Kirsten Powers on the ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Version of Donald Trump

Donald Trump in Rochester, N.Y., on April 10, 2016. (Photo: Max Schulte, Democrat and Chronicle, USA TODAY NETWORK)
Donald Trump in Rochester, N.Y., on April 10, 2016.
(Photo: Max Schulte, Democrat and Chronicle, USA TODAY NETWORK)

The Donald explains why politics is ‘a crazy business’ and why he never cries anymore.

Is Donald Trump about to make a pivot toward presidential?

In an hour-long interview Thursday in his New York office, Trump promised, “The time is going to be soon.”

Trump assured me that he is ready to “start building coalitions” at the right moment. “I’ll tell you what else is going to be soon. My whole life I’ve gotten along with people. … People you see excoriating me on TV … are calling my office wanting to get on the team. I actually asked a couple of them, ‘How can you do this after what you said?’ And they said, ‘No problem.’ ”

At this, The Donald seemed hurt to discover the dirtiness of politics.

“It’s a crazy business,” said the man who helped invent the lunatic asylum called reality TV.

Could he build coalitions with people who had wronged him? Could he, for example, see appointing Sen. Marco Rubio to a position in his administration?

“Yes. I like Marco Rubio. Yeah. I could,” he answered. As for a potential Rubio vice president: “There are people I have in mind in terms of vice president. I just haven’t told anybody names. … I do like Marco. I do like (John) Kasich. … I like (Scott) Walker actually in a lot of ways. I hit him very hard. … But I’ve always liked him. There are people I like, but I don’t think they like me because I have hit them hard.”

He seems to have forgiven Rubio for his cringe-inducing attempt at stand-up comedy at Trump’s expense. “He made a mistake,” Trump said. “He became Don Rickles for about four days, and then I became worse than Don Rickles.”

I told Trump about a Hillary Clinton-supporting family member who, after watching a Trump speech, noted to me that he’d be very hard to beat.  Everything Trump says — opposition to the Iraq War, criticism of trade and criticism of Washington — is right, she told me.

So, why not just stick to substance and stop with the other stuff?

“Maybe the other stuff is part of it,” Trump said. “If I didn’t do it, then you might not be talking to me about a race where we are leading substantially.” Or as Trump told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31: “Sometimes you have to break an egg. … I think I have two more left.”

Fair enough. But this attitude underscores the problem for the Republican establishment. A conciliatory Trump — if such a man exists — is predicated on him securing the presidential nomination if he has the most delegates. When asked about the possibility of a contested convention, Trump mused darkly, “I wouldn’t be happy about it.”  He added, “The nicest thing that will happen — the minimal — is that if I leave, all those people are gone, and the Republicans will go down to one of the great defeats in history.

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Kirsten Powers