President Trump has outdone Ronald Reagan in at least one respect: unrealistically rosy forecasts for economic growth. In 1981, President Reagan’s first budget predicted growth well above the consensus of private forecasters, in a bid to justify large tax cuts and increased defense spending. When the promised growth did not materialize, the deficit and debt ballooned.
Now Mr. Trump is leading the economy down a primrose path that is even more unrealistic.
.. There are two components to economic growth: adding more workers and increasing their productivity. Faster growth in the 1980s was the result of the former, an expanding workforce driven by two irreproducible demographic factors: the baby boomers’ entering their prime working years, and women’s continuing influx into the workforce.
.. Today the baby boomers are hitting retirement. As a result, Reagan-era productivity gains of 1.6% a year would now generate economic growth of only 1.7%.
.. driving growth up to or above 3%. But it is not very likely. My simulations, based on historical data, suggest a 1 in 25 chance of hitting this target over the next decade.
.. the budget effectively double-counts the tax cut’s economic effect—using it once to pay for the tax cut itself and a second time to boost revenue by $2.2 trillion, so as to show a lower projected path for the deficit.
Trump gave the Post team more than 20 hours of interviews but declined to give permission for them to talk to his siblings or past associates who’d signed non-disclosure agreements.
.. They grew up with a lot of the kinds of accoutrements of wealth that their neighbors and friends didn’t have.
And Donald Trump was very cognizant of this. And when he was in high school, he began what became a lifelong pattern of trying to be one of the guys, one of the people, close to people, very much a the kind of plainspoken character we’ve come to know. And he took pride always in having this kind of easy rapport and connection with the construction workers on his father’s sites and with the other blue-collar workers around town. He saw himself as someone who could connect with blue-collar people in a way that others of his wealth might not.
.. He was by both his friend’s description and his own a rambunctious kid who got in trouble a lot and who was a bit of a ruffian. From the youngest age, about age 6 or 7, he pelted the neighbor’s toddler with rocks from across the yard. He pulled the pig tails of a classmate. He got into a physical altercation with one of his teachers.
And so he was someone who was kind of a rambunctious kid, even obnoxious by some accounts. And he says that he hasn’t changed since second grade. So that kind of in-your-face provocateur character that we’ve come to see in the campaign is something that traces back very cleanly and consistently to this childhood as kind of a tough kid.
DAVIES: I have to ask, did he crave attention then?
FISHER: (Laughter) Yes, he certainly did. And he was someone who was very full of himself. He had some good friends early on. But after he left middle school to go to the military academy, from then on it’s hard to find any evidence of close relationships, friendships. In fact, when I asked him about friendships, he said he really doesn’t have friendships of the kind that most people would describe. He said, if you think about friendships as people going out and having dinner together, he said he doesn’t have anyone like that and never really has.
.. And yet what we’re told by people very close to him, and including women who were publicly linked to him romantically, is that one would never end up in the bedroom with Donald Trump. In fact, he would go upstairs to his apartment by himself with a bag of candy and watch TV. And that was his pattern. That was his preferred way to spend an evening. And the romances that he touted on the gossip pages were not necessarily actual romances. They were for show.
DAVIES: There is a moment late in the book when you ask him to name some close friends, and he says…
FISHER: Yeah, I asked him well, who would you turn to if you’re going through a troubled time, if you have some problem that you want to discuss? Are there any friends you could turn to? And he paused and he was uncharacteristically quiet and almost humble, and he said, well, I don’t really have anyone quite like that. I would turn to my children. And he does have a close relationship with his older children, his adult children.
And it’s interesting, he followed the same pattern with his children that his father did with him where when Donald was growing up, he found that his father was actually kind of cold and distant in the early years. But when Donald was old enough in his mid-teens to spend time at the office, he would go there and hang out with his father and go out and collect rents together and drive around to the various properties. And they really bonded over the business, learning the business.
Donald has now done the same thing with his children. Each of them lived with their mothers once the couples had divorced and were really quite distant from their father until, again, that period in the teens when they were able to come to the office and learn the family business and become a part of that. And that’s when Donald Trump really engaged with his kids as he had not previously.
.. And one night in Manhattan, he walked into a nightclub that he belonged to. And there was a man named Roy Cohn.
And Roy Cohn, of course, is the famous – or infamous – lawyer who was the aide to Joseph McCarthy of the Army-McCarthy hearings that was held in the 1950s. And Donald got to talking to Roy Cohn and told him about this racial bias case brought by the federal government.
And Cohn, who himself had fought the federal government, said, don’t settle. Fight like hell. When they hit you, hit back 10 times harder. And the bottom line is after this discussion at the nightclub, Donald Trump decided that he would, in fact, fight like hell. And he absorbed a philosophy that he maintains to this day. When you’re hit, hit back 10 times harder.
.. The sure-fire way to get sued by Donald Trump apparently is to question the amount of his wealth, the extent of his wealth. And he said as much to us several times that – that’s something that he gets quite angered by. In fact, when Comedy Central, the cable channel, did a roast, a celebrity roast of Donald Trump, the word was put out to all of the comedians coming on the show that you can joke about anything to do with Donald Trump and his family – you could even joke about his children – but do not question the extent of his wealth. And the comedians abided by that rule.
And similarly, when Trump did sue Timothy O’Brien, the author of a previous biography, the thing that ticked him off, the thing that triggered the lawsuit was in fact a question – a chapter that goes into just how wealthy is Donald Trump really.
.. DAVIES: You know, a lot of people call Donald Trump a narcissist. Listen to me – a lot of people – that’s the way Donald Trump describes things that – when he wants to make…
FISHER: (Laughter) You’re not saying it, just a lot of people are saying it.
DAVIES: Well, more than one observer has suggested that he seems to have narcissistic tendencies. But I bring this up because you note something he said in, I guess, one of his books about the value of narcissism and successful business pursuits.
FISHER: He wrote in one of his books about his belief that narcissism is an extremely valuable and important asset for a business person. Only through narcissism, he wrote, can someone have the kind of drive and dedication to their task and to their work that would allow them to be successful on this grand scale. So he truly believes this about himself.
.. The measures, decided at a meeting of the government’s security cabinet on Sunday, include allowing construction of Palestinian residences in the area of the West Bank under Israeli control, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Monday, a controversial issue for right-wing Israelis who don’t want to give up the land.
Ann Coulter’s role in inspiring some of Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policy, she tweeted – and I’m not sure if this was after his campaign announcement announcing that he was running – she tweeted (reading) I don’t care if Donald Trump wants to perform abortions in the White House after this immigration policy paper.
And I’ve just been trying to imagine somebody like William F. Buckley or George Will tweeting something like that or ever saying something like that. It’s just inconceivable, like the rhetoric has changed so much within the right-wing media. And…
DRAPER: Well, you’re not the only one who thinks that, Terry. The conservative talk show host – and in a lot of ways intellectual godfather in conservative talk radio Mark Levin tweeted back after Ann Coulter’s tweet, which, indeed, was immediately following Trump’s announcement speech. Levin had said this has to be one of the more pathetic statements that I’ve ever read.
So a lot of people who are horrified, of course, Ann Coulter has made a career out of horrifying people. And she – among her many gifts, understatement is not one of them. She also had said that that speech was the greatest thing written since “Magna Carta.” But, of course, this was self-glorification, too, since Ann Coulter recognized the rhetoric as her own.
.. GROSS: Do you think that the impact of talk radio and cable news is changing in terms of politics in America?
DRAPER: Well, what’s clear is that talk radio could dictate, basically, the tenor of the electorate. And I don’t think that that has taken place in this election cycle. The numbers show that talk radio is still a very healthy phenomenon. Though, it does not own a monopoly on conservative activism the way it did in the 1990s when Rush Limbaugh ruled the roost. Because of social media, because of Breitbart, because of Drudge – they are not the only voices that count.
.. DRAPER: Well, I think that no area of the overall Republican family has had such an awkward time with the Trump candidacy than Fox News. I mean, I think even more than the Republican National Committee. And you can actually see, on the air at Fox News, people who have made a choice to throw themselves utterly behind Trump and others who have been skeptics and others who have been vigorously opposed to him.
.. But it’s notable to me that Trump, while continually denouncing the media, is in his own way accessible to a number of us. He’s been talking to reporters from The New York Times, including myself, constantly for months and months now, where Hillary Clinton, for example, notably has not. And now, I’ve been at rallies where we are confined to this media pen and where Trump makes a big exercise out of pointing out to everyone in the audience that there is the disgusting, dishonest media. Lots of booing ensues. I’ve, you know, been a journalist for several decades so I’ve not ever been concerned that this is going to rise to a level of violence. I hope that I’m not proved wrong on that.
But to me, this is not the civil rights era and being cursed at by people in the crowd is not the same thing as what our colleagues endured 50 years ago going down to the Deep South. But it can be alarming for the uninitiated. And – but my view is that it’s for show.
I mean, Trump very much sees himself as an entertainer whose foremost job is to keep people listening. And he has said as much, that when it looks like he’s losing the crowd he’ll start talking about building the wall and having Mexico pay for it.
.. I’m saying we hoped this a year or a year and a half ago – that this election might actually provide an opportunity to sort of build at least a rickety bridge between both sides that there’d be some healing after the divisiveness of the last really 16 years or some, perhaps longer.
But there’s no end in sight to this. I think that if Trump becomes president and he abuses his authority, there will be articles of impeachment. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, the House Republicans, already lying in wait due to the Benghazi and email server situation. We’ll also be contemplating articles of impeachment. I simply do not see a way in which things become better
.. GROSS: You mentioned that Trump is good at flattering people, and that’s – your implication is that that’s kind of a tool that he uses.
DRAPER: Well, I have personal experience with him, going back to my first encounter with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago when he walked in, saw me and said nobody told me he was such a handsome guy.
DRAPER: And then throughout what turned out to be about a four-hour evening, Trump, you know, was constantly asking me what I thought about certain members of the media, what I thought about his chances in a particular – the state of Wisconsin, what I thought about particular commercials that other candidates were putting up. And I – as I mentioned, really couldn’t tell whether or not he was acutely interested in my opinions or wanted me to feel like that he was interested in my opinions or if he just wanted to hear my opinion, so he knew where I stood, not so that he would follow my opinions.
But, nonetheless, to be around a guy who is a billionaire and has achieved a lot, I think, you know, would probably – that would be like a momentous thing for someone. I can see how for individuals who have not been asked their opinions before by major political figures that Donald Trump doing so would make them feel like, wow, I’m a Donald Trump consultant. And my my own view is that – and I mentioned this in the story – that lest I would have had any kind of illusions that Trump really valued my insights relating to his prospects that just a few days later, I saw him on the campaign rope-line, you know, asking the very same question to total strangers. So this is just something that Trump does.