GOP ‘King of Dirty Tricks’ on RNC’s Plan to Stop Trump
Trump recently hired your former business partner Paul Manafort to manage the convention. From the outside, it looks like Manafort is the adult who was brought in to take over for a bunch of amateurs. Did you recommend Manafort for this gig?
I most definitely did raise his name. I am not the only person who recommended him. But look, you’re talking about a campaign that wanted to reach out to Washington state delegates and wound up sending e-mails to people in D.C. There is very little political experience in their staff. Most of the regional political directors have never been in politics before. And Trump is likely to be nominated despite the fact that he had a bunch of amateurs on his campaign. He’s better than the campaign. The success here is not the success of Trump’s campaign; it’s the success of Trump.
Is Trump going to drive Manafort crazy? I mean, no one seems to say no to Trump.
At the same time, the fact that he is uncoached and unscripted, not reading from polling that tells him what to say to be popular, it’s actually appealing. There’s something [about] watching a guy in a high-wire act without a net. That’s actually what sparked his campaign, the fact that it’s not plastic and prefabricated.
You’ve known Trump for 40 years — who is he, really?
Well, first of all, he’s one of the funniest people I know. There’s nothing pretentious about him. Believe me, he’d prefer a cheeseburger to chateaubriand, that’s just the way he is. He’s a lot of fun to be with when you’re not across from him in a business negotiation. Then he’s the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever met. He’s completely fearless. He’s also nationalist, which has nothing to do with race, it has to do with national sovereignty. I think his views have been amazingly consistent for a long period of time, particularly on trade and NATO. He’s been talking about our NATO allies ripping us off and not paying their fair share for 30 years. Is he more flexible than he appears? Yes, he’s a businessman.
What is it about Trump that so thoroughly freaks out the establishment?
The [consultant and lobbying class] are petrified of Donald Trump because he is completely uncontrollable — he’s not beholden to anybody. And he also offers the party voters they have never gotten before: the people who feel left out, who’ve decided all government is rigged against them, who’ve been voting forever and nothing ever changes. The problem with the establishment GOP candidates has been that they have no ability to reach beyond the GOP base. Trump is bigger than the Republican Party. Ironically, a billionaire can change the Republican Party from being the Wall Street party back to being the mainstream, more populist-based, non-country-club party. That’s great. Look, the only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring. And Trump is never boring. Politics is show business for ugly people.
Suppose Trump gets the nomination. What’s his path to victory?
Well, let’s remember he’s not running against Joan of Arc. I mean, he’s very polarizing, but Hillary’s equally polarizing. So this will be a slugfest. I think he’s got to debunk the idea that she’s an advocate for women. He’s got to debunk the idea that she’s an advocate for children. He’s got to take apart her record as secretary of state. And then I think he’s got to open up the Clinton Foundation and show how they used it to enrich themselves.