I urge everyone to take the time to read the entire transcript of Donald Trump’s Nov. 23, 2016 on-the-record interview with the New York Times. It will make you cringe, grimace and maybe even cry. Some of it has already been quoted many times: We’ve seen excerpts about his not wanting to “hurt” the Clintons, about not seeing The Wall as a top priority, and especially that cringe-inducing, Nixonian assertion that “the law is on my side, the President cannot have a conflict of interest.” Understandably, the mainstream media have focused on statements pertaining to policy [a term that, when applied to Trump, is very generous].
But there is a lot more in the transcript that is not getting the attention it deserves. It’s not as quote-worthy—because it’s not succinct or pithy, or headline-ready. But it’s important to read it, because the parts of the interview that are not being highlighted offer significant insight into Trump’s thinking [again, using that term loosely] and his way of communicating. And it’s not pretty.
My tenth-grade English Composition teacher always said that “writing is thinking.” A corollary to that truism is that speaking is also reflective of one’s thought process. If that’s the case with Trump, we are in serious trouble.
The New York Times transcript offers a look inside Trump’s brain, via his answers to the questions posed by reporters and editors. This is Trump completely unscripted: not reading from a teleprompter; not campaigning at a rally; not being coached by his handlers [although Kelly Anne Conway and Reince Preibus were sitting next to him]; not Tweeting at 5 am; not calling in to Hannity or Scarborough. This is Trump at the New York Times—a newspaper that he has railed against, but also a media power that he wants to convert to his side. This is Trump attempting to say the things that he thinks a President should be saying to make the New York Times love him.
When you read it, you see that he is doing what he always does: spitballing, winging it, rambling to fill the silence, changing the subject when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, bragging, exaggerating, talking about all of the people who love him, making shit up on the fly, and—above all—trying to say something that will impress the New York Times. And rambling—lots of incoherent, inarticulate rambling. Imagine this loose-lipped man, who has clearly not thought through any of the issues–except the ones that affect his bottom line–in private talks with world leaders who actually know stuff.
Here’s an example that we probably won’t see quoted on mainstream media, or anywhere else, for that matter. This statement came in response to a question about Trump’s recent meeting with Nigel Farage. The Times reporter wanted to know if Trump had sought help in preventing the development of a wind farm near his golf course in Scotland: [This is the formatting as published by the New York Times.]
TRUMP: Oh, I see. I might have brought it up. But not having to do with me, just I mean, the wind is a very deceiving thing. First of all, we don’t make the windmills in the United States. They’re made in Germany and Japan. They’re made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere. The windmills kill birds and the windmills need massive subsidies. In other words, we’re subsidizing wind mills all over this country. I mean, for the most part they don’t work. I don’t think they work at all without subsidy, and that bothers me, and they kill all the birds. You go to a windmill, you know in California they have the, what is it? The golden eagle? And they’re like, if you shoot a golden eagle, they go to jail for five years and yet they kill them by, they actually have to get permits that they’re only allowed to kill 30 or something in one year. The windmills are devastating to the bird population, O.K. With that being said, there’s a place for them. But they do need subsidy. So, if I talk negatively. I’ve been saying the same thing for years about you know, the wind industry. I wouldn’t want to subsidize it. Some environmentalists agree with me very much because of all of the things I just said, including the birds, and some don’t. But it’s hard to explain. I don’t care about anything having to do with anything having to do with anything other than the country.
If you were standing on 5th Avenue in New York, and some guy came up to you and said what Trump said about windmills and birds, you’d probably walk away as quickly as possible. And if you were a mental-health professional, and a guy came into your office rambling like that, might you possibly put a note in his chart about incoherent thinking, and maybe wonder if he needed medication or hospitalization?
Here’s another excerpt.This one is in response to a question about mixing his personal business with his role as President, and whether business partners in other countries will try to curry favor with Trump. Part of this has already made the news cycle–the part about “the law is on my side.” But here’s the rest of it. [Buckle up.]
TRUMP: O.K. First of all, on countries. I think that countries will not do that to us. I don’t think if they’re run by a person that understands leadership and negotiation they’re in no position to do that to us, no matter what I do. They’re in no position to do that to us, and that won’t happen, but I’m going to take a look at it. A very serious look. I want to also see how much this is costing, you know, what’s the cost to it, and I’ll be talking to you folks in the not-too-distant future about it, having to do with what just took place.
As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka.
There’s more. Much more. To me, a lot of it sounds like Trump is desperately babbling in an effort to find something—anything—that will sound presidential, will make him sound reasonable to the New York Times, and give them an answer that they want to hear.
Read it for yourself. This is the unfocused, inarticulate, inchoate thinking of the person who is about to be our 45th President. Shockingly, after the interview, after hearing Trump’s tsunami of bullshit, the Times editorial board praised Trump for being “flexible” on certain issues.
I’m not a person who prays, but if you are, please do what you can.
[UPDATE: Read additional excerpts here, with my commentary.]
[Also, see Trump’s edited Person-of-the-Year interview with Time magazine.]