Magazine | August 29, 2016, Issue

Deal Me Out

(D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

Question posed to Trump by the Portland Press Herald: What would be the best deal you could negotiate as president of the United States?

Before we read his reply, let’s imagine a hypothetical Hillary response:

A. “”I think as we move forward, and I’ve been clear on this both in the Senate and at the State Department, in fact going back to the 1990s when we saw great progress before the Bush tax cuts, you know, set the stage for the housing crash that almost sank the economy — I mean, gosh, some of us in the Senate were sounding the alarm about how Dick Cheney and the rest of ’em were ruining housing values in Baghdad while Wall Street was makin’ their money off poor people just one paycheck away from being out on the streets. You have to remember that at least those streets were better after President Obama and the Democrats passed the infrastructure bill that pulled us out of the worst recession since Ronald Reagan.

But it’s just not enough to build real bridges, Chuck, we have to build bridges of understanding. If I could make a deal, it would be just that everyone understood that America will always be a place that takes in orphans who might not, you know, always look like the folks you see at one of those Trump rallies [sudden spastic eruption of marrow-chilling cackle] but can be part of the diversity we know is our strength in the 21st century. And I’ll fight for that.”

That would be textbook Hillary: evasive, mendacious, grinding, boring, but passably effective, at least when it came to reassuring the base and mollifying the stupid. Sorry, the undecided. It would have some colloquial speech patterns deployed every few sentences, ’cuz shucks, she’s regular folk who drops a “g” like the rest of us. (You’re surprised she doesn’t do some ads as Larry the Cable Guy: “Git Her Dun!”) It would circle around to something her 1 percent backers approve, because immigration makes them feel good about themselves and there’s no chance the government will pitch tents for 10,000 23-year-old Syrian men on the beaches of Malibu. It’s all crazy, in the sense that it’s a farrago of twaddle, misdirection, and falsehoods, but it’s not crazy crazy.

Now let’s contemplate a theoretical Trump response — not something from the man himself, but the one his fervent supporters seem to think exists in this actual world.

A. “I love a good deal. It’s what we live for in the real-estate business, but you know what? There’s real estate, and there’s the real world. In real estate you might make more from being bought out and walking away, as I did with the West Side Television City project, than you’d make if you’d stuck around to see the building finished. The real world is different. America might get a short-term benefit from a deal that has us walking away from our obligations to our allies or that favors a few multinational corporations. But in the long run, it would hurt us. Those are the deals I won’t do. To me, the American economy is like the Empire State Building. You know how many times it’s changed hands in deals? So many, let me tell you. The important deal is the one that got it built. Those are the deals I’ll make.”

That person, alas, does not exist. This was Trump’s actual answer when asked what would be the best deal he could negotiate:

A. “Peace all over the world would be the best deal. And I think I would know how to do it better than anybody else, but peace all over the world.”

Thank you, and now on to the swimsuit-competition portion of the event.

You wish the interviewer had pressed him with a follow-up: How?

A. “Well, you know the U.N. building is a tremendous property. Used to be a slaughterhouse, not many people know that. Bad neighborhood, a real disaster. Now you have a building with magnificent views, east and west. Tremendous. I hear they have an asbestos problem. Maybe it’s fixed. It should be fixed for what we pay the U.N., which is a disaster. I’d turn the building into condos and then have the U.N. meet on a hill and give everyone a Coca-Cola and sing that song, you know, I’d like to teach the world to sing in harmony. I know many, many bottlers who are supporting me, and they’d provide the Coke because they want to make America great.”

Q. But can you reach out to the millions of Americans who choose Pepsi?

A. “Look, Pepsi owns Dr Pepper. Was he a real doctor? I don’t know. I’ve never seen any papers. We need good doctors. You got Obamacare, which is a disaster, and they’re saying, Oh, we can’t fill our hospitals, we need doctors from India. Do we? I love Indians, love the food, there’s a fantastic curry at the Trump Tower café on Wednesdays, you should try it. Comes with this bread, it’s incredible. You know they have trouble with Muslims in India, but we can’t talk about that, oh, you can’t say Bombay, it’s Moombay or something now, like Peking is Beejing. And this political correctness, it’s killing us, it’s killing our maps.”

What the fervent Trump fan heard from that: We should leave the U.N.

What the Hillary fan heard: I know Hillary would not only fight to keep us in the U.N. but lead the way against sugary drinks like Coke.

What the undecided voter heard: What? Sorry, I was watching the Olympics.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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