It’s a common occurrence during a political campaign: the candidate says something that’s a little off-message, or represents a contradiction to his past record, and is called out for it. And the candidate goes mumbly, acknowledges his mistake, and goes forward with his message a little more muted.
Donald Trump is different. He runs off at the mouth on a regular basis, gets called out for it, and regrets nothing. And it seems crazy.
But I don’t believe that Trump is approaching the campaign as a politician running for office. He’s approaching it as something like a business deal, although a little different in the need for public involvement. To this end:
- There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as long as they spell your name right. During the primaries, Trump would say this or that and get free press coverage, which accomplished far more than he could through even an aggressive advertising campaign. He was able to effectively bring his name and his ideas across the country, and present himself as a compelling alternative to the more ordinary sort of Republicans.
- Manage your counterparty’s expectations. In negotiating a deal, besides resolving the actual terms of a deal to one’s best advantage, the smart negotiator endeavors to manage the counterparty’s expectations, so that the one’s interests are preserved and the deal will be executed smoothly. In Trump’s case, the terms of the deal are fixed: he’s running for President. But if he gets mealy-mouthed every time he gets called out, it will hamper his ability to be President if he should be elected. So he regrets nothing.
- Be prepared to walk away. In business, there is such a thing as a bad deal. You negotiate with someone, and for whatever reason, you can’t secure a deal that advances your interests. When that happens, there is no dishonor in abandoning the effort and walking away. But a politician running for office is normally overtaken with the desire to win at any cost. He will almost literally sell his soul and say whatever he believes he needs to say. While Trump prides himself on being a winner, he isn’t going to change himself into a conventional politician: he doesn’t have the temperament for it. And he has enough self-respect (some would say ego) not to try.
So I can’t get upset with Trump for running off at the mouth: it’s part of who he is, what he learned from a lifetime in business and not politics. While I personally think it’s admirable, I expect that not everyone will agree. Fortunately, there’s a ready remedy: vote for someone else.