Donald Trump was interviewed by a team of reporters from the New York Times yesterday. It was interesting for numerous reasons: one, the rocky relationship that had developed between Trump and the newspaper; two, the fact that they decided to print the interview absolutely verbatim, with no editorial content (which means we get a lot of stream of consciousness Trump, with sentences such as, “I was just telling Arthur that I went around and did speeches in the pretty much 11 different places, that were, the massive crowds we were getting.”); three, the widely reported fact that Trump seemed to moderate a lot of his views from the campaign, particularly the more right of centre ones.
The first two points need no further comment (if you want elaboration on the second one, read the full transcript. I’ll warn you now there’s a lot of stuff about how Trump “won and won big.”) but the third is real news. He pretty much disavowed his desire to see Hillary prosecuted, said he was “open minded” about whether climate change was man-made (a huge divergence from his previous “it’s all a Chinese hoax” stance), distanced himself from reinstituting waterboarding…..he pretty much distanced himself from everything right-wing in his campaign that he was directly asked about (there wasn’t a question on a Muslim registry, sadly).
The stuff he reaffirmed from his campaign? All the leftie material. So the 1 trillion dollar Corbynista infrastructure spending package, that he said was going ahead (although no further concrete details were given). Even the immigration and Obamacare stuff he turned around into left-wing sounding proposals: the immigration work would be all about making sure that working poor Americans didn’t have their wages undercut, and although again there was little in the way of detail, he made it sound like he wants to repeal Obamacare to put something more state heavy (i.e. more socialised) in place.
The one area in which he was defiant was his right to conduct his business affairs anyway he chooses while he is in office, insisting that the law is on his side on this one. He’s technically right, but this is one area people of all political persuasions could eventually get upset about, depending on how it is actually handled by Trump.
What I got out of reading the transcript (other than understanding that Trump really did win “big”) was that Trump is a guy who really, really wants to be liked. By everyone. So he speaks to the New York Times and suddenly he’s a hard-headed liberal. Would be interesting to see a full interview with a right of centre outlet, to see a change of weather. But actually, I think he really is trying to love bomb American liberals at the moment. It’s as if he’s saying “everything I said in the campaign, that was all for show. Now I just want what’s best for all of us. That’s the real Donald.”
What’s becoming clearer is that the Republicans may find it a lot harder to get all of the uber right-wing stuff through that they are dreaming of at the moment. Trump seems determined to be loved by everyone, including liberals, and I think he means all of the big state stuff. Whether he gets reigned in by the actual Republicans around him will be the central question of his first year as president.
The real question around Trump is that instead of having a president as defined by a set of campaign promises and a recognisable political stance, America is about to be governed by one man’s personality and the whims it takes at any given time. How that plays out, we get to see in real time. Hooray for us.