Reince Priebus came to see Trump at his NYC offices today, after which Trump held a news briefing outside his building. The crowd seemed not to be able to get enough of him, and Trump obliged by taking more questions than he’d planned. Anyone watching this briefing would come away scratching their head, for the man doesn’t fit the image painted of him by the conservative news media. Buffoon? Unpresidential? Nativist? Racist? Demagogue? Absolutely not.
Trump was in control, happy to answer any question without looking at notes, and not sounding like he’d been briefed by consultants. The press was remarkably friendly, and he responded in kind. The Jorge Ramos incident still fresh in their minds, everyone behaved themselves.
The purpose of Priebus’s visit was to get Trump to sign a pledge that he wouldn’t run as a third party candidate should he not get the nomination. Trump signed the pledge and Priebus promised he’d be dealt with fairly. In doing so, Trump didn’t give anything up, as that’s been Trump’s position all along. He wanted to be treated like any other candidate, and if he lost in a fair fight he’d support the candidate who won. On the other hand, Trump came away with something he didn’t have before the meeting: a promise of fair dealing by the Republican Party.
This is an example of what Trump’s “art of the deal.” He wins and the other party likes him better for it. It’s what Trump means when he says he’d negotiate better trade deals. Making an enemy of the guy on the other side of the table is not the way a smooth negotiator operates. The point is to get what you want and leave the other guy feeling warm and cozy about you.
On the subject of wanting folks in America to speak English, Trump said mastering the English language was the way for immigrants to get ahead here. Integration into the dominant society is a precondition to a successful life in that society. I don’t see this as nativism or racism. Trump genuinely wants people to be successful and this is the way to do it.
On immigration and borders, Trump reiterated that a country needs to have borders. This isn’t xenophobia. If you want to see what it’s like when a country’s borders are not defensible, go to Syria or Somalia. And he’s all for legal immigration, which he says should be a positive subject. Let’s bring in, and keep, talented people who will bring value to the Americans who are already here. That’s what Canada does, and Canada reaps the benefit of the folks we turn away.
George Borjas, a Harvard economist and immigration specialist, has shown empirically that, under our present system, immigration — legal or otherwise — is a net loss to Americans. It takes several generations for the children of poor immigrants from other cultures to do as well as other Americans. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take in the poor of other countries who want to work and get ahead, but we can’t afford to do so if we don’t also take people who can add value from the beginning. We need both to keep our country vibrant and viable.
Trump was clearly not in favor of governing by executive orders and memoranda. That’s what George Will calls Caesarism. Trump’s way is to go see people, to get folks to come to your office, sit down and talk. That’s the art of the deal. Unfortunately, Obama never read the book.
On the matter of Jeb Bush, Trump reiterated that Bush was low-energy. Trump seemed sorry for him. Fighting does not come naturally to Bush, but he was being made to go negative by his donors, who were plying him with money to do so. And what was the point, Trump asked. It’s not like Trump voters would go over to Bush if Trump dropped out of the race. Better, Trump said, for Bush to use the money to tout his own achievements.
He briefly mentioned jobs and infrastructure as two issues that had to be dealt with on an urgent basis, and touted his ability to deal with these. The reason people liked him Trump said, was that they believed in his competence.
And no, he wouldn’t cut Social Security. He’d pay for it with the wealth that he’d create. We need to see the details of this plan, but it’s early yet. He said that China’s bubble had been inevitable, but he doesn’t think that we are threatened by it.
Near the end, he was for some reason invited to comment negatively on Kanye West, which he refused to do. He only counter-attacks, Trump said. This is a winning survival strategy, according to game theorists. It’s called Tit-for-Tat. To a non-economist, it’s an eye for an eye. It’s been proven superior to any other game strategy these folks have come up with.
Finally, Trump introduced the Indonesian Speaker of the House, who’d brought a delegation to see him. The Speaker beamed, and agreed that Indonesians like Trump.
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