On July 19, three New York Times reporters interviewed Donald Trump– which made news when the president said he shouldn’t have made Jeff Sessions Attorney General– and afterward reporter Peter Baker said that Trump “tends to veer wildly from topic to topic,” and it’s hard to follow his train of thought. But Times columnist David Brooks (who was not there) was more unsparing:
I actually thought the most disturbing part of the whole interview was the transcript. I mean we all are embarrassed when we read transcripts of our conversation. But usually with most people, there’s some flow of thought there. There’s some more than just sort of spasms about what Napoleon was doing. And then we go off to some other issue and some other issue. I thought – and especially compared to the transcripts of Donald Trump 15 years ago, there’s a totally different conversational style, the explanation for which I do not have.
The clear hint is that Trump is losing his mind. I read the transcript, and here are two sections that Brooks seems to be referring to. First, Napoleon and the economy.
BAKER: Will you go to Britain? Are you going to make a state visit to Britain? Are you going to be able to do that?…
TRUMP: Ah, they’ve asked me. What was interesting — so, when [French President Emmanuel] Macron asked, I said: “Do you think it’s a good thing for me to go to Paris? I just ended the Paris Accord last week. Is this a good thing?” He said, “They love you in France.” I said, “O.K., I just don’t want to hurt you.”…
We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looked like they could have never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, ’cause they heard we were having dinner….
[Times reporter Maggie] HABERMAN: You must have been so tired at, by that point.
TRUMP: Yeah. It was beautiful. We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb … [crosstalk] Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?
Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army… But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death… It’s pretty amazing.
So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.
[Reporter Michael] SCHMIDT: The markets are doing great.
TRUMP: They’re going to really go up if we do what we’re doing. I mean, cut regulations tremendously. Sometimes — you know, one thing they hadn’t thought about at The Times, where they said I didn’t really cut regulations as much. I heard that because I said — it could have been a little slip-up in terms of what I said — I meant, for the time in office, five months and couple of weeks, I think I’ve done more than anyone else. They may have taken it as more than anyone else, period….
Next there was this extended bit, about not talking to the Japanese Prime Minister’s wife, and Russia being radioactive.
BAKER: A lot of people are curious about your conversation with President [Vladimir V.] Putin at dinner [on July 7]. Not surprising. But what did you all talk about, and——
TRUMP: So, that dinner was a very long time planned dinner. And what it was was an evening at the opera. It was a final night goodbye from Germany and from Chancellor Merkel. It was her dinner. It was, you know, everybody knew about it. It was well-known….
So when we got there, it was with spouses, and when we got there, there were a thousand media…. So, it was tremendous media. And we took a picture of everybody, the wives and the leaders, and then the leaders, and, you know, numerous pictures outside on the river. Then everybody walked in to see the opera. Then the opera ended. Then we walked into a big room where they had dinner for not only the leaders — Lagarde [Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund] was there, who I think is terrific, and various others. You had the E.U. people there, people other than just the leaders, but quite a few people. I would say you have 20 times two, so you had 40, and then you probably had another 10 or 15 people, you had Christine Lagarde, you had some others also.
So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.
HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?
TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”
HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating.
TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for——
TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes…. You had an opera, and then you had a cocktail party for the people at the opera, and then you had the leaders with the spouses, and other leaders in Europe and maybe other places, go in. We sat at this really long table, which held, has to be at least 60, 65 people with room. O.K., it’s a very big table, big room. But there was nothing secretive about it.
It was like, that’s where we’re going. And I think it even said on the list, at the request of the German chancellor and Germany, it’s going to be the opera, it’s going to be cocktails, it’s going to be dinner. I think the crowd thinned out for the dinner — you know, it was the leaders, primarily. But the leaders and Lagarde. And [inaudible].
O.K., so we’re sitting at this massive table. And the wives are separated from their husbands, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But they did. It’s always easier when they don’t do it, because you always have somebody to talk to, right? And I was sitting next to the president of Argentina — his wife — [Mauricio] Macri — nice woman, who speaks English. And the prime minister of Japan’s wife, Prime Minister Abe. Great relationships. So I’m sitting there. There was one interpreter for Japanese, ’cause otherwise it would have been even tougher. But I enjoyed the evening with her, and she’s really a lovely woman, and I enjoyed — the whole thing was good.
And now Melania was sitting on the other side of the table, way down on the other end, very far away. She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, I don’t know. She was sitting next to Putin.
HABERMAN: She had been the whole time?
TRUMP: Yes. She was sitting next to Putin.
BAKER: Does she speak Russian at all?
TRUMP: No. She speaks other languages.
TRUMP: She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.
HABERMAN: You did?
TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting [with Russians on June 9, 2016]. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”…
Now, that was before Russia was hot, don’t forget. You know, Russia wasn’t hot then. That was almost a year and a half ago. It wasn’t like it is, like it is radioactive, then. Russia was Russia.
I get what Brooks is saying. The thought process is fragmented, and lost in trivia– seemingly confused. Though the transcript reminds me of the expression crazy like a fox. Trump is damned if he’s going to give the reporters anything (though he did), so he runs in circles.