Recently, Donald Trump sat down with Forbes to talk about his presidency, the economy, and a lot of other oddities, too. Out of this talk came a report published Tuesday morning that tries to explain Trump's dealmaking win-or-lose worldview, his bravado and salesmanship, and his penchant for exaggeration. Oh, and in the Forbes interview, Trump challenged Rex Tillerson to an IQ test. But it's not just a few curious quotes in this report. Looking at numbers and negotiations, it can help you better understand Trump.
In the article — entitled "Inside Trump's Head: An Exclusive Interview With the President, And The Single Theory That Explains Everything" — Forbes journalist Randall Lane asked the president what he thought about Tillerson's reported comment that the president is a "f*cking moron," a claim that Tillerson himself hasn't explicitly denied, though he tried to temper it. Trump mostly brushed it off and joked:
I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.
But the competition that underlies that joke is all too real. Lane delves into how the president sees things, that there's always a winner and always a loser, something that has stemmed from Trump's time in win-lose businesses based on out-negotiating one's business partner.
For example, Trump told Forbes that he has a big economic development plan in the works, and it will reward companies for staying in the United States, and punish them for going overseas — a big swing from typical Republican ideology. But Trump sees it as a contest.
See, I think the concept of reciprocal is a very nice concept. If somebody is charging us 50 percent, we should charge them 50 percent. Right now they charge us 50 percent, and we charge them nothing. That doesn't work with me.
The negotiating comes into play with his seeming willingness to buddy up to Democrats on issues like a DACA replacement, the debt ceiling, or even healthcare reform:
I think the Democrats want to make a deal. At the same time, I think I have a deal with the Republicans. So I have the best of both worlds. That's business to a certain extent. ... I'm very able to make deals with Democrats if I have to.
The same thing happens with negotiating for a corporate tax rate. He's now saying 20 percent after talking about 15 percent. "I was actually saying 15 for the purpose of getting to 20," Trump tells Lane, referencing upcoming negotiations.
According to Lane's view of the president, using concrete numbers like that helps Trump with the argument, and even later declare victory — even if the details don't always line up completely. Take the current economic numbers. "So GDP last quarter was 3.1 percent. Most of the folks that are in your business, and elsewhere, were saying that would not be hit for a long time. You know, Obama never hit the number," Trump tells Lane, who quickly explains that yes, the economy under Obama hit that number several times.
Trump had an answer for that.
He never hit it on a yearly basis. Never hit it on a yearly basis. That's eight years. I think we'll go substantially higher than that. And I think this quarter would have been phenomenal, except for the hurricanes.
But winning the argument may not always be best for the American people, or its standing in the world — neither of those issues seem to matter as much to Trump as the negotiation, and him coming out on top. The article explores that with Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal, something other nations will see as inconsistent, as well as the administration's management of the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Lane pointed out that Obamacare is now Trump's responsibility; he acknowledges that, kind of.
Yes. But I've always said Obamacare is Obama's fault. It's never going to be our fault.
But not to worry, according to the way Lane sees Trump. Just with one big hitch: Everything will be fine as long as negotiations and numbers always play out in not just the country's best interest — but in Trump's favor too.