Foreword by Eric Trump
Read by Newt Gingrich
Read by Eric Trump
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Donald Trump is unlike any president we’ve ever had. The only person ever elected to be commander in chief who has not first held public office or served as a general in the military, Trump’s principles grow out of five decades of business and celebrity success — not politics.
The president owes his position to the people who believed in him as a candidate, not to the left-wing government and media who have expressed contempt for him since his first day on the campaign trail. Trump has enacted policies and set goals that send our country in a bold new direction — one that is “unreasonable” to Washington elites but sensible to millions of Americans outside the Beltway.
With Understanding Trump, Newt Gingrich provides unique insight into how the president’s past experiences have helped to shape his life and style of governing, including a thorough analysis of how President Trump thinks and makes decisions, as well as his philosophy, doctrine, and forward-thinking political agenda.
Discover Trump-style solutions for national security, education, health care, economic growth, government reform, and other important topics. In this eye-opening book, Gingrich also investigates and exposes the forces in the Washington establishment, media, and bureaucracy that oppose the president at every turn.
Finally, Understanding Trump explains the president’s actions so far and lays out a vision for what Americans can do to help make President Trump’s agenda a success. With your help, President Trump will be able to overcome corrupt interests in Washington and fulfill his promise to make America great again.
by Eric Trump
When my father called my family together to confirm that he would run for president, he said we would quickly learn who our real friends were.… He was right.
In a short time, it was clear that Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, were true friends of the Trump family.
When I met Newt, my first impression of him was that he was incredibly direct—a trait close to our own hearts, and a trait rarely found among the political elite. As we would soon find out, our family was about to face the toughest battle of our lives, and throughout the long, hard-fought Republican primary, and the general election, the Gingriches fought with us. Newt became more than just a surrogate; he became a friend who profoundly understood my father's tenacity and his passion for one singular goal: to Make America Great Again!
This understanding became vital. As the media and political pundits repeatedly failed to grasp my father's practical, commonsense approaches to trade, infrastructure, immigration, national security, the rebuilding of our great military, VA reform, manufacturing, jobs, taxes, health care, and so much more, Newt was able to accurately articulate my father's beliefs. His explanations were clear and compelling. At the same time, he understood how disconnected career politicians and the mainstream media had become for so many Americans seeking the American Dream—an ideal that seemed unattainable to many for the first time in history.
The opposition continued to be baffled, but that didn't matter. Newt was one of the very few who got it right, versus the tired rhetoric of the pundits, with their endless scripted lines and memorized sound bites. Newt knew the complexity of politics from the inside out, from the marble halls of Washington, DC, to the campaign trail in Middle America. He understood the soul of my father's message and the movement he created.
Understanding Trump is an inside look into possibly the greatest campaign of all time. My father gained the most primary votes of any GOP candidate in the history of the nation. He shattered voter registration records across the country. He turned traditional debates into "must-see TV." At a time when most would hold fast to a lifestyle that had become the epitome of the American Dream, my father chose to bring that dream back to those it had eluded for so long. Many books will be written by the very people who got it wrong and, quite frankly, who continue to get it wrong, but this book will stand apart because Newt was one of the very few who got it right—he is a friend and he was there from the beginning.
As to my father, there is no greater man. He is compassionate and caring. He is brilliant and strong. More than anything, he deeply loves our great country. He ran on one promise, to Make America Great Again and he is already well on his way!
WHY THIS BOOK?
It is astonishing to me, as a historian, how the elite media and much of the political establishment refuse to try to understand Donald Trump. They have been so rabidly opposed to him, so ideologically committed to left-wing values, and so terrified of the future that they haven't stopped and considered how extraordinary his success has been.
President Trump is one of the most remarkable individuals to ever occupy the White House. His set of practical business experiences—and his lack of traditional political-governmental experiences—make him a unique president.
President Trump is the first person to be elected president without first having served in public office or as a general in the military. He defeated more than a dozen other Republicans in the primary, many of whom were first-class candidates—governors, senators, business leaders, physicians, and so forth. He defeated a multibillion-dollar campaign machine for Hillary Clinton. He defeated the mainstream media, which opposed him at every turn. And he did this without an army of political consultants or spending hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads.
The first few months of his presidency have been a whirlwind of activity, and he has already enacted enormous change. He has experienced victories as well as defeats. One thing I have learned about Donald Trump is that he learns very fast—and that the speed at which he operates optimizes his learning. So, one of the most fascinating aspects of his presidency will be how he overcomes the gaps in his knowledge of institutional government.
Trump's background could not be more different from my own. He is a very successful businessman with a knack for branding, marketing, and management. His abilities have made him both a billionaire and a household name.
I am an army brat who earned a PhD in history to learn how to help America solve its problems. I have a fair amount of political, legislative, and governmental experience that the president does not have.
President Trump and I met a few times casually before we really got to know one another—once in 1997 at a speech in New York, and in 2008 when he hosted the West Palm Beach Zoo Gala at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort.
But we really became acquainted in 2009, after Callista and I joined Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia. The club is a classic Trump success story. The bank had taken over the old Lowes Island course after it went broke. As usual, the bank was a bad manager, and the course had decayed and lost value. When the time was right, Trump stepped in and bought it at a fraction of what it was really worth. This smart business move earned Trump the only golf course on the Potomac River. It had a magnificent view from the clubhouse and enormous potential. It has been a great place for Callista and me to decompress and golf ever since.
In 2011, I was preparing to run for president, so I made a trip to Trump Tower. Donald was generous with his time, happy to discuss the campaign, and gave me several Trump ties—which he pointed out were longer than standard ties and had become the best-selling ties in America. We took a picture together and he encouraged a number of his friends to help my campaign. In the end, as a pretty good calculator of the odds, Trump endorsed Mitt Romney, but we remained friends and even campaigned together for Mitt.
By 2014, it was clear Trump was getting interested in running for president himself. We were together at a day-long conservative conference in New Hampshire sponsored by my good friend Dave Bossie of Citizens United. Trump had come up from New York in his helicopter. He made a speech, and before he left, he took Dave's kids up for a short flight. It occurred to me then that offering a helicopter ride was a method of building support that few candidates have.
Finally, in January 2015, Callista and I were in Des Moines, Iowa, for the Freedom Summit hosted by Dave Bossie and Representative Steve King of Iowa. Trump was staying at the downtown Marriott, and so were we. The night before the conference, Trump called Callista and me to ask if we could have breakfast the next day. Of course, we agreed.
It was classic Trump. He led the conversation with a couple of great real estate war stories in which he was successful. Then he got down to business. For forty-five minutes, he asked Callista and me questions about our experience running for president. Then, at the end, he asked me what I thought it would cost to run a campaign from start-up through the South Carolina primary.
I began to lay out what I thought. I told him he had to run a national campaign or the news media and voters would not take him seriously. I also told him he needed to plan to run in Iowa and New Hampshire, and I ran through various things we had learned in 2011 and 2012.
In a very Trump-the-businessman way, he said, "So, what's the bottom line?"
I thought for a minute and said he could be competitive for about $70 to $80 million.
His response was priceless. After a moment of thought, he said, "$70 to 80 million: that would be a yacht. This would be a lot more fun than a yacht!"
That's when Callista and I learned that a Trump candidacy was likely—and a Trump presidency was possible.
A few weeks after he won the South Carolina primary, I was talking to Trump on the phone. At the tail end of our conversation he jokingly said, "By the way, I know you said I needed to spend eighty million but I've only spent thirty million. I feel kind of bad."
Thus, I learned about Trump's frugality and his operating principle of "ahead of schedule and under budget."
Understanding Trump developed from all the things I have experienced since that meeting at the Des Moines Marriott as I have watched and worked with the Trump candidacy, transition, and presidency.
I hope this book will help people better understand that we may be at a watershed moment for our country. Trump represents the third—and hopefully final—great effort to break away from a half century of big-government liberalism dating back to the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. The first big push came in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan took office. The second was in 1994, when we signed the Contract with America.
The Left and much of the media are horrified, because the age-old power structures on which they rely are specifically the ones President Trump is seeking to demolish and rebuild. Some in the establishment are confused, because Trump's campaign—and his first months in office—are totally opposite from business as usual in Washington.
His success calls into question their presumed expertise and collective worldview. But many Americans are happy. To them, President Trump represents a force of change in Washington—the likes of which we've rarely seen in American history.
Trump's election is a tremendous opportunity to tear down the walls of big government, liberalism, and elitism and set the path for a bold new direction that is once again guided by the will of the people. His approach to politics and governing can be studied as a remarkable strategy for breaking out of the Left's intransigent power structure.
At the center of this phenomenon is President Trump, and as he learns and continues to evolve, this phenomenon will change with him. This book is a step toward understanding President Trump and his vision for the country, so we can achieve real and substantive change to make America great again for all Americans.
It is impossible to understand President Donald J. Trump without first understanding where he came from. The knowledge he gained from decades of running a successful, world-spanning business shapes every decision he makes. The following chapters describe the most remarkable change agent to win the presidency. President Trump seems different because he is different. From building big buildings to running casinos, managing golf courses, creating the top-rated popular TV show The Apprentice, and owning and running the Miss Universe contest, Trump has experiences and lessons from life and business no other president has had. To understand his presidency, you must understand his background.
FROM QUEENS TO THE WHITE HOUSE
Even today, months after Trump won the election and was sworn in as president, the news media still tries to cover him as if he were a normal politician, and his ideological opponents continue to be viciously dishonest. They are either clueless or lying. Ignore them.
America has never seen a candidate and a president like Trump. Many in the elite political class and the national media still simply do not—and cannot—grasp his methods.
Since he announced his bid for the presidency, Donald J. Trump has been misunderstood, underestimated, and misrepresented.
Think about the torrent of criticism Trump received for his announcement event at Trump Tower. In addition to the intense criticism he received for what he said about people who are in the country illegally, Trump was mocked for ad-libbing his speech, boasting about his wealth, and his theatrics.1 The elites snubbed him, but his message resonated with normal Americans.
Trump understood that since he was running as an outsider, the more he sounded like a politician, the more it undercut his message. So he abandoned his prepared remarks and spoke extemporaneously. This choice to go without the security of written text at such a big moment was, in fact, an act of extraordinary message discipline. The pundits accused him of "rambling."
Trump also understood that most Americans believed that their voices were not being heard, that the only people whom politicians listened to were ones who could cut big checks. So Trump spent a lot of time boasting about his wealth and promising to self-finance his campaign. In the following days, much attention was paid to whether Trump was really worth $9 billion, as he claimed, or if he was worth "only" about $2 billion. The frustrated voters Trump was reaching out to heard only one word—billion. And they understood that they finally had a candidate who would not be bought.
The pundits also didn't realize that starring in and producing The Apprentice for over a decade had given Trump an ability to use television in ways they could not appreciate. Visuals matter more than words. Style matters more than convention. The overall impression matters more than the details.
Trump understood that he was being covered live and the cameras weren't going to turn away. So he forced the networks to cover him standing next to his supermodel wife, slowly descending the escalator into the ornate lobby of a building that had his name on it. Think about the image of success this visual conveyed to most Americans. He was communicating that the American Dream is not dead—it can be revived and made available for all once again. The pundits thought it bizarre.
Finally, Trump understood that a sizable bloc of voters was sick of the government not living up to its obligations—and the primary obligation of the federal government was to enforce the law and keep its citizens safe. These voters watched for decades as politicians promised to get serious about border security only to be bullied into inaction by the Left's accusations of racism. So, while Trump's remarks about drugs and criminals coming from Mexico was not fair to the vast majority of those here illegally who do not otherwise break the law, he sent a signal to all the voters sick of cowardice on this issue that he did not care about political correctness and could not be intimidated.
After weeks of nonstop media criticism and declarations that his announcement in mid-June had been a disaster, the first polls were released that included Trump. After one month of Trump campaigning, he was leading in an average of all the polls, and he lost the lead only for one three-day period for the rest of the primary election.2
You would think this would have been cause for the media and establishment voices to pause and reconsider their assumptions about Trump, but the coverage and analysis has only gotten worse from there.
If you want to understand President Trump, ignore what the political establishment and the mainstream media say about him. Instead, start with the key elements of his background that make him different from normal politicians and affect the way he operates.
QUEENS, NOT MANHATTAN
The first thing to understand about Donald Trump is even though he is associated with expensive tastes and luxury real estate, he is far more a product of Queens than of Manhattan. He grew up in a 2,000-square-foot stucco house, not Trump Tower. He also spent five years in a military prep school instead of some exclusive, private high school.
Trump's origin is important, because it explains how a billionaire could so successfully connect with the blue-collar workers who formed the foundation of his electoral victory. In The Art of the Deal, he describes an upbringing that's similar to many working-class Americans:
We had a very traditional family. My father was the power and the breadwinner, and my mother was the perfect housewife. That didn't mean she sat around playing bridge and talking on the phone. There were five children in all and besides taking care of us, she cooked and cleaned and darned socks and did charity work at the local hospital. We lived in a large house, but we never thought of ourselves as rich kids. We were brought up to know the value of a dollar and to appreciate the importance of hard work. Our family was always very close, and to this day they are my closest friends. My parents had no pretensions. My father still works out of a small, modest back office on Avenue Z in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, in a building he put up in 1948. It's simply never occurred to him to move.
This background served him well in business before politics. It is easy to forget that while Trump's real estate and golf projects target the very wealthy, his retail and media products are aimed squarely at the middle class. Trump neckties, for instance, were at one time the best-selling ties in America. The Art of the Deal sold more than one million copies and, of course, The Apprentice was the top-rated show on television for several years.
This familiarity and comfortableness with everyday Americans also served Trump well as a builder. Trump spent hours on work sites talking to construction crews. There is no way he would be able to get useful information about how his projects were going if he came off as a stuffy elitist.
His daughter Ivanka spoke about Trump's connection with people when she introduced him at the Republican Convention.
"One of the reasons he has thrived as an entrepreneur is because he listens to everyone. Billionaire executives don't usually ask the people doing the work for their opinion of the work. My father is an exception," Ivanka said. "On every one of his projects, you'll see him talking to the super, the painter, the engineers, the electricians, he'll ask them for their feedback, if they think something should be done differently, or could be done better. When Donald Trump is in charge, all that counts is ability, effort, and excellence."
Trump also made it a habit to learn to perform every job in his hotel business. There is even a great video available online of Trump doing all the different jobs in one of his hotels, from cleaning rooms to delivering room service to walking the dog of a guest.
Donald Trump's lifetime familiarity and interest in working people—as friends, neighbors, customers, and as partners in his businesses—primed him for success as a candidate. He has a sixth sense about connecting with the American people.
For instance, Trump routinely spoke to crowds of ten to twenty thousand people, but if you watched his gestures and body language, you saw that he was connecting with audience members one by one. A thumbs up, a grin, a shout-out—all those small things let the audience know that he was genuinely engaged with them.
Trump is the same way one-on-one. Your conversation with him may be brief, but during that moment you have his undivided attention and interest. In this way, Trump reminds me of Bill Clinton—another president with a grounded middle-class background. When you are speaking with either of them, he is fully engaged in the conversation. At that moment, you are the only person who matters.
Trump's familiarity and comfortableness with working-class Americans also enables him to intuit what people care about and what they are looking for. Again, take his massive rallies as an example. The pundits routinely dismissed his crowds of ten to twenty thousand people as participants at some sort of carnival event, which wouldn't translate to people showing up to vote. They were wrong about this, obviously, but they were also wrong about why the rallies were so important.
The media coverage of Donald Trump was so unendingly negative that it could leave his supporters with the impression that they were all alone. Gathering tens of thousands of people together night after night, state by state, was proof that the movement to make America great again was the majority, and the negative, biased news media and political class were the minority.
In addition to giving strength and resolve to his supporters, I am sure the rallies were critical to maintaining Trump's spirit as well. He was able to stay in tune with, and be guided by, the will of the people during very tough moments on the 2016 presidential campaign.
I am glad to see that Donald Trump is continuing to hold rallies as president. It's important for him to see an arena full of people and be reminded that he speaks for them—that he has a moral authority that no one in the Washington bureaucracy or the elite class has.
AN ENTREPRENEUR, NOT AN ACADEMIC
Another key characteristic of Trump is that he is an entrepreneur, not an academic. He views knowledge as a tool to get something done, not as being valuable for its own sake.
There was a funny moment on the campaign when a radio host began quizzing Trump about whether he could name the leaders of different militant groups in the Middle East. Whereas a normal candidate would have tried to fudge an answer or change the topic, Trump replied bluntly, "Of course I don't know them. I've never met them. I haven't been… in a position to meet them.… If they're still there [when I become president], I will know them better than I know you."
The radio host pressed, "So the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas does not matter to you yet, but it will?"
Trump replied, "It will when it's appropriate. I will know more about it than you know, and believe me, it won't take me long."
Washington's collective elite gasped in horror. How could someone running for president be so unsophisticated? The highly educated lawyers, journalists, and bachelor of arts majors who compose the majority of Washington, DC, pride themselves on knowing lots of details about lots of things.
In Washington, if you can name the capitals of forty-two countries, you are thought of as a sophisticated person. (If you know the appropriate wine to drink in each of those countries, you are a superstar.) Whether that information is useful is of secondary concern to displaying that you know stuff, and therefore, you must belong in the club.
Trump is exactly the opposite. He makes certain he knows what he needs to know to be successful at the time he needs to know it. This is an entrepreneurial approach to knowledge rather than an academic one.
In fact, in stark contrast to the Washington intelligentsia, this is how most Americans learn—when they are motivated out of a need to accomplish something.
The type of blue-collar, practical Americans who make up Trump's base of support understand this, which is why Trump's apparent lack of knowledge about the finer details of public and foreign policy did not derail his campaign.
Roger Schank is a former professor of computer and cognitive sciences at Yale University, Stanford University, and Northwestern University. After thirty-two years of being a professor, he quit out of frustration and has been focused ever since on developing new learning systems based on delivering knowledge in an on-demand, need-to-know basis.
According to Schank, people learn by doing things that they want to do. In his study "What We Learn When We Learn by Doing," Schank says:
To consider learning by doing from a psychological point of view, we must think more about learning in real life, which is, of course, the natural venue of learning by doing. There is, after all, something inherently artificial about school. Natural learning means learning on an "as needed" basis. In such a learning situation, motivation is never a problem, we learn because something has caused us to want to know. But school has no natural motivation associated with it. Students go there because they have no choice. The same is true of most training situations.
Schank aptly sums it up on his website: "Learning occurs when someone wants to learn, not when someone wants to teach."
Having spent much of the last two years working with Donald Trump to win the election and now succeed as president, I can personally attest that this rule applies to him.
Donald Trump can learn very quickly, but he will resist being taught anything. So, if you walk in and say, "OK, I have a thirty-minute briefing with sixteen PowerPoints," the meeting will immediately end.
Instead, if you want President Trump to know something, you have a casual chat. The times I spent on the campaign plane with him were a great illustration. Trump absorbs information all around him. He would be talking with Kellyanne Conway and me; she would be taking notes; he would be asking questions about one topic and suddenly make a connection and shift gears to a totally different idea.
In the course of those conversations, Trump would pick up all he needs to know. He then took the information, integrated it into his thinking, and began to test it. This is the point where Donald Trump learns—when he takes information and does something with it. He tries something, sees how it works, and either continues or switches to something else.
This approach has strengths and weaknesses, because he will eventually try things that don't immediately succeed or are poorly received. Our media will be rabid, because it has gotten used to slow-moving, bland, polished government that favors mediocrity over risk. Meanwhile, regular people will recognize normal human behavior. In fact, most people will consider this constant evolution and motion to be leadership.
A BUILDER, NOT A FINANCIER
- On Sale
- Jun 13, 2017
- Hachette Audio