Ideas

Matt Latimer | Ideas

The Donald, annotated

Carlene Carmen, supporter for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, attended the South Carolina Tea Party Convention Saturday.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Carlene Carmen, a supporter of Donald Trump, attended the South Carolina Tea Party Convention on Saturday.

Wow. Whoa. That is some group of people. Thousands. So nice, thank you very much. That’s really nice. Thank you. It’s great to be at Trump Tower. It’s great to be in a wonderful city, New York. And it’s an honor to have everybody here. This is beyond anybody’s expectations. There’s been no crowd like this . . .

So I want to tell you this story.

The signature Trump opening: confident, boastful — who else would start a speech with a self-impressed “wow” and “whoa”? — and full of impossible-to-verify metrics. “This is beyond anybody’s expectations.” “There’s been no crowd like this.” In Trump Tower? In New York? In America? In history? I suspect we won’t have long to ponder this.

A friend of mine who’s a great manufacturer calls me up a few weeks ago. He’s very upset. I said, “What’s your problem?”

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He said, “You know, I make great product.”

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And I said, “I know. I know that because I buy the product.”

He said, “I can’t get it into China. They won’t accept it. I sent a boat over, and they actually sent it back. They talked about environmental, they talked about all sorts of crap that had nothing to do with it.”

To his credit, Donald Trump, unlike nearly every other politician in the world, is not afraid to speak off the top of his head. The danger is that a speech can sound like it’s being delivered by Michael Scott from “The Office” — “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way. Like an improv conversation.”

I said, “Oh, wait a minute, that’s terrible. Does anyone know this?”

He said, “Yeah, they do it all the time with other people.”

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I said, “They send it back?”

“Yeah. So I finally got it over there, and they charged me a big tariff. They’re not supposed to be doing that. I told them.”

There is a point here, at least. China cheats Americans “all the time” — and our hopeless incompetent leadership in both parties just rolls over like low-energy Jeb Bushes. Ironically this story is a cheat itself. Citing an anonymous “friend” — whose story can never be verified — is a politician’s trick. It’s also reminiscent of Ben Carson’s bizarre effort late last year to prove he was once a homicidal maniac by citing the testimony of childhood pals — whose names he wouldn’t reveal to reporters to protect their privacy. But I digress.

Now, they do charge you tariffs on trucks, when we send trucks and other things over there. Ask Boeing. They wanted Boeing’s secrets. They wanted their patents and all their secrets before they agreed to buy planes from Boeing.

Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I sell apartments for — I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?

Can’t be many people in the room who have any clue what happened with China and Boeing. But it sounds bad. And Americans are predisposed to hate China anyway, so no worries if this makes little sense.

I own a big chunk of the Bank of America Building at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, that I got from China in a war. Very valuable.

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I love China.

So let’s see — China is shady, unethical, bullying, and ripping us all off. What’s not to like?

The biggest bank in the world is from China.

Fact check: True!

You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower. I love China. People say, “Oh, you don’t like China?”

Who are these people who say so many false and terrible things?

This must have been the spoils from the infamous Trump-China war that we’ve heard so much about.

No, I love them. But their leaders are much smarter than our leaders, and we can’t sustain ourself with that. There’s too much — it’s like — it’s like take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. That’s the difference between China’s leaders and our leaders.

Funny line. Probably off the cuff. And the heart of what he’s saying does have the ring of truth. China and Russia and many other countries do seem to be ascendant, at America’s expense. Note the canny politician at work. Throwing Tom Brady — i.e. professional winner — into any speech can’t hurt in New Hampshire.

List of things Donald Trump has told us he loves this year: China, the Mexicans, the Muslims, the women, making money, building things, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, polls in which he is leading, boycotts of Macy’s, meeting the people, his kids.

They are ripping us. We are rebuilding China. We’re rebuilding many countries. China, you go there now, roads, bridges, schools, you never saw anything like it. They have bridges that make the George Washington Bridge look like small potatoes. And they’re all over the place.

“They are ripping us” “small potatoes” — these are phrases regular people use. He runs from politicalspeak like senators talking about the markup of a subcommittee bill going to conference. Are there really bridges dwarfing New York’s GW Bridge “all over the place” in China? Sounds like another preposterous data point. Fact check: According to Wikipedia, there are at least 10 bridges in China with greater spans than the GW. Huh.

We have all the cards, but we don’t know how to use them. We don’t even know that we have the cards, because our leaders don’t understand the game. We could turn off that spigot by charging them tax until they behave properly. . .

I’m confused. Do we have the cards and not know it, or do we have the cards, know it, but don’t play them properly? And where did that spigot come from? Mixed metaphors — the classic pitfall of the extemporaneous speech.

They’re building up their military to a point that is very scary. You have a problem with ISIS. You have a bigger problem with China.

And, in my opinion, the new China, believe it or not, in terms of trade, is Mexico.

That seemed to come from nowhere. Sometimes Trump talks as if he’s just wandered into the room after a big board meeting and he’s still preoccupied with what went on there.

So this man tells me about the manufacturing. I say, “That’s a terrible story. I hate to hear it.”

Oh, so the China story we started with five minutes ago wasn’t finished? What a scintillating way to wrap it up.

But I have another one, Ford.

Here we go again ...

Matt Latimer is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush for speechwriting, and the author of “Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor.” He is currently partner at Javelin, a communications firm and literary agency in Washington, D.C.