so tough that Iran will wish they had never signed on in the first place.

But, Trump also spoke of his more charitable side, claiming that over the years he has given "hundreds of millions" to charities.  Here again, what he says doesn't add up, with Trump giving a measly $3.7 million to his own Foundation over the last 17 years, while his Foundation gave out a total of $6.7 million to charities in that same time frame.  Compare that to Mitt Romney, whom the Donald belittled, who gave $2.6 million to his church in 2011 alone.

I found myself a glutton for punishment and listened on. It is amazing to watch Trump as he actually accuses the President of stealing his ideas on how to fight ISIS.  For a President who "talks too much" he certainly blindsided everyone with his raid on the bin Laden compound in 2011.  Obama managed to keep that raid under his hat like he has just about every matter of national security.  The guy who talks too much is Trump, making claims that can't be substantiated and then brushing over them, like his "birther" allegations from four years ago, now claiming that Obama spent $4 million to hide his college transcripts.

Again, Todd lets Trump run with these allegations and then drift into what a great education he got at Wharton Business College at the University of Pennsylvania.  Funny thing is that Trump seemed to fly under the radar at this elite business school as there is no record of him excelling in his studies or extra-curricular activities.  Yet, he is obviously proud of his education in the interview and goes onto say how much this country needs "business geniuses" like himself.  Only he can keep big businesses like Nabisco in America.  At least at the 23:30 mark, Todd questioned Trump's seriously faulted notion that Mexico is killing us economically, because if this were the case why are there so many illegal immigrants crossing the border.  Donald just keeps repeating Nabisco, Nabisco, Nabisco.  It reminded me a little of the scene from Citizen Kane when old man Kane keeps repeating Rosebud, but Trump wheels on a dime, claiming that Mexico is purposely devaluing its peso to lure American businesses.

As you get to the 26-minute mark you realize that Trump's greatest strength is his ability not to get pinned down.  Todd briefly had the Donald on the ropes, but Todd stumbled a bit, and gave the artful dodger an opening.  Trump proceeded to school Todd on currency devaluation.  Realizing that he lost his train of thought, Todd decided to reach into his "grab bag" and pull out "transparency" and "Edward Snowden" for Donald to foment on.

The funniest item was "minimum wage."  In Trump's America we won't even have to worry about that anymore because he will bring so many jobs back from China and Mexico that wages will  increase automatically, although he wouldn't go so far as to favor a rise in the minimum wage, citing "corporate inversion."   This has more to do with taxes than it does wages, but Donald easily conflated the two.  Todd didn't even bat an eyelash, clearly under Trump's spell by this point.

By the 29-minute mark you just want this to end, but Todd brings up DC Statehood, which allows the Donald to plug his Old Post Office Hotel in DC while totally avoiding the subject.

Todd reaches into his grab bag again and asks Donald when he last thought America was great.  Naturally, Trump says during Reagan.  However, this appears to be a set up as Todd produces a full-page ad Trump took out in 1987 chastising American leaders for allowing Japan and China to take over our industries.  Yet again, the slippery eel won't let himself get reeled in, saying it wasn't Reagan's fault and that he set an "excellent tone" for the country.  Of course this is a tone only he can set again, with the help of billionaire investors like Carl Icahn, who he would bring on board in his administration, saying he told Carl he "won't have these babies negotiate for us.  You are going to take over China, and I'll throw in Japan."  Wow!

Chuck finally legitimately asks, "are we all just a part of your reality show?"  Trump shrugs off the question with a smile, telling us how he is going to make America #1 again, in education, in business, you name it.  But, heh, his name sells, telling Chuck he will probably have his highest ratings as the result of his appearance.

Maybe no one can pin down Donald.  He's just too elusive for any mere mortal to challenge on stage.   It seems the only ones capable of sizing him up are his fellow billionaires.  So here's Warren Buffett assessing Trump's chances in 2016.


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