Well, sorry Financial Times.
FT went out and got themselves an exclusive interview with President Trump, but I’ve got to tell you, it kinda seems like no one cares.
See, the LA Times stole everyone’s thunder on Sunday with an editorial called “Our Dishonest President,” which you can read along with our commentary here. In short, it’s the most scathing critique to date of the administration and it’s apparently just the opening salvo in a four-part series.
Nevertheless, the FT interview is worth reading. The President’s comments betray characteristic arrogance, unnerving myopia, and an approach to foreign policy that is so naive it eludes every attempt to describe it.
Read below as Trump explains how the US will act unilaterally in North Korea (while in the same breath criticizing previous administrations’ unilateral action in the Mid-East), how he has zero regrets, how alliances are bad, how he’s proud of his bombastic rhetoric, how “there’s nothing you can do about it” when you have a tweet “that’s a clinker” and it tanks a company’s stock, how he hates to lose, and, hilariously, how much he’s enjoying the job.
You are the master of ‘the art of the deal’ . . . can you cut a deal with Xi Jinping when you see him in Mar-a-Lago? I have great respect for him. I have great respect for China. I would not be at all surprised if we did something that would be very dramatic and good for both countries and I hope so.
Are you going to talk about North Korea and a way forward there? Yes, we will talk about North Korea. And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.
What is the incentive? I think trade is the incentive. It is all about trade.
How do you bring China’s trade surplus down quickly? By telling China that we cannot continue to trade if we are going to have an unfair deal like we have right now. This is an unfair deal.
Are you going to equalise tariffs? I don’t want to talk about tariffs yet, perhaps the next time we meet. So I don’t want to talk about tariffs yet. But you used the word equalise. That is a very good word because they are not equalised. If you used a word other than tariff, it is not an equal. You know when you talk about, when you talk about currency manipulation, when you talk about devaluations, they are world champions. And our country hasn’t had a clue, they haven’t had a clue. The past administration hasn’t had and many administrations — I don’t want to say only Obama; this has gone on for many years — They haven’t had a clue. But I do. How ambitious do you want to be with China? Could we see a grand bargain that solves North Korea, takes American troops off the Korean peninsula and really changes the landscape out there? Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.
And do you think you can solve it without China’s help? Totally.
One on one? I don’t have to say any more. Totally.
Do you start with North Korea and talk about trade, or pivot around? I’m not going to tell you. You know, I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East. Where they say — I used it in the speeches — ‘We will be attacking Mosul in four months’. A month later, ‘We will be attaching Mosul in three months, in two months, in one month’. And why are they talking? There is no reason to talk.
Mr President, you use a language which is more abrasive than many of your predecessors . . . I would say. I hope so.
. . . Are you proud of that? Well it hasn’t worked for our predecessors. Look where we are. We have an $800bn trade deficit. The Middle East is a mess. They shouldn’t have gone in. And I was totally opposed to the war in the Middle East which I think finally has been proven, people tried very hard to say I wasn’t but you’ve seen that it is now improving. Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.
What the world can’t quite work out is whether this is the most brilliant softening-up exercise, or whether you want to fundamentally change the postwar liberal order. This isn’t an exercise. This is a very, very serious problem that we have in the world today. And we have more than one but this is no exercise. This is not just . . . talk. The United States has talked long enough and you see where it gets us, it gets us nowhere.
It is just that when people look at the words, they are frightened. They think this president, unlike his predecessors, doesn’t really believe in the value of alliances. Alliances have not always worked out very well for us. But I do believe in alliances. I believe in relationships. And I believe in partnerships. But alliances have not always worked out very well for us. OK?
Can you cut a deal on tax reform this year, and what would the terms be? Well, I don’t want to talk about when and I don’t want to talk about timing. We will have a very massive and very strong tax reform. But I am not going to talk about when . . . Right now I am working very much on the . . . You know that we didn’t take a vote but with healthcare . . . I actually think it is going to be a great deal for UK, and I think it is going to be really, really good also for the European Union Trump on Brexit
I was surprised by that. I didn’t want to take a vote. It was my idea. I said why should I take a vote.
Because you didn’t want to lose. Yeah, I don’t lose. I don’t like to lose. But that wasn’t a definitive day. They are negotiating as we speak. I don’t know if you know. They are negotiating right now. There was no reason to take a vote. I said, ‘Don’t take a vote,’ and we will see what happens. But one way or the other, I promised the people great healthcare. We are going to have great healthcare in this country. Now, it will be in one form or another. It will be a repeal and replace of Obamacare which is the deal that is being negotiated now. And if we don’t get the . . . Freedom Caucus there that would be fine. They’re friends of mine. Many of them have already left, and many of them as you know have already given us their vote. But when you have zero Democrats, zero, you need close to 100 per cent of the Republicans.
Might you actually try to get some Democrats in future? Well I will get the Democrats if I go the second way. The second way, which I hate to see, then the Freedom Caucus loses so big and I hate to see that, because . . . our plan is going to be a very good plan. When I say our plan, not phase one just: phase one, two and three added up is a great plan . . . If we don’t get what we want, we will make a deal with the Democrats and we will have in my opinion not as good a form of healthcare, but we are going to have a very good form of healthcare and it will be a bipartisan form of healthcare.
Are you still enjoying the job? I am really liking it. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed it. We have done a lot . . . We’re doing great. The jobs: Ford just announced they are doing three major plants, three major expansions, thousands of jobs; General Motors, Fiat, [a] couple of them off the record because ‘Why do I need this for?’ But a couple of them were going to build in Mexico, now they are building in Michigan. Now they are building in Ohio. We got it going. I had a great meeting with Chancellor Merkel. I had a great meeting with her, I really liked her . . . we had a great meeting and the press doesn’t get it. Trump on Merkel
When I talk to CEOs in this country . . . half of them are saying ‘yes, this is great, we have confidence coming back, and half of it is ‘God, what happens if he tweets about us and our stock goes down’. Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here . . . I have over 100m [followers] between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Over 100m. I don’t have to go to the fake media.
Do you regret any of your tweets? I don’t regret anything, because there is nothing you can do about it. You know if you issue hundreds of tweets, and every once in a while you have a clinker, that’s not so bad. Now my last tweet, you know the one that you are talking about perhaps, was the one about being in quotes wire tapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true . . . I predicted Brexit.
Do you think other countries will follow the UK out of the EU? I think Brexit is very good for the UK, it is going to be very good for UK. I would have thought when it happened that more would follow, but I really think the European Union is getting their act together. It could be a very good thing for both.
So it’s an antidote, not a virus? It is a very interesting thing. If you would have asked me that the day after the election . . . I would have said, ‘Yeah, it will start to come apart’. But they have done a very good job and — I am meeting with them very soon — they have done a very good job in bringing it back together . . . I had a great meeting with Chancellor Merkel. I had a great meeting with her, I really liked her. She said the same thing to me. I spoke to her two days ago. She said the same thing to me, we had a great meeting and the press doesn’t get it.
So the centre holds in Europe? I think that it’s really holding. I think they’ve done a better job since Brexit. I think they have done a better job.
In what sense do you think they have done a better job? It just seems to be that there is a different spirit for holding together. I don’t think they had that spirit when they were fighting with the UK and UK ultimately decided to go out . . . I actually think it is going to be a great deal for UK, and I think it is going to be really, really good also for the European Union.
In France, Marine Le Pen has a very similar message to you, not identical. Do you think a victory for her would validate what you have done here? I don’t know what is going to happen. I know that some outside distractions have taken place which have changed that race. That’s going to be an interesting race. I really don’t know and I don’t know her. I have never met her. It’s going to be a very interesting election. But you know some outside things have happened that maybe will change the course of that race.