Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Trump's Strategy

Slate Star Codex was curious enough about Trump to read The Art of the Deal (published in 1988), and he extracted some good bits. First, here is Trump's basic formula for success:
One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It’s in the nature of the job, and I understand that. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you…

The other thing I do when I talk with reporters is to be straight. I try not to deceive them or to be defensive, because those are precisely the ways most people get themselves into trouble with the press. Instead, when a reporter asks me a tough question, I try to frame a positive answer, even if that means shifting the ground. For example, if someone asks me what negative effects the world’s tallest building might have on the West Side, I turn the tables and talk about how New Yorkers deserve the world’s tallest building, and what a boost it will give the city to have it again. When a reporter asks why I build only for the rich, I note that the rich aren’t the only ones who benefit from my buildings. I explain that I put thousands of people to work who might otherwise be collecting unemployment, and that I add to the city’s tax base every time I build a new project. I also point out that buildings like Trump Tower have helped spark New York’s renaissance.

The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.
That explains a lot. On the other hand:
You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.

I think of Jimmy Carter. After he lost the election to Ronald Reagan, Carter came to see me in my office. He told me he was seeking contributions to the Jimmy Carter Library. I asked how much he had in mind. And he said, “Donald, I would be very appreciative if you contributed five million dollars.”

I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even answer him.

But that experience also taught me something. Until then, I’d never understood how Jimmy Carter became President. The answer is that as poorly qualified as he was for the job, Jimmy Carter had the nerve, the guts, the balls, to ask for something extraordinary. That ability above all helped him get elected president. But then, of course, the American people caught on pretty quickly that Carter couldn’t do the job, and he lost in a landslide when he ran for reelection.

Ronald Reagan is another example. He is so smooth and so effective a performer that he completely won over the American people. Only now, nearly seven years later, are people beginning to question whether there’s anything beneath that smile.
I wonder what goods Trump is planning to deliver?


Shadow said...

Read the Washington Post's Editorial Staff's interview with Trump. Now, that is something.

John said...


This is pretty interesting, although long.

Fascinating how much Trump likes to talk about finishing buildings under budget and ahead of schedule, as if that qualified him to be president.

The whole thing has the feel of a spiral, as the Post people ask Trump questions and he shifts the ground and they come back and he just shifts it some more. Trump does just what he said in that book excerpt; when someone asks him a question he doesn't feel like answering, he changes the subject. He makes it very clear that he hates to be pinned down; he says a couple of times that it is bad for the president to be predictable or to announce what he is doing. He won't say what he would do in response to, for example, Chinese provocations in the South China Sea, because he wants to remain unpredictable. To keep people nervous about what he might do. There can be a place for this in diplomacy. I read a long essay a few years ago saying that Eisenhower's whole foreign policy was built around never saying when he might or might not use nuclear weapons, not even to his closest aids, so as to deter Soviet aggression without ever making threats he might not want to carry through. But sometimes vagueness leads to stupid wars.

Trump is especially vague and indirect about the issue of violence at his rallies. He nods, he winks, he complains about press unfairness, he blames the protesters, but never reaches a clear position on whether he wants his followers to beat people up. He likes the air of menace and the implied threat, but won't cross the line of ordering assault.

But honestly my main take away is that Trump is a narcissist with attention deficit syndrome but is unlikely to do anything as dangerous as W's invasion of Iraq, or the subprime mortgage fiasco.

Shadow said...

Here is one of my favorite portions of the interview:

Buried deep in the transcript of Donald Trump's interview with The Washington Post's editorial board on Monday is a question and response that it's hard not to see as neatly encapsulating the entire Trump phenomenon.

Post publisher Fred Ryan asked Trump if he would consider using a tactical nuclear strike against the forces of the Islamic State, were he president. Trump responded that he didn't want to "start the process of nuclear," then reminding the editors that he was "a counter-puncher."

"Remember, one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counter-puncher," Trump said. "Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. He spent, by the way -- he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting..."

Ryan jumped in. "This is about ISIS," he reminded Trump. "You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?"

"I’ll tell you one thing," Trump replied. "This is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?"

G. Verloren said...


"But honestly my main take away is that Trump is a narcissist with attention deficit syndrome but is unlikely to do anything as dangerous as W's invasion of Iraq, or the subprime mortgage fiasco."

Who says he has to be the one to personally do something dangerous? When the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, all sorts of trouble can occur. Put someone like Trump into office and everybody with an agenda and the right access or influence is going to try to exploit his personality flaws to get favors granted. Nepotism and sycophantism will run rampant if he gets into office, and he'll be too busy admiring his expertly stroked ego to notice anything is happening.

Shadow said...

I think most people understand the need for candidates to obfuscate some. The concern I have with Trump is he obfuscates because he hasn't a clue. One of the big problems I have with him is his lack of mental discipline. This is most obvious in his speeches. They are disorganized, almost stream of consciousness babble. You can reorder the sentences in many of his speeches and they sound as logical or as illogical as they did before the reordering. This is the product of a lazy mind. It's as if he's never sat down and reasoned through his ideas, or cross-examined them, or asked what if questions. Does he ever wonder about unintended consequences?