Donald Trump took his ratings magnetism to NBC News’ Today show this morning, explaining to 125 pre-screened average Joes why he won’t eat humble pie, that President Obama’s plan to bring 250K Syrian refugees to the United States “could be the greatest Trojan horse of all time,” and a story about his modest start as a young man in Brooklyn with only a “small loan of a million dollars” from his developer father.
Mostly, attendees wanted to probe Trump’s feelings.
When one of the attendees asked if anyone other than a family member ever had told him “no,” Trump responded, “Many times. My whole life really has been a ‘no’ and I’ve fought through it.”
“It’s not been easy for me,” Trump said, as viewers wondered where he was going. “I started off in Brooklyn my father gave me a small loan of $1 million. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back and pay him back with interest.”
That was too rich, even for Today show. “Let’s just put this in perspective,” host Matt Lauer jumped in. “You said it hasn’t been easy for you, ‘but my dad give me a million dollar loan.’ That probably is going to seem pretty easy to a lot of people.”
“You’re right,” Trump conceded. “But $1 million isn’t very much compared to what I built, I’ve built one of the great companies.”
Another voter, self-described as “undecided,” said she, and others like her, would vote for him “if only you would eat a piece of humble pie once in a while.” She challenged him to share with the public one of his weaknesses, as if she were auditioning to be Dr. Phil’s permanent guest host. Trump declined, explaining, “then I’d expose the weaknesses to Putin and then everybody else and we don’t want to do that, right?”:
Yet another attendee said people think he’s too “harsh” to be POTUS. “I really am a nice person,” Trump insisted. “I love people. It’s not going to be this time about ‘niceness.’ It’s going to be about competence. People are tired of stupid people running the country…People are tired of ‘nice’.” Lauer jumped in here to say his kids are being taught in school about online bullying, and wondered, “Are you setting the right example for kids and their online behavior?”
Lauer later wondered if Trump would share with viewers around the country if he has ever done something in his business life to make money that, that made him feel even the least bit guilty privately.
“I’d have to give that one some thought,” Trump responded, adding, “It’s possible.”
“You can’t think of anything that’s made you feel guilty?” Lauer said with barely concealed disappointment.
Someone emailed in a complex, three-part question: “Have you ever eaten at McDonald’s, worn blue jeans, or driven a car?”
Trump insisted he’d eaten at McDonald’s just the previous night, has worn jeans but did not provide a date or time, and considers it a real luxury to “get into a car and drive” which he last did about a week ago.
It’s the second “Pancakes & Politics” Town Hall staged by Today since the 2016 White House race got underway; the first was with Demo front-runner Hillary Clinton – another ratings magnet. We’ll get back to you when Today announces town-hall dates for the other candidates.
In fairness, Trump’s town hall wasn’t all touchy-feely. A couple attendees asked him to reveal his already well-known plans for dealing with illegal immigrants coming across the border with Mexico, and with Syrian refugees. The former are going home and the latter won’t be allowed in if he’s elected. Both points went over big, immigration answers triggering the town hall’s only rounds of applause:
Another attendee, who named the auction house he owns and said he’s doing a gun auction on November 21 – nice national plug on NBC News! – said he has his finger on the pulse of gun owners, and wondered if Trump would pledge now to veto any new gun laws to “stop the assault” on the Second Amendment. Because, he said, we don’t want to become Australia.
“The answer is yes,” Trump said. “We have tremendous [gun] regulations” that the government is doing a terrible job of enforcing. He said he is “very strong” on the Second Amendment while GOP rivals Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are “very weak.”
“We have a huge mental health problem,” Trump said.
An undecided voter wondered how Trump would deal with world leaders with whom he did not see eye-to-eye, given that he can’t fire them (Celebrity Apprentice reference alert) and “you could start a war by calling them a ‘loser’ or an ‘idiot’.”
“I went to Ivy League school and I’m intelligent,” Trump shot back, saying he knows when to speak and when to be “politically correct.” “One of the reasons I’m doing so well in every state, and nationally, is the fact that people are tired of this political correctness,” he said, noting “you can’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ any more” which will end under a Trump presidency. “I have dealt with politicians all my life and gotten along,” he said of his international company.
A college student, who said he’s a small-business owner, wanted Trump to detail his “specific plan” to boost the economy. “Do me a favor and don’t worry about it,” Trump said, explaining he’s got Carl Icahn and “some of the greatest business people” ready to do the country’s deal-making for a Trump White House, adding “they don’t want money” in return.
When the kid pressed for details of his plan, Trump said detailed plans put out by politicians running for POTUS are horseradish. “Politicians and media all want a 14-Point Plan. It doesn’t work that way, because Point 2 gets loused up, and now you have to go to a different Point 2. You have to have great flexibility in deal-making…I put up a great tax plan. But the fact is, no matter what, it’s going to be negotiations back and forth. And it’s the same with deals. We’re going to bring deals back, jobs back. I could give you a 14-point plan so beautiful you’d be happy but, you know what? It doesn’t mean anything because –”
Lauer cut of Trump, so NBC News could make some money with an ad break.