The Trump that baffles pundits
Some really smart people absolutely cannot grasp what Donald Trump is up to. Perhaps it is that his business background has taught him lessons that punditry, or any profession that depends on well-crafted use of abstract symbols like words and numbers, cannot teach. Perhaps it is because he seems vulgar in the eyes of many people who pride themselves on their sophistication and intelligence.
If you don’t see a pattern to the actions of a highly successful person, I suggest you consider the possibility that your framework is too limited.
Donald Trump is conducting his transition and will conduct his presidency in part as a reality television show, dramas that he concocts and executes. Among the many disciplines that he mastered in the course of his career, reality show TV producer and host is among the more recent, and for politics the most valuable.
That tweet he sent about flag burning was deliberate bait, as Charles Krauhammer, Ann Althouse and Jazz Shaw, among others, recognized. And Trump got images that will only drive support his way and identify Trump hatred with crazy leftists: “Revolution Nothing Less!”
Or take the saga of saving the Carrier jobs. The man is delivering on a campaign promise before he even takes office. He is traveling to Indianapolis today and will get more great visuals. I agree with S.R. Lenzkes on these pages today that this is somewhat dangerous, and could lead to bad things. But this is one case, and is serving a good function. It has been bandied about that Indiana is forking over $700,000 a year in tax benefits, or $700 per employee per year. That has to be much less than the cost to the state of unemployment benefits and the whole panoply of expenses that come with mass layoffs. I suspect that Indiana under Mike Pence already had in place a program to use the tax system to reward employers who bring in or keep jobs in-state.
Trump’s advisors like Wilbur Ross understand the life cycle of industries and the role of foreign capital. I don’t think they want to go down the path that worries purist critics of the Carrier deal.
But the sheer drama of Trump the master persuader saving a thousand families from losing their jobs, with their grateful faces and voices expressing thanks is nothing less than masterful propaganda, delivered at Christmas time. There is a brand being built, called “President Trump.” In the world of business few if any regard Trump as less than the master of branding.
This isn’t random and it isn’t insane. It is operating in an important realm, one where lots of people see politics as a drama. This may elude most intellectuals who never have watched reality TV, anyway.