To Understand Trump, Read His 2012 Book
Maybe I missed it, but in all the millions of words being written about Donald Trump over the past year, I never saw anyone in the media examine his 2012 book, Time to Get Tough.
The book, which was published during the 2012 presidential race, is written in his voice — almost certainly based on a recording of his words. There is no ghostwriter here.
Much of it is online.
The table of contents is essentially a blueprint of the topics that Trump campaigned on four years later:
There is no Steve Bannon. This is all Trump — which is comforting, in a way. The analyses about Bannon secretly controlling the White House don’t appear to be based on any actual validity.
There are a few differences between the 2012 book and what we are seeing in the Trump White House, and I’ll highlight a few of those. But for the most part, this book is an invaluable tool to understanding Trump, whether you love or loathe him. It’s sort of pathetic that no one in the media seems willing to compare Trump’s words today to what he said four years ago. Whatever happened to source material?
Trump only really mentions Israel in the context of Iran:
[W]e know Obama’s instincts on Iran are horrible. On May 18, 2008, during a campaign speech then-candidate Obama made this breathtakingly ignorant statement: “I mean, think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny, compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. . . . You know, Iran, they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have, to be bold enough to go ahead and listen.” Then, after his advisers told him what a moronic statement he’d made, Obama went out two days later and reversed his stance: “Iran is a grave threat. It has an illicit nuclear program, it supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq, it threatens Israel’s existence, it denies the holocaust.”27 Once again, the guy’s initial instincts are always wrong. And in this case, they endangered America and our ally Israel.
Obviously we must listen to our intelligence experts to decide the best way to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But here’s the reality: because the clock is ticking down, the next president America elects will in all likelihood be the president who either stops Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon or who sits back and lets it happen. Given Obama’s track record of weakness, that’s not a risk America can afford to take.
The highlighted portion is of interest nowadays, when it appears, based on media reports, that Trump disrespects the role of the intelligence agencies.
By the way, Trump’s 2000 political book, The America We Deserve, contained far more about Israel’s importance as an ally of the US. It also has an entire chapter warning about the dangers of terrorism — more than a year before 9/11. Below is an important section of the 2012 book that is critical to understanding Trump’s foreign policy philosophy:
If history teaches us anything, it’s that strong nations require strong leaders with clearly defined national security principles. Realities change at warp speed; international events can turn on a dime. The 9-11 terrorist attacks, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Arab Spring—all these happened in the blink of an eye. A president can’t always predict where the next national security “fire” will erupt, but he can and must have a steady and reliable compass to guide his decisions. Citizens need to know the values and principles their president will rely on to lead America through whatever unknown threats lie over the horizon. I believe that any credible American foreign policy doctrine should be defined by at least seven core principles:
1. American interests come first. Always. No apologies.
2. Maximum firepower and military preparedness.
3. Only go to war to win.
4. Stay loyal to your friends and suspicious of your enemies.
5. Keep the technological sword razor sharp.
6. See the unseen. Prepare for threats before they materialize.
7. Respect and support our present and past warriors.
Sadly, President Obama has undermined each of these core principles. First, no sooner had he been sworn into office than he went on an apology tour to the Arab world. Did you know that the very first interview Obama gave as president was with the Arabic news channel Al Arabiya? I’ve got news for President Obama: America is not what’s wrong with the world. I don’t believe we need to apologize for being hated by Islamic radical terrorists who hate our religion, hate our freedom, and hate that we extend human rights to women. Second, even as Obama’s blown trillions of our tax dollars on his “stimulus” schemes, he’s proposed cutting $400 billion from our defense budget. Third, by announcing the time and date for withdrawal in Afghanistan and not clearly defining our objectives in Libya’s civil war, Obama has completely blown it, making it virtually impossible for us to define what victory is and achieve it. Fourth, the president sold out our dear friend and ally Israel. He’s also thrown other allies, like Poland and the Czech Republic, under the bus by bowing to Russian demands that we not build missile defenses to protect our friends. Fifth, by slashing military budgets Obama has threatened our ability to keep our technological edge in weapons systems. Sixth, Obama has been caught flatfooted by China’s development of the J-20 fighter jet, something his administration didn’t think would happen for years to come. And finally, by raiding the defense budget to pay for his failed social programs, Obama continues to weaken our ability to honor our present and past warriors.
Perhaps the most important section in the 2012 book is this one, about Russia:
Obama’s popularity in America may be at rock bottom levels, but I know one place his ratings are likely sky high: the Kremlin. Russia’s leaders can hardly believe their luck. Never in a million years did they think America would elect a guy as ineffective as this. Obama’s pretty-please diplomacy and endless American apology tours have served Russian interests extremely well. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, of whom I often speak highly for his intelligence and no-nonsense way, is a former KGB officer. No sooner did Obama move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than he began making concessions and sacrificing American power on the altar of “improving relations” with Russia.
According to Barack Obama’s favorite newspaper, the New York Times, within weeks of being sworn in as president of the United States, Obama sent a top U.S. official to Moscow to hand deliver a secret letter to Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev. According to the Times, the secret letter said that Obama “would back off deploying a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons.” It’s so outrageous I hardly believed it until I read it myself. Obama had barely moved his stuff into the White House residence and already the guy was just itching to start degrading America’s power and undermining our allies.
Not surprisingly, Putin was ecstatic: “The latest decision by President Obama . . . has positive implications,” said Putin. “I very much hope that this very right and brave decision will be followed by others.”
But it gets even worse. Incredibly, the Obama administration made the decision to throw our friends Poland and the Czech Republic under the bus and leave them naked to missile attacks “despite having no public guarantees” that Moscow would help crack down on Iran’s missile programs. 16 Many in the intelligence world were baffled by Obama’s reckless and foolish move. U.S. senators piped up too. “This is going to be seen as a capitulation to the Russians, who had no real basis to object to what we were doing,” warned Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “And at the end of the day you empowered the Russians, you made Iran happy and you made the people in Eastern Europe wonder who we are as Americans.”17 What was Barack Obama’s response? “If the byproduct of it is that the Russians feel a little less paranoid and are now willing to work more effectively with us to deal with threats like ballistic missiles from Iran or nuclear development in Iran, you know, then that’s a bonus.”
The results of Obama’s pandering to the Russians have been a total disaster. In 2010, the Russians outsmarted Obama by promising to play nice and not sell Iran anti-aircraft missiles. The administration proudly hailed the announcement as a big success and praised Medvedev for having “shown leadership in holding Iran accountable for its actions, from start to finish.” Then, even as Obama was busy cheerleading the Russians’ actions, the Los Angeles Times reported that “Russian diplomats were quietly recruiting other countries . . . to undercut tougher penalties imposed on the Islamic Republic.”18 It was an incredible coup for Russia: they got Obama to give up missile defense for absolutely nothing in return and stuck it to America by secretly convincing other nations to back Iran.
Putin has big plans for Russia. He wants to edge out its neighbors so that Russia can dominate oil supplies to all of Europe.19 Putin has also announced his grand vision: the creation of a “Eurasian Union” made up of former Soviet nations that can dominate the region. I respect Putin and the Russians but cannot believe our leader allows them to get away with so much—I am sure that Vladimir Putin is even more surprised than I am. Hats off to the Russians.
If Trump’s opinion hasn’t changed, then it seems that while his respect for Putin is quite real, Trump’s overtures towards Russia are meant to outfox Putin, not to blindly do his bidding.
Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but there is no better place to begin such an analysis than Trump’s own words, especially when they align so well with practically everything else he is doing.
In the next section, Trump pretty much admits that he is willing to divide the country to win a presidential campaign — because that is what he accused Obama of doing in 2012:
In all my years in business and participating in politics I’ve never seen the country as divided as it is right now—and I’ve seen bad times. Voters’ hatred of both Democrats and Republicans is beyond anything I have ever witnessed. A great leader can bring America together. But unfortunately for us, Barack Obama is not a leader.
…[T]he Republicans are going to have a very tough race. Obama is harnessing all of the negativity he created and flipping it back on the people—a very smart, if cynical, strategy. I’ve never seen anything like it. The guy is willing to rip the country in half to win. Sadly, it may prove to be a winning strategy. If I were doing as badly as he is, I would realize it is my only road to victory.
It is obvious that this was Trump’s strategy on the campaign trail in 2016. Unfortunately, we have seen very little of Trump’s trying to bring America together since then. Today’s divisions are worse than they were under Obama, and that’s saying something. I think that this division is far more dangerous and will cause far more long-term damage than any of Trump’s policies might.
From the point of view of Israel, Trump has managed to split the American-Jewish and the American-Zionist community far worse and far more starkly than eight years of Obama’s pro-J Street policies.
And what about Trump’s thin skin? There is plenty of evidence of it in the 2012 book, as well, and he attacks many people who insulted him (or who he simply thinks are useless). He says, “I always believe when attacked, hit your opponent back harder and meaner and ideally right between the eyes.” In a few cases, however, he admits respecting people whom he disagrees with.
It makes no difference whether you support Trump or not. It is a much better use of your time to read this book (it really isn’t that long) than to read any of the analyses being published in the media about him.