After Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election, a certain conventional wisdom congealed within the pundit class: Donald Trump’s success was owed to the Democratic abandonment of the white working class and the party’s emphasis on identity politics. By failing to emphasize a strong economic message, the thinking went, the party had ceded the election to Trump... the meantime, Trump’s administration has seen that economic message almost entirely subsumed by the focus of congressional Republicans on tax cuts for the wealthy and plans to shrink the social safety net. But even as the message has shifted, there hasn’t been a corresponding erosion in Trump’s support. The economics were never the point. The cruelty was the point... Nevertheless, among those who claim to oppose identity politics, the term is applied exclusively to efforts by historically marginalized constituencies to claim rights others already possess... Trump’s campaign, with its emphasis on state violence against religious and ethnic minorities—Muslim bans, mass deportations, “nationwide stop-and-frisk”—does not count under this definition, but left-wing opposition to discriminatory state violence does... A November panel at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on the threat posed by “identity politics,” with no apparent irony, will feature an all-white panel... But the entire closing argument of the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm elections is a naked appeal to identity politics—a politics based in appeals to the loathing of, or membership in, a particular group. The GOP’s plan to slash the welfare state in order to make room for more high-income tax cuts is unpopular among the public at large. In order to preserve their congressional majority, Republicans have taken to misleading voters by insisting that they oppose cuts or changes to popular social insurance programs, while stoking fears about
- Latino immigrants,
- Muslim terrorists, and
- black criminality.
.. In truth, without that deception, identity politics is all the Trump-era Republican Party has.
.. Trump considers the media “the enemy of the people” only when it successfully undermines his falsehoods; at all other times, it is a force multiplier, obeying his attempts to shift topics of conversation from substantive policy matters to racial scaremongering.
.. The tenets of objectivity by which American journalists largely abide hold that reporters may not pass judgment on the morality of certain political tactics, only on their effectiveness. It’s a principle that unintentionally rewards immorality by turning questions of right and wrong into debates over whether a particular tactic will help win an election... In the closing weeks of the campaign, the president has promised a nonexistent tax cut to the middle class after two years in which unified Republican control of government produced only a windfall for the rich.. Trump’s nativism, and the Republican Party’s traditional hostility to government intervention on behalf of the poor, have had a happier marriage than some might have expected.
.. But that wasn’t what Trump promised—rather, his 2016 campaign pledged both generous social-insurance benefits for working-class white Republicans and cruelty for undeserving nonwhites.
.. Republicans are scrambling to insist that they will cut taxes on the middle class, offer robust health-care protections, and protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, even as GOP leaders in Congress plot to slash all three to cut the deficit created by their upper-income tax cuts.
.. When armed agents of the state gun down innocent people in the street, when the president attempts to ban people from entering the U.S. based on their faith, or when the administration shatters immigrant families, these are burdens that religious and ethnic minorities must bear silently as the price of their presence in the United States.
And in the impoverished moral imagination of Trumpist political discourse, any and all white Americans who also oppose such things must be doing so insincerely in an effort to seek approval.
.. America is not, strictly speaking, a center-right or center-left nation. Rather, it remains the nation of the Dixiecrats, in which the majority’s desire for equal opportunity and a robust welfare state is mediated by the addiction of a large chunk of the polity to racial hierarchy. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Party’s dominant period in American history coincided with its representation of both warring impulses and ended when it chose one over the other. The midterms offer a similar choice for the American voter, in rather stark terms.
But my family said to me – and Don has said this, and Ivanka, and my wife has said this – “Be more presidential.” Because I can be very presidential. I jokingly say, I can be more presidential than any president that this country has ever had except for Abraham Lincoln, because he was [unclear]. Right? You can’t out-top Abraham Lincoln.
BW: Isn’t that what people want to see now?
DT: Yeah. Yeah, but they said… Yes.
BW: In the Republican Party, I mean . . . there is a lot of angst and rage and distress.
DT: A lot. Record-setting.
DT: I bring…
BW: And you have to tame that rage, don’t you?
DT: Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I’m not saying that’s an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out.
BW: You bring what out?
DT: I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I think it was . . . . I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do. I also bring great unity out, ultimately. I’ve had many occasions like this, where people have hated me more than any human being they’ve ever met. And after it’s all over, they end up being my friends. And I see that happening here. But when my wife and Ivanka and the rest of my family, for the most part — Tiffany, my daughter, she’s a very smart young woman, she’s up at University of Pennsylvania doing great — and she said to me the same thing.
BW: Be presidential?
DT: Be presidential. Now . . . .
BW: When did they start saying this to you?
DT: Well, they really started saying it before the last debate. The last debate. And if you noticed, my attitude was much different in the last debate, okay? But I said, wait a minute. According to every single — you know, Drudge, and all of the polls, they do these online – they have polls for everything. They do debate polls. And you know what I’m talking about.
DT: Hundreds of thousands of people vote. I won every single debate. Every single debate. And I was rough and I was nasty. And I was treated nastily by the other side too. And then Rubio went, you know, Rubio went Don Rickles on me, and all of a sudden he became cute and he started getting extremely nasty. And I had to get even nastier to him. Now, what happened —and then started with the Little Marco. Come on, Little Marco. Little Marco over here said this and that. And he didn’t want to — he didn’t stop that, he didn’t stop that because he was told, oh, he should stop. He stopped that because I was outdoing him. But here’s the thing.
BW: We understand the history of this. We followed.
DT: Right, but here’s the thing.
RC: So is it . . . .
DT: Okay, so my family comes up. Don. My daughter Tiffany, who’s a great kid. Ivanka. My wife. And we were together. They said, “Be presidential, Dad, be presidential.” Last debate. I said, wait a minute. If I get hit, I’m going to hit back. That’s not going to look very presidential, because I hit back and you hit back. I said, I’m going to give it a shot. And I was actually — you know, the last debate was actually a much different debate . . . .
DT: In terms of my tone. And I actually got my highest ratings on that debate.
RC: But I’m just struck by — we’re asking the questions about being presidential. So many other people have asked, can Trump pivot, can he shift to a different kind of tone? And correct me if I’m wrong, but my view, listening to you, is you actually don’t really have that much interest in changing too much.
DT: Not yet. Not yet.
RC: But it seems your natural inclination is to fight . . . .
DT: My — yes, always to fight. My natural inclination is to win. And after I win, I will be so presidential that you won’t even recognize me. You’ll be falling asleep, you’ll be so bored.
BW: Really. But when Ted Cruz said what he said, and then you said, I don’t need his support.
DT: I don’t need his support. I don’t believe I need it.
BW: Now, what would your family say to you?
DT: Well, what I said is, I don’t need his . . . .
BW: What would a president say? What would Reagan say? What would Lincoln say if the opposition came and said whatever they said, and then you said . . . .
DT: Well Bob . . . .
BW: Hey, look, we are going to bind up . . . .
BW: Not the nation’s wounds at this point, the party’s . . . .
RC: You think maybe you do need Cruz’s support? Maybe you do need it at some point.
DT: I don’t think — I have the people’s support. I have a tremendous group. And by the way, let me just, before we get off that one — because you were saying about Cruz — it wasn’t like he embraced me.
BW: No, he didn’t.
DT: It wasn’t like he said, oh, I will endorse Donald Trump. He is so wonderful, and if I don’t make it he is somebody that I think would be fantastic. Well, he didn’t exactly say that, Bob. He said . . . . He was pained having to answer the question.
DT: So it wasn’t like I’m saying, I don’t want his support, as he says great things about me. So I had no guilt whatsoever saying it. I do believe it.
BW: Do you think you’re going to be at a point where you’re going to have to call him and say, “Ted, I need you?”
DT: I’ll never have to call him. I may be at a point where I call him, but I never will . . . .
BW: And what would you say? If you won the nomination, would you call him and say . . . .
DT: I would call him to say congratulations on a great job. Because out of 17 people, you beat 16. Okay? Which is pretty good, to put it mildly. You know, we had a lot of talent. When I first ran, and this is where I had some doubts, because what do I know? I didn’t know most of these people. Although I’d been very political. I’d given a lot of money. I gave $350,000 last year to the Republican Governors Association. I was a member of the establishment, if you think about it, and very high standing because of . . . .
BW: Could you say to Ted Cruz, “Ted, the coalition-building is going to begin right now. I need your support and help and advice?”
DT: I don’t think I’d say it that way, but I would be able . . . .
BW: How would you say it?
DT: . . . to get along with some of the people that I was competing against. Now, I will say this: Some of the people that I was competing against, I’m not sure they can ever go back to me. I was very rough on Jeb. I was told when I first started that Jeb was the preemptive favorite. He was going to . . . .
RC: Right. But you don’t have a strategy for these “Never Trump” people? You would think if you’re the nominee, you would have to find a way to bring Bush into the fold, to bring a Rubio into the fold.
DT: I don’t think — look . . . .
RC: Do you have a strategy for that at all?
DT: I think that’s overrated, what you’re saying, about bringing them into the fold. At the same time, I think I would be successful with many of them. I don’t know that I’ll be successful with Jeb Bush.
BW: How about Cruz? What would you say to him, Donald?
DT: I think I would . . . .
BW: Because this is really — I think this . . . .
DT: Yeah, I understand.
BW: We get pivot points, and we’re going from a phase of . . . .
DT: I think Cruz and I could get along very well. I actually think so. We got along very well for six months.
BW: Would you say, “I need your support?”
DT: We got along very well for six months when I was attacking everybody.
BW: Right. But now you’re going to have to reach out to him, aren’t you, if this is going to work?
DT: Well, we’ll have to see what happens. I don’t think now, Bob, because he wants to win and I want to win. And I guess Kasich wants to win, although Kasich’s only won one out of 28, right? That’s not so good.
RC: Our big picture is how Reagan in 1980 competed against George H. W. Bush in the primary, then put him on the ticket.
DT: Yeah, and got along. And truly disliked each other.
RC: And put him on the ticket.
RC: Considers him to be part of the team, team of rivals. Could you have a team of rivals in a general election?
DT: I would never want to say that now. Right now, I just want to win. And I don’t want to say who’s going to be — as an example, people are saying, you should pick so-and-so as vice president. It’s just too early for that. In my opinion, it’s too . . . .
RC: You have a few names on your mind about VP?
DT: I do. I do have names.
RC: Can you share one or two?
DT: I’d rather not do it now.
RC: One or two?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: But Dr. Carson’s come to the campaign, and Chris Christie’s come to the campaign, and they were rivals in the past. And they said there was one person who we believe is going to make the country great again.
DT: Very good point.
CL: And look, nobody hit Dr. Carson harder than Mr. Trump did. It was very fair, and he made a very impressive speech in Iowa.
DT: The only thing I did with Dr. Carson — because I respect him a lot — but I just talked about his book. Because he wrote things in his book, and all I did was quote from his book. Because, you know, it was tough stuff what he wrote about himself. He wrote about himself. It’s an amazing story. And he . . . .
BW: Without names . . . .
DT: . . . understands that.
BW: . . . as vice president, what would be the role and responsibilities of your vice president, should you be elected, should you win the nomination?
DT: Well, the number one role is to be a great president if something should happen. Okay? That’s always got to be the number one role for a vice president. After that, I would say, frankly, somebody that can help you get elected. And then thirdly, somebody that helps you with the Senate and with the House. So it would be a political person. In other words, I don’t need to have another great businessman come in and — I don’t need that. What I do . . . .
BW: Somebody who knows dreaded Washington, perhaps.
DT: Somebody that can walk into the Senate and who’s been friendly with these guys for 25 years, and people for 25 years. And can get things done. So I would 95 percent see myself picking a political person as opposed to somebody from the outside.
BW: And would that person be integral to the governing team you would have in the White House? Go to all meetings, have total access?
DT: Yes, I would. . . . Sure. Sure. This would be a vice president — I would like to have somebody. . . . For instance, somebody like Ben Carson. When Ben Carson came to me — not necessarily vice president — but when he came to me, he called, he said, “What you’re doing is amazing. It’s a movement. And you see that.” When I announce I’m going to go to Tampa three days before, and we go there three days later, there’s 25,000 people in the stadium that houses the professional sports teams . . . .
RC: No, it says a lot that — you are acknowledging that you don’t want to have another outsider as part of your team.
RC: You need an insider.
DT: Somebody like Ben Carson, he never once said to me, could I have a position?
RC: He doesn’t fit that model.
DT: No, no, he doesn’t. But he will be absolutely somebody that I’d love to have involved with us at a high level, at a very high level. Chris Christie. Chris called, he said, I’d love to be involved. And I said, that’s great. I’ve never been a big one for endorsements. Although Tom Brady loves me in New England; I think that’s why I got 50 percent. Okay? Tom Brady loves me. [Laughter] That helped.
RC: So, sticking on this presidency theme for a second, I don’t think a lot of people know that much about how much you value discretion, loyalty within your business.
DT: Great loyalty, yes. Great discretion, great loyalty.
RC: But it’s different when you’re running the federal government.
DT: Well, it’s . . . .
RC: And one thing I always wondered, are you going to make employees of the federal government sign nondisclosure agreements?
DT: I think they should. You know, when somebody — and I see it all the time. . . . And I don’t know, there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this. But when people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don’t like that. I mean, I’ll be honest. And people would say, oh, that’s terrible, you’re taking away his right to free speech. Well, he’s going in. . . . I would say . . . I do have nondisclosure deals. That’s why you don’t read that. . . .
BW: With everyone? Corey has one, Hope has one.
DT: Corey has one, Hope has one. Did you sign one?
HH: Of course.
CL: Stephen [Miller, Trump’s policy adviser] has one.
DT: Stephen has one.
CL: [Donald Trump, Jr.] has one.
DTJ.: I don’t have one. I’m in the middle of the book. [Laughter]
CL: Don has two. [Laughter]
DT: I know, I forgot, he’s the one I’m most worried about.
DTJ: I’m not getting next week’s paycheck until I sign one.
DT: I have a very, very, very prominent businessman who’s right now got a person — he’s involved in litigation, terrible litigation with somebody that worked for him in a very close level. And I said why are you . . . .
BW: Do you think these are airtight agreements?
DT: Yeah, totally. I think they’re very airtight. They’re very . . . .
BW: And that no one could write a book or . . . .
DT: I think they’re extremely airtight. And anybody that violated it — let’s put it this way: it’s so airtight that I’ve never had . . . you know, I’ve never had a problem with this sort of thing.
BW: Let us ask this . . . .
DT: By the way, this man called me, he said, how is it that you don’t have — as famous as you are? And I sent him a copy of the agreement. He said, this is genius. And he now has people that go to work for him. I don’t like people that take your money and then say bad things about you. Okay? You know, they take your . . . .
RC: But it’s so different when you’re in the federal government.
DT: It’s different, I agree. It’s different.
RC: But you are recommending nondisclosure…
DT: And I tell you this, I will have to think about it. I will have to think about it. That’s a different thing, that I’m running a private company and I’m paying people lots of money, and then they go out and…
BW: The taxpayers are paying the other people in the federal government.
DT: Sure. Sure. They don’t do a great job, and then you fire them and they end up writing a book about you. So it’s different. But I will say that in the federal government it’s a different thing. So it’s something I would think about. But you know, I do right now — I have thousands and thousands of employees, many thousands, and every one of them has an agreement, has a . . . I call it a confidentiality . . . .
“Debating the Trump Presidency” with
Public debate took place on October 12, 2018, at the University of Notre Dame.
The US-Saudi relationship has been a rocky one, and its setbacks and scandals have mostly played out away from the public eye. This time, too, common interests and mutual dependence will almost certainly prevail over the desire to hold the Saudis to the standards expected of other close US allies... But significant damage to bilateral ties, let alone a diplomatic rupture, is not in the cards, even if all the evidence points to a state-sanctioned assassination. Saudi Arabia is simply too crucial to US interests to allow the death of one man to affect the relationship. And with new allies working with old lobbyists to stem the damage, it is unlikely that the episode will lead to anything more than a lovers’ quarrel... Saudi Arabia’s special role in American foreign policy is a lesson that US presidents learn only with experience. When Bill Clinton assumed the presidency, his advisers were bent on distancing the new administration from George H.W. Bush’s policies. Among the changes sought by Clinton’s national security adviser, Anthony Lake, was an end to the unfettered White House access that Saudi Arabian Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan enjoyed during the Reagan and Bush presidencies. Bandar was to be treated like any other ambassador... when Clinton needed a quote from the Koran to go alongside those from the Old and New Testament for a ceremony marking an Israeli-Palestinian accord, he turned to the Saudi ambassador... Before Donald Trump assumed office, he frequently bashed the Saudis and threatened to cease oil purchases from the Kingdom, grouping them with freeloaders who had taken advantage of America. But after the Saudis feted him with sword dances and bestowed on him the highest civilian award when he visited the Kingdom on his first trip abroad as US president, he changed his tune... Even the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, could not damage the relationship. Though al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, himself a Saudi national, recruited 15 of the 19 hijackers from the Kingdom, senior Saudi officials dismissed the implications. In a November 2002 interview, the Saudi interior minister simply deemed it “impossible,” before attempting to redirect blame by accusing Jews of “exploiting” the attacks and accusing the Israeli intelligence services of having relationships with terrorist organizations... Bandar provided key insights and advice as President George W. Bush planned the 2003 Iraq invasion.
.. But Saudi Arabia wears too many hats for America to abandon it easily. Though the US no longer needs Saudi oil, thanks to its shale reserves,
- it does need the Kingdom to regulate production and thereby stabilize markets.
- American defense contractors are dependent on the billions the Kingdom spends on military hardware.
- Intelligence cooperation is crucial to ferreting out jihadists and thwarting their plots. But, most important,
- Saudi Arabia is the leading Arab bulwark against Iranian expansionism. The Kingdom has supported proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen to contain Iran’s machinations. Any steps to hold the Saudis responsible for Khashoggi’s death would force the US to assume responsibilities it is far more comfortable outsourcing.
.. When the United Kingdom, the region’s colonial master and protector, decided that it could no longer afford such financial burdens, US leaders ruled out taking its place. Policymakers were too focused on Vietnam to contemplate action in another theater. Instead, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger conceived a policy whereby Iran and Saudi Arabia, backed by unlimited US military hardware, would police the Gulf. While Iran stopped playing its role following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Saudis still do.
.. It is not only defense contractors who are going to bat for the Saudis. Before Khashoggi became Washington’s topic du jour, the Saudis paid about ten lobbying firms no less than $759,000 a month to sing their praises in America’s halls of power.
.. Former Saudi bashers such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s confidant Dore Gold now meet with the Kingdom’s officials. Following the 2013 military coup that toppled Egypt’s democratically elected government, Israeli leaders urged US officials to embrace the generals. They are likely to do the same today if US anti-Saudi sentiment imperils their Iran strategy.
.. in the wake of Khashoggi’s disappearance, common interests and mutual dependence will almost certainly prevail over the desire to hold the Saudis to the standards expected of other close US allies.