Newt concludes his Understanding Trump and Trumpism series at The Heritage Foundation by focusing on the heart of Trumpism.
Well, it’s a great honor to be here. Heritage has been just an extraordinarily generous host for these. This is the eighth speech I will have given here, and then we did one at National Defense University, all of them available at Heritage, and all of them available also at gingrichproductions.com. They’ll eventually form the core of a book called Understanding Trump that will come out in early June that we’re very excited by. I want to thank Jim, has been a great leader and is really carrying Heritage into new and larger zones of activism, and has really tried to help think through, “How do you apply conservatism so you really change things?” I think Trump in that sense is sort of a godsend of continuing to accelerate that.
I do want to point out something that I think that Trump said brilliantly in his inaugural, and that is that the irresistible force that is changing Washington is not Donald J Trump. The irresistible force is the will of the American people, as expressed by President Trump. He’s vividly aware that it’s as a tribune of the people that he has the moral force to change things. I think that that’s a really interesting factor in where we are and what we’re doing. I also have to recognize my dear friend and mentor Ed Feulner, who founded Heritage, and created the modern institution, and with whom I worked during the transition for the Reagan years and throughout the Reagan years, and so we do have a continuity. And one of the ways Washington changed … I just noticed this article this morning that talked about how Gingrich’s tool was now going to be used to change Washington.
Now, again, I stand, and Attorney General Meese who’s here, knows how much I admire his work and admire the entire Reagan team in that period, and K. James is here and we go back … Some of us now go back longer than I’m going to talk about. But sometimes these things come in cycles, and so many of the ideas that Reagan campaigned on, we tried to implement during the contract with America, and part of it was that we’ve been wrestling with how do you get bureaucracy back under the control of the elected representatives of the American people? One of the things we passed was a congressional review act, which allowed us to review substantial regulation. And it turns out I think by the terms of the act that we can review any regulation issued since July 12, so all these things that the left was hurriedly trying to do after they lost the election, all of them are subject to this.
This week for the first time – it’s only every been used once, by Bush at the very early stage of his, when he became president it was used for an ergonomics ruling that everybody agreed was just impossible to implement. There are five different major regulations that will be appealed this week in block, and so the whole regulation will be gone. Now that is a significant step towards reasserting that the elected officials of the United States in fact have power over the bureaucracy, and that it’s not totally out of control. To me that’s an example of how over time, you come back at it again and again and you begin to set a stage for where things are going.
Now, I wanted to spend this last talk talking about Trump at the heart of Trumpism, because I think the stage had been set, I think the American people were ready for dramatic change, but the truth is, there was no other person who could have personified and brought together the levels of energy and excitement and enthusiasm that Trump did, and I think … I was really struck, many years ago I had a chance to have lunch with Mark Bowden, who wrote Black Hawk Down and a number of other terrific books, who’s a very practical reporter, the kind who actually reported facts, and who actually … Which is really a very key part. If you read Black Hawk Down, it’s a remarkable work of genuine reporting, in which he not only interviewed the Americans, but he got the Philadelphia Enquirer to pay for him to go to Somalia, and he actually interviewed some 500 Somalians. So you got both sides.
In fact he told me a very funny story, that he’s in Somalia and he is the only hard currency guest of the hotel, and the warlord who’s been protecting him comes to see him and says, “We met and decided we don’t want to protect you anymore. So you need to leave tomorrow.” So he goes in to see the hotel manager and he says, “I’m going to have to move out,” and the guy goes, “Why? You’re the only guy I’ve got paying real currency.” He said, “Well, the warlord said that they would no longer protect me,” and the guy said to him, “So what? He’s not the government, he’s a warlord.” He said, “Yeah, but …” He said, “You hire a bigger warlord.” So he went out, found a bigger warlord, and used up his money faster, but he stayed another 10 days, protected now by the bigger warlord against the smaller warlord. Well if you think about the practical realism, and the degree to which, here’s a guy who’s determined to get in the middle of it.
So he told me a story I’ve never forgotten that explains a great deal of why it’s so hard to deal with the modern media. He had decided to do a book on the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles knew that he was curious about them as people, and that he wanted to try to get, what is it like to have a year in a football team? He said one of the things he learned after he’d been with them for a while was that they just despised sports writers. They didn’t mind him because he wasn’t a sports writer. He was a general reporter, trying to actually understand them. But they said the idea of some 50 year old overweight guy who couldn’t run 20 yards sitting up there, deciding whether or not the 35 yard pass you caught to win the game had been done well enough just infuriated them. The reason I found that helpful is that, I think one of the things – and you see this particularly with the White House press corps, but it’s true across the whole system, and it’s true in the academic world among historians and political scientists and sociologists – these people are voyeurs. They don’t do anything.
So when you have somebody who represents the New York Times who’s been covering the White House for five years render judgment on the president, the first thing you know is, this person couldn’t have become president if their life depended on it. They don’t have a clue what a president’s day’s like. They have no idea how much complexity there is. But because they sit around all day talking to each other they concluded that they must be important because they’re in the White House, and therefore they should render judgment. And you watch them on Sundays, and if you’re a practitioner you just think these people are crazy. They don’t know what they’re talking about. If the were wrong last Sunday they have to come on this Sunday, and this Sunday they’ll be wrong again. Do you ever notice? They never stop and assess it. “The predictions I made last week didn’t work.” They’re not going to say that, because then maybe they won’t get hired to come back. So they have to pretend this week they know more than they did last week when they knew nothing. Or when what they knew was wrong.
Ronald Reagan used to say, “It isn’t so much what they don’t know that’s frightening, it’s what they know that isn’t true,” which is sort of the hallmark of the modern left. In the case of the New York Times it goes back at least to the false coverage of Stalin in the 30s, which we know is a fact. And of course the false coverage of Castro, but that’s another story. So I was trying to think through how you explain Trump as being at the heart of Trumpism, and I was reminded, one of the places that first got me to think about this is a very interesting book by Gary Wills called Inventing America, which is a study of the Declaration of Independence. Very early in the book he describes the Virginians getting together to ride north, and it’s his excuse to give you a brief introduction to each Virginian.
Well he gets to Washington, he says basically – I’m paraphrasing – that no modern historian understands how to describe Washington, because Washington was not primarily a literary person. Jefferson you get, Hamilton you get – these people write. Adams and his wife wrote constantly. Franklin was a great writer. Madison wrote constantly. But Washington didn’t, and he said Washington was a force. When he walked in the room, the room changed. There’s a great story of Gouverneur Morris, who bets five pounds that he can go over and slap Washington on the back and say, “Good afternoon.” He goes over and gets close to him, and he freezes, and he looks up at him. After a minute Washington looks down and says, “Gouverneur Morris,” and he goes, “Good day, General,” and runs off. He goes back to this guy and says, “You’re right. It’s physically impossible. You can’t do it.” And yet Washington was a very social person.
Again, you almost never get this caught, because we see Washington from the back. We see the old man, wearing false teeth, at the end of his career, trying to appear with the dignity he believed the president of the United States owed the country. When I was speaker I had a portrait of Washington when he was 43 at Princeton, standing leaning against the British cannon that he had just captured, and he looked like the fox hunter who’d caught the fox. He was younger, and people again forget, Washington was the best horseman in the colonies, at a time when that meant a lot. So you have this physically huge man, who’s extraordinarily strong. So strong he could break a walnut between these two, thumb and first finger. Try it sometime at Christmas. Governor Byrd used to make money when they would be in legislature down at the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, they would bet at night, and he bet a shilling that Washington could do it, and the other guy who didn’t know Washington would bet against him, and he’d go over and say, “Colonel Washington, would you break this please?” He was that strong.
The reason I tell you this is, there’s a very interesting parallelism. Donald J Trump is not primarily a speaker. He’s a doer. He’s making his mark by doing. There’s a reason he shows you, “Look, I signed this.” Because by action … I wrote a newsletter last week saying that the left should be terrified after the first week, because what he’s doing is by action, he’s writing his story. Now Jefferson would have written it elaborately. Hamilton would have written six volumes a day. But that’s not what Trump does. So I want to start with this notion of that you have to suspend the rules by which you have been taught by academics to think about leadership, and really ask about leadership. Eisenhower had the same problem. Academics despised Eisenhower, and they would talk about the fact that in World War II on the weekends he would read cowboy novels. Clearly a sign that he was not very smart. And while he was translating Thucydides from the Greek as president of Colombia in 1948, he made the comment, if you spend all week making decisions about whether or not to land at Normandy, you probably don’t read history on the weekend. And you read something to allow your brain to slow down.
Well the academics, none of whom had ever done anything that mattered, had no clue what it was like to have done so much that you were too tired … I think this is the framing in which you have to think about Trump. Trump is unique. I would say, you literally have to go back to Theodore Roosevelt to find the energy level that you’re seeing with Trump. The only two presidents that were as disruptive were Lincoln and Jackson. And he knows he’s disruptive. He thinks that’s why he was elected. As those of you know who looked up my earlier speech on the inaugural, the inaugural … I listen to these people who think it was not a very important speech, or it was banal – which of course means that it was understandable to normal people. And he was saying very profound things, and now he’s doing very profound things. Notice the balance. And notice by the way the inevitable media lying about him.
So they decide they’re going to implement a ban, and a reporter called me in great shock and said, “They’re actually going to do this?” And I said yes. He’s been saying it for 10 months. You would think at some point in the 10 months they would have gone, “Oh, what if he actually means it?” Now, I think some of the implementation’s clumsy, but my point would be simple. It’s the second week. They’re going to be clumsy for a while. Unlike Broadway shows which start off Broadway and have a shakedown, the presidency starts in the full light of the entire planet, and your entire shakedown is done with everybody watching. So there are some things they’re going to have to straighten out, and they’ll get better at. But the fact is he was implementing what he said he would do. Now you’ll notice it was reported as a ban on Muslims. This was a total dangerous lie, and every newspaper and every television reporter who said it should be ashamed of themselves, because it sent a signal to over a billion Muslims around the planet about something which is totally false.
The largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia. It’s not touched. The second largest Muslim country by the way is India. It’s not touched. Go down the list. It was a targeted direction by the way of countries that had been picked out by the Obama administration. But you can’t get rational conversation. Now we did have the spectacle of Chuck Schumer crying. But that led me to ask the following, probably inappropriate question: 4000 Americans were shot in Chicago last year. Would Chuck have found it that hard to cry for Americans? But of course they were all Broadway tears. This was a performance. And it was baloney. Nobody was being endangered. People were being inconvenienced. And I will tell you, if my choice is, a nightclub slaughter in Orlando or inconvenience, I’m for inconvenience. If it’s a Christmas slaughter in San Bernardino or inconvenience, I’m for inconvenience, and I suspect most Americans are. That’s not the choice they’re going to be given, and I guarantee you for a while Trump’s poll numbers will be bad. And they’ll be bad because every element of the elite media will lie about him every day.
Then they’ll say, “See?” And then when we get back to campaigning and people pay attention, they’ll melt. It’s exactly what happened with Reagan. And people will to back to, “Oh if that’s what it’s about, I’m for him.” So let’s start with this notion of, much in the tradition of Washington and other people of action, he is a singular personality. I had this reporter come up the other day and said to me, “When do you think he’s going to start being presidential?” I said, “Actually by definition, whatever he does is presidential. It’s just a new presidential.” So the new presidential tweets. That doesn’t mean he has to give up tweeting and start writing in longhand with a quill pen, so you think he’s presidential. So let’s start with the idea, he’s a singular personality. I find frankly at times to be very funny. Because he’s a character. This is a guy who in some ways … I always tell people I’m happy, because I’m basically a four year old who gets up in the morning knowing there’s a cookie somewhere and my job is to find it, and so I spend all day being really happy knowing I just haven’t found the cookie yet.
Well he’s about a 7th grader. He gets up in the morning and has all of the strengths and weaknesses of a really energetic, really smart 7th grader, and he wanders around, and out of that innocence he can imagine, “I think I’ll move from Queens to Manhattan and build a brand new giant hotel, and I’ll call it after myself.” And then later on he could say, “I think I’ll own a whole bunch of golf courses. I think I’ll do a TV show I’ve never done before and we’ll make it a hit show.” He does ties. I don’t think I’m wearing a Trump tie, but … This is too small to be a Trump tie. I went by one day years ago and his ties at that time were the number one selling ties in America. He said it’s because they’re two inches longer. You never know when you turn around what he’s doing next, but he’s enjoying it, and this is one of the things people don’t get: He’s very existential. Donald Trump lives in the moment that you are with him. He remembers it vividly because he lives 100 percent in that moment. He’s very good at it. And then frankly when he turns away from you, he turns away 100 percent.
And he goes to the next person, the next thing, the next whatever. But he’s totally engaged with life. Certainly more than anybody since Theodore Roosevelt. So it’s not to denigrate some great people. But he’s different in that sense. He has an amazing understanding of what matters and what doesn’t. My favorite you’ve heard me talk about was the reporter who rushed up to me in July I think I was, and they said, “Are you worried that Hillary spent $30 million last month on advertising and Trump only spent $300,000?” I said, “You know, I was talking to our nominee Jeb Bush the other day.” Because Trump somehow, and I have no idea how he did this – Trump somehow in probably August, September of 2015, suddenly intuited that if I can reach you – with Facebook, with Twitter, with Fox and Friends, with Morning Joe, with an hour long interview with Hannity – if I’m reaching you, it’s okay that I didn’t pay for it.
Think about this. Jim has been a US Senate candidate; he knows … The higher up you go, the more consultants there are, the more they tell you, and the more they try to convince you your only job is to raise money so they can then write an ad for you that they think is terrific, that you should then raise more money for. And Trump just looked around – he didn’t need any consultants because … There was one point, I don’t remember when it was, I think it was in the spring. Somebody said, “We’re getting bigger now. He needs to have somebody who’s going to lead the response effort.” And he looked at whoever said this in total disbelieve and said, “I lead the response effort. What are you talking about?” And he meant it. If they were going to have a response, he’d either tweet the response, he’d go on radio, he’d go on TV … But here’s what he figured out. Think about this in a way that really takes courage. I went through this in 2012, and I think if I had done it six months earlier I’d have had a better chance to win.
But I got to a point to where, we tried for about six months to have real consultants in 2011, and they had all these things that real consultants have, and I couldn’t do them. We finally had a meeting and I said, “Look, I don’t think I can be the candidate you need.” And they all quit, literally. The same day, they all quit, and all of my old team came to a meeting about an hour later, and they were totally relieved, and within 20 minutes we were moving at five times the pace – because we knew what we were doing. We know how to make noise. And that’s about half of politics. The other half being to figure out the right noise. But it takes enormous courage, and he had this instinct. He also … I was talking the other day with Terry Branstad, the governor of Iowa’s son, Eric, who’s very smart. And Eric had done a great job in Iowa, and around the 1st of August, 2016, Trump turned to him and said, “I want you to do Wisconsin.”
He said, “I think we can carry Wisconsin. I want you to go there and be in charge.” And Eric said, the first paper he turned in in September said, on the last Sunday you need to be in Minnesota. That’s how early they began to think strategically. And so here you have Trump wandering around doing stuff, but he’s constantly laying out possibilities. Not certainties, possibilities. He’s optimizing his investment. And people who’ve never done this have no notion, because he is a business leader who became president. He never became a politician in between. He just went from business leader to president. So now he gets up every morning, and he applies everything he’s ever learned, and he’s learned a lot in his lifetime. But he’s applying it as a CEO, not as a traditional politician.
That has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you do things that are dumb because you don’t understand that there are some aspects of running the American government or some aspects of being international that are different, that are not the same as running a business. And here’s one of the keys to understanding Trump: He’s very, very smart. Any of these reporters who think he’s somehow not smart have no clue. This guy, you didn’t 16 other republicans, create a unique campaign that had no traditional consultants, beat Hillary Clinton with a billion dollars, and beat the elite media because he was just lucky. He’s very relentlessly smart. But he has an interesting characteristic, and I say this having spent the last two years talking with him and working on things with him: He’s almost impossible to teach. He just has this thing in the back of his head like, “Why would you teach me?” I’m sure in the 7th grade he thought that way about his teachers. But he learns really well.
So the trick is, you never can go in and try to teach him, because if you do, he’ll put up his “You can’t teach me” sign. But the other hand, it’s interesting, the other day. I don’t know if this is true. I was told Saturday at the White House that when Trump went over to the Pentagon and went into the tank where the Joint Chiefs meet, that in eight years of Obama he had never done it. Now the reason Trump would do it is, if he’s in the room and they explain the room to him, he’ll never forget it. Because he learns here, he learns by doing. He learns by touching. He learns by listening. He’s not a great reader, but he’s an extraordinary listener. And he listens in a conversational style. He doesn’t listen because you come in and say, “I now have a 37 minute briefing with 16 power points.” You do not get past that sentence. Because he’ll just say, “No, I don’t think so.”
But if you chat with him, in 15 minutes he’ll have picked up all the key things you were going to cover in your 37 minute briefing. And then he’ll integrate it into his own personality, and then he’ll think about it, because now he’s really learned it. Not just been taught it. It’s a key part of him.
He has a great focus on individuals. It’s really interesting to compare him to – and here by the way I think he’s very similar to Bill Clinton. Obama had a terrific focus on the people. Obama was eager to lead the people. Preferably in really large groups were he didn’t have to talk to them. Obama had no interest in individual people. I once went to the session to honor speaker Foley. It was a memorial service in the capital. [inaudible 00:26:36] and I, because I was a former speaker, we were sitting in the front row facing the speaker’s dais, and over here they had President Obama and President Clinton, and it was amazing the difference. Obama came in, sat down, looked straight ahead, and was stoically enduring having come down from Olympus to be surrounded for a brief period by mere mortals, to whom he would presently deliver brilliance. But with whom he had no interest in conversing. Bill of course walked in, smiled at everybody individually, “How are you, how are you?” Saw me, said, “Hey Newt.” Saw Callista, said, “Hey Callista,” and he said, “Hey Callista” again. We’re talking Bill Clinton here, right?
Obama got up, he gave a speech over the heads of the audience. Literally, looking up at the top of the back, delivered his speech – well written speech. Bill gets up and spends 25 minutes randomly talking about the wonderful experiences Speaker Foley had knowing Bill Clinton. And as he talked, he’s looking at every person individually. Well watch Trump. Trump would go to 20, 25,000 person rallies and begin to point to individuals, and begin to get … And the audience began to build this rhythm, that they were together. And when you go in a relatively small room, it’s the same thing. If I talk to him on the phone, it’s very personal. I may be one of 67 calls on the list. I don’t feel like I’m one of 67 calls. I feel like like I’m having a unique moment to talk, which is also how I used to feel with Clinton. In fact I saw Clinton briefly at the inaugural. You just always have this sense that it’s personal. That’s just an interesting part of …
Because he has constant energy, and because he’s so smart, and because he has what I would call a doctrine, from a military standpoint, of being permanently on offense – if you watch him, he is never on defense. Something goes wrong, he immediately counterattacks. But he never stays on defense. And because of all that, he has committed errors of commission rather than omission. I’m going to use this weekend as an example. I think if they had waited four to five days, thought it through better, staffed it better, the weekend would have worked better. But if they did that with every single thing they’re doing, they’d get about 10 percent as much done. So what they’re doing is, they’re rushing the system, every day. They’re trying to hit it five, six, seven different directions. And if they make an error – I tell this to everybody who ever works for me – that if I leave you in charge of something, I much prefer you make an error of commission rather than an error of omission. When in doubt, do something. But keep moving.
Trump has to use this model. He has to get the system off balance, and he has to keep pushing it every single day, because otherwise it’ll reset. And so that’s what he’s doing, and if you’ll notice, he announces a ban – which is totally misinterpreted by the news media, there’s a firestorm. And by the way, do any of you doubt that if he’d done this six weeks from now with prior notice, etc, that there would have been demonstrations for days leading up to it? This notion of, “Oh, this was so shocking. People had to go out and demonstrate.” No. This was so shocking that the people George Soros pays to demonstrate all went out to demonstrate. Let’s be clear about what’s going on here. You have an Elisabeth Warren, George Soros wing of the democratic party committed to crippling the Trump administration any way they can, and with no regard to what it does to America. It’s just a fact. Radicalism embodied.
In that context, they rush out, there’s a little bit of a firestorm. First thing you do is, you call the king of Saudi Arabia, you call the head of the United Arab Emirates, you call the president of Egypt, you have Vice President Pence have breakfast this morning with King Abdullah of Jordan. Now you’ve had four major contacts with major allies in the Arab world, none of whom said, “Oh gosh, that’s a terrible thing.” Because all of them are very tough on this stuff. You think they allow these guys to drift in … You think somebody can show up at the Saudi border and go, “Hi, I’m a refugee from Syria and I don’t remember which part of Syria, so don’t ask me whether or not I was ever in ISIS. Can I come in?” They don’t get in. But notice what he’s saying to the world. “You think I got a problem? Well ask my good friend King Abdullah.” That balances things. Little bit more noise than they wanted? Move up the supreme court nomination two days.
One of the key things, and I have not had the time, and I probably never will. Some day a really good historian who actually wants to learn about Trump as opposed to just attacking, is going to go and look at the years in New York and Page Six, because Trump learned somewhere in that period that the media has to chase rabbits. Now imagine, you get up in the morning, you’re a reporter, you’re an editor, you’re a publisher. You got to fill up 24 hours a day of television. You got to fill up a three hour radio talk show every day. You got to fill up … Nowadays, it’s not the daily New York Times, it’s what can I put on the website at 3:00? So Trump has figured out, if he will release rabbits, the news media will chase them. If he doesn’t release rabbits, then the news media will find their own rabbits, and that’s always more dangerous, because their rabbits are more threatening than ours.
So there’s about, remember the day after the inauguration. There was going to be a big women’s demonstration which the New York Times times and CBS news and everybody were going to lovingly cover as one of the great moments in American history, rivaling Washington crossing the Delaware at Christmas. So what does Trump do? He gets in a fight over the crowd size. Everybody says, “Isn’t that really petty?” And they spend hours talking about how petty it is. Do you remember what the coverage was like? Meanwhile, what is the only thing anyone remembers from the women’s march? Madonna saying she dreams of blowing up the White House. I bet you almost no American knows a second thing. Whereas if Trump had been quiet, and allowed them to cover all those things, they would have said a lot of vicious, mean, nasty things – which they actually did say. But none of them could get on TV, because the TV was too busy talking about why are Spicer and Trump saying these things that are not true, and you know they’re not true because I said they’re not true. And they I’m sure were sitting around having a cup of coffee going … Except Trump doesn’t drink coffee. He doesn’t use caffeine. So he’s I guess drinking water or something. I find that very strange. Anyway. You just watch and remember over the next year the rabbit theory of media, and how often they will use it.
Couple other things. He has a very, very good memory. This means for example that there are a number of Never Trumpers who wanted to become Maybe Trumpers. After he won they wanted to become enthusiastic Trumpers, because they’d like to get a job. And because he has a really good memory he goes, “Oh yeah, weren’t you that person that did X? I remember that. It was on July 17th. Remember when you did that? I don’t think you’re going to be with me.” He’s very good at this stuff. But he also has memories about what works and what doesn’t work. He’s having all of these calls, and I think he’s now talked to over 100 leaders around the world. He takes to them as individuals. He remembers them as individuals. And he’s gradually building in his head a much more sophisticated understanding of what’s going on.
He’s also prepared to surround himself with very strong people, because he’s a very strong person. So he’s not intimidated to have a couple marine four star generals in his cabinet, or the head of one of the largest corporations in the world. But at the same time, he promised during the campaign, “I’m going to recruit good people and listen to them.” So I thought the quintessential Trump moment was the other day when he said, “I actually think torture probably works,” and Mattis standing next to him said, “I don’t.” And he turned and said, “I defer to him.” It’s really important. Who is actually implementing the restrictions on coming into the US? General Kelly. How competent is General Kelly? One of the most competent people in the American military in his generation. And he’ll do it very, very professionally. And he’ll do it in a way that will eventually get the job done.
One or two last things. Trump does not believe it’s possible to plan so brilliantly that you’re going to avoid mistakes, and thinks that if you tried to do that, the amount of time it would take would make it impossible. This by the way is the whole problem of NASA as an organization, that they’ve now gotten so good at planning getting to Mars that by the time they get done with all the planning you probably could work on the mountain of plans and get to Mars. But they’ve lost the ability to just go out and make mistakes. The Wright Brothers failed 500 times before they flew. NASA would have cut them off around the third failure. So it’s a fundamentally different model. The Trump model is to move very rapidly, and if you make a mistake, figure it out and respond so quickly that it doesn’t hurt very much.
There’s actually a military doctrine called an oodle loop for observe, orient, decide, act, and then loop back to observe, and the theory is that the side which can do that faster will always win, because they’re observing reality, orienting themselves to what it means, making a decision, acting on the decision, and then looping back. Trump does this intuitively. So he can be very fast, because he’s not sitting around waiting for seven smart planners to run in and give him a plan. He’s probing, pushing, testing. He also intuitively believes in the German model that you starve failure and you feed success. So when something starts to work he wants more of it. When Facebook started to work, he did more Facebook. When Twitter started to work, he did more Twitter. He never got around to trying that out with paid television ads because they were too expensive and he didn’t like them. And he had a core model. “I personally, on television, looking you in the eye, am dramatically more believable than a commercial, and therefore I’ll beat commercials.”
Think about it. To have had that decision in the fall of 15, as somebody who’d never before run, and stick to it? And watch all these guys spend all this money on all these consultants, running all these ads? Talks a tremendous amount of personal courage to do that. I would also say that this is a person who is very much fact based. What I mean by that is, the classical American pragmatism is really the theory that you take the facts and then you develop a philosophy. All the academic world develops a philosophy and then warps the facts to fit their philosophy. And so, why does Trump think that we’ve not succeeded in the Middle East? Because we haven’t succeeded in the Middle East. Which drives the people who’ve had 16 years of investment crazy, because you’re not allowed to think about how much we haven’t succeeded, because they’re the people who didn’t succeed. The people who are the most bitterly anti Trump are the people most involved and not succeeding. Not the US military. The civilian policy people in both parties in this city. Because he’s rendering a judgment.
Now why was he rendering that judgment? Because it wasn’t working. Now how could you tell it wasn’t working? Because if you randomly drove across Iraq, you’d get shot. I know this is bold, out on the edge. He thinks 4000 Americans being shot in Chicago is terrible. Rahm Emmanuel thinks that it’s a social studies experiment. A fundamental different way of thinking. He gathers information differently. And that’s why all the efforts to make him normal, everybody comes in and says, if you hear them describing him in the language that would fit any other political leader, you know automatically they’re wrong. Because he’s not any other political leader, he’s a businessman citizen who happens to hold public office. He has no interest in learning how to be a politician. He has ever interest in getting things done.
Couple last points and then I’ll take a few questions, if that’s all right. This is probably self evident, but he’s a great salesman. I saw Rex Tillerson the other day, and I didn’t know this story. Rex had never met him, and vice president elect Pence called him and said, “Would you mind coming in? We’d like to pick your brain, learn about the world, chat with you,” and he thought okay. Apparently he’d turned down several staff requests earlier. But the vice president calls you, you show up. So he showed up. Rex was on the edge of retiring, he and his wife had all sorts of travel plans. And after two and a half hours people began filtering in, and Trump suddenly switches from the world to Rex, and said, “You do know I want you to be the secretary of state.” He says, “No, I didn’t know you wanted me to be the secretary of state. I thought …”
Now, selling the head of Exxon Mobil on something is not easy. By the time Trump was done, he said, “Well let me go home, talk to my wife,” there were a lot of complexities about getting out of the company early. He came back for a second two and a half hour meeting; he’s now secretary of state designate. Well that happened over and over again. I saw Wilbur Ross, who is not normally excitable. I saw him the other night at the British Embassy with the prime minister. He’s giddy. He’s so excited. He’s so convinced this is going to make a difference. His energy level, his desire to get out there and create jobs, and negotiate deals, and get to better agreements – and Trump is doing this across the whole system, because he’s a very good salesman. Notice how clever he is about what he sells. The hats didn’t say Trump. They said “Make America Great Again.” Because he knew if he sold you on that, you’d buy Trump on the way in. And that Make America Great Again is a much more powerful emotional bond.
Lastly, I think he will keep evolving. This is my closing. Whatever I end up writing and publishing this spring, I’m sure I would write significantly differently two years from now. This is a person who learns every day. He’s going to keep learning, he’s going to keep growing, he will not be the same person a year from now. He is a natural team builder. That’s how he got a worldwide company, which he built and he grew. He’s now a natural team builder with the cabinet. He’ll presently be a natural team builder with the entire federal government, and he hopes to be a natural team builder for the whole country. And he’ll do that by learning and selling, learning and selling. I think this is a great adventure. Having served with President Reagan, who was extraordinary, having watched the collapse of the Soviet Union which frankly occurred much sooner than I thought it would – and that was a pretty big week too – I think we’re going to find the next few years to be exhilarating, challenging, tumultuous in some ways – our friends on the left will be screaming probably five out of seven days a work – but it’ll be all right. Many of them will eventually convert, a few of them won’t, and some will go to Canada. That’s okay.
Understanding Trump and Trumpism Part 7: Trump is at the Heart of Trumpism
- on January 31, 2017
Newt concludes his Understanding Trump and Trumpism series at The Heritage Foundation by focusing on the heart of Trumpism.