Recently a good friend in Tasmania sent a message urging me to read Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich. Yesterday the book arrived and as she said it is hard to put down. Fortunately it was not my turn to cook.
Gingrich has enjoyed a long association with Trump and he wrote this book to explain what enabled Trump to pull off a political miracle. Gingrich has an inside view on Trump as a friend. He also has an intimate knowledge of the way things work in Washington and he can see how Trump can succeed given the kind of person he is, where he has come from, his capacity to learn fast and his experience as a builder, TV showman and negotiator.
Above all he is a man of the people. He achieved fame and fortune at the big end of town but he came from Queens, not Manhattan, he grew in a small family building business and he went to military prep school, not an exclusive private school. Even when he fronted crowds of ten or twenty thousand people his gestures and his shout-outs were directed to individuals. One on one he is totally engaged with the person, whoever they are, a carpenter or a CEO, not looking over their shoulder for the next conversation.
He is a builder not a bean-counting financier and he makes it his business to know the nuts and bolt of building and running the business. On the site he talks to the construction crew, the painters, tilers and electricians. He knows how to relate to them and he is open to suggestions about improving the work. He learned to do all the jobs in his hotel.
He is dedicated to bringing in projects on time and under budget. When he was contemplating a run at the candidacy he asked Gingrich what it would cost. The answer was 70 to 80 million. At the end he phoned Gingrich to say it was 30 million “And I feel kinda bad”.
He hates waste of all kinds including his own time and other people’s money. He was panned for absenting himself from the regular security briefings. He found it was the same thing almost every time and he decided he just wanted to know when something changed. He slashed the budget for the White House and Gingrich claims that he beat down the cost of the Lockheed F-35 fighter by seven percent. Last week while he was in China some $250 billion in deals for US companies were finalised although there would have been some symbolism in that, Xi probably wanted to make Trumpie feel welcome!
Gingrich explained that there are four sides to the Trump ‘table’: Anti-left, Anti-stupid, Anti-political correctness and Pro-America. He is anti-Left in his DNA although that does not necessarily play out in a small state approach which is part of the rhetoric of the Republican establishment. It does result in his aim to drain the swamp. His Anti-stupid prejudice is expressed in his impatience with the red and green tape generated in Washington and the blue states. He is implacably opposed to political correctness and at the same time he is dedicated to the genuine progress of Afro Americans. From the campaign to the inauguration his Pro-America message was directed at the whole country and he reached out to include Afro-Americans among “us”.
His rhetoric flatly contradicts the perception that he is a demagogue, a bully or a threat to democracy. Unlike Obama who once managed to say “I” seventy times in a single speech, in his major speeches he always put the emphasis on us, the people and the nation. He can’t help being a large, loud and commanding presence but that is very different from being a demagogue or a bully. He communicates when he talks to one person or a crowd and that is very different from ranting and posturing.
He is an outsider to the political and academic establishment but he is still the smartest man in most rooms. That showed out in his campaigning and especially the way he used the media instead of allowing the media to use him. He made the media cycle his own, starting the day with aggressive tweets which may have appeared petulant and childish but they ensured that his antics became the news and later in the day he could call a press conference and be confident that all the press cameras would be there for a free opportunity to make his pitch to the nation. Consequently he obtained massive media coverage without spending serious money on paid ads.
He is a master of branding, both of his opponents and his own campaign. Branding Jeb Bush “low energy” drove Bush to distraction trying to demonstrate energy. Instead of putting his own name on his campaign hats he put a rallying call “Make America Great Again”. Many supporters would shed blood for America where they would not do so for an individual multibillionaire. Besides, everybody knew his name!
In the last week of the campaign, looking to boost his stakes in Wisconsin where the Republicans last won under Ronald Reagan he traveled to Minneapolis (in Minnesota). Minnesota was considered a certain Democrat state and Hilary did not follow him to match his campaign in that state (she won 46 to 45 surviving an 8 percent swing). But the money for Trump came from Wisconsin because he knew that the TV from Minneapolis transmitted deep into central Wisconsin. He won Wisconsin 47.2 to 46.5.
There is a lot more but that is enough for one post. Just read the book! Some of the ads on the site have long blurbs about the book which will tell you more about the contents.