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Donald Trump's 'kinder, gentler' version: Kirsten Powers
Kirsten Powers 7:34 a.m. EDT April 12, 2016
USA TODAY | 2016-04-11T16:30:18.3030000
Is Donald Trump about to make a pivot toward presidential?
In an hour-long interview Thursday in his New York office, Trump promised, “The time is going to be soon.”
Trump assured me that he is ready to “start building coalitions” at the right moment. “I’ll tell you what else is going to be soon. My whole life I’ve gotten along with people. ... People you see excoriating me on TV ... are calling my office wanting to get on the team. I actually asked a couple of them, ‘How can you do this after what you said?’ And they said, ‘No problem.’ ”
At this, The Donald seemed hurt to discover the dirtiness of politics.
“It’s a crazy business,” said the man who helped invent the lunatic asylum called reality TV.
Could he build coalitions with people who had wronged him? Could he, for example, see appointing Sen. Marco Rubio to a position in his administration?
“Yes. I like Marco Rubio. Yeah. I could,” he answered. As for a potential Rubio vice president: “There are people I have in mind in terms of vice president. I just haven’t told anybody names. ... I do like Marco. I do like (John) Kasich. … I like (Scott) Walker actually in a lot of ways. I hit him very hard. ... But I’ve always liked him. There are people I like, but I don’t think they like me because I have hit them hard.”
He seems to have forgiven Rubio for his cringe-inducing attempt at stand-up comedy at Trump’s expense. “He made a mistake,” Trump said. “He became Don Rickles for about four days, and then I became worse than Don Rickles.”
I told Trump about a Hillary Clinton-supporting family member who, after watching a Trump speech, noted to me that he'd be very hard to beat. Everything Trump says — opposition to the Iraq War, criticism of trade and criticism of Washington — is right, she told me.
So, why not just stick to substance and stop with the other stuff?
“Maybe the other stuff is part of it,” Trump said. “If I didn’t do it, then you might not be talking to me about a race where we are leading substantially.” Or as Trump told reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31: “Sometimes you have to break an egg. ... I think I have two more left.”
Fair enough. But this attitude underscores the problem for the Republican establishment. A conciliatory Trump — if such a man exists — is predicated on him securing the presidential nomination if he has the most delegates. When asked about the possibility of a contested convention, Trump mused darkly, “I wouldn’t be happy about it.” He added, “The nicest thing that will happen — the minimal — is that if I leave, all those people are gone, and the Republicans will go down to one of the great defeats in history.
This kind of tough-guy talk is typical of Trump. But I wondered, perhaps he could see that vulnerability is also important for leadership? “No. I don’t love to see leaders who sit back and cry. We’ve seen some of them.” Crying is fine for other people, Trump told me, but it’s not something he has done since he was a child.
Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan. He said of her novel The Fountainhead, “It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to ... everything.” He identified with Howard Roark, the novel's idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.
When I pointed out that The Fountainhead is in a way about the tyranny of groupthink, Trump sat up and said, “That’s what is happening here.” He then recounted a call he received from a liberal journalist: “How does it feel to have done what you have done? I said what have I done. He said nobody ever in the history of this country has done what you have done. And I said, well, if I lose, then no big deal. And he said no, no, if you lose, it doesn’t matter because this will be talked about forever.
"And I said it will be talked about more if I win.”
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