Donald Trump’s insane interview with the Des Moines Register, annotated

Donald Trump may actually run for president in 2016. For serious this time. He’s announced that he will make a major announcement on June 16th, and is headed to Iowa this week to make all of the necessary flirtations in advance of an official bid. As part of the trip, he briefly chatted with the Des Moines Register in what is undoubtedly the strangest interview so far this election cycle.

Go here and read the interview. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll beg Trump to run — if for no other reason than it could make Jon Stewart reconsider leaving The Daily Show (only half joking).

Here’s my annotated version:

Are you going to announce that you’re running for president this month?

A lot of people think that now. Don’t forget they never did think it. I do well in the polls and nobody thinks I’m running. The theme of my campaign is “Make America Great Again.” We’re going to make America great again. That’s what people want.

For the record, saying “The theme of my campaign is…” makes Donald Trump a presidential candidate, no matter what he’s planning on announcing on the 16th. The FEC can end his nearly 30 year-long game of will he/won’t he once and for all by taking Trump at his word, treating him like a candidate and forcing him to file paperwork making his campaign official in the next ten business days.

When you’re Iowa testing the waters, how do you gauge whether these big crowds you draw are people wanting to see a reality TV star or wanting to see someone they think could run the country?

I don’t know the answer to that. You say to yourself: “Does it translate?” It may not translate, I don’t know. But I know one thing that translates: The politicians — and I know all of them — they’re never going to make this country great.

Not the craziest thing he could have said. Presidential campaigns, and especially the 2016 GOP race, are a lot like reality TV. There are even completely serious articles being written about how the Republican primary debates should be run like American Idol (I think they should be more like the play-in round of the NCAA tournament, but that’s just me).

You’re doing well enough in polls now to nab a spot in the televised presidential debates. In our latest Iowa Poll, however, 85 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers said they would “never” support you for president.

That’s because they don’t think I’m running. When they think I’m running, they go through the roof. I see it even on Twitter. I have millions of people on Twitter and Facebook, like 6 million people on Twitter and Facebook. They say: “Please run, but if you don’t run, well, just leave me alone.” You know, it’s sort of interesting. But they want me to run.

Apparently, Donald Trump has done a scientific poll of the people who troll him on social media and counted everyone who said that they would be entertained by a Trump campaign as likely supporters. As we’ll see below, Trump considers himself to be the kind of guy who’s smart enough to know the difference.

You’re getting better numbers in some polls than several candida—

I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody’s ever been more successful than me. I’m the most successful person ever to run. Ross Perot isn’t successful like me. Romney — I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney.

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Kudos to the Register here for conveying to the reader the fact that Trump cut off the interviewer to a) re-accidentally announce his candidacy; b) assert his dominance over all past and present presidential fields; and c) make you feel somewhat sympathetic for Ross Perot and Mitt Romney.

It takes a firm grasp on the political climate in 2016 to take what we can only assume was a question about current polling and answer it by comparing yourself to candidates from two completely different races — one from 20 years ago.

What’s your commitment to the Iowa Straw Poll, here?

If people got together and wanted the Iowa Straw Poll, I’m fine with it. But it looks to me like it’s not doing so well right now. If it’s good for Iowa and good for the poll itself, I think it’s an institution, I’d be in favor of it.

So you might not play in the Iowa Straw Poll if enough players don’t show up?

Well if everyone’s going to drop out? What’s the purpose? It loses its meaning, you understand that.

To be fair, that’s about as committed to the Iowa Straw Poll as any of the other candidates are — Jeb Bush has already officially bowed out. But do remember that his answer boils down to “If the Iowa Straw Poll is good for the Iowa Straw Poll, I’d be in favor of the Iowa Straw Poll,” and that doesn’t make any sense.

Specifically, what would you do to address the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria?

I have an absolute way of defeating ISIS, and it would be decisive and quick and it would be very beautiful. Very surgical.

Military on the ground? Drone strikes?

If I tell you right now, everyone else is going to say: “Wow, what a great idea.” You’re going to have 10 candidates going to use it and they’re going to forget where it came from. Which is me.

This is where the interview starts to break down. Here, Donald Trump is claiming to have a secret plan to fight ISIS — a secret plan that will still be viable 20 months from now when the presidential election is over and he can get down to business. What’s more, the plan is a “beautiful,” “surgical” operation that may or may not be exactly the same as President Obama’s strategy.

It takes a special kind of narcissist to reach deep inside one’s own ass and claim to have pulled out plan to solve one of the world’s most pressing foreign policy crises — one that the best minds in international relations have looked at for years not been able to do much more than shrug their shoulders. And it takes an even more special kind of narcissist to then insist that the pain and suffering and death being carried out by ISIS needs to continue for the next 20 months for fear that you won’t get credit if you aren’t the President and your totally fake plan works to perfection.

Do you have advisers on issues like this?

With very successful people, we sort of have our own ideas. A lot of people hire consultants. Well, if the consultant’s so smart, why aren’t they rich?

This is only a serious question when posed to Donald Trump, as it’s only productive to ask a candidate if they have advisers if there’s a legitimate chance of them saying no. And here, The Donald didn’t disappoint.

Not only does he not have advisers, he doesn’t need them because intelligence is measured in how valuable your average Gucci store is. What’s that? Those consultants don’t own any Gucci stores? They’re all fired. Idiots.

I absolutely cannot wait to see this clown on the campaign trail.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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