Donald Trump: the three-faced president
Which of the many sides of Trump is likely to dominate as president? US managing editor Gillian Tett weighs up the options.
Produced by Punk Economics and Gillian Tett.
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GILLIAN TETT: Devotees of the Hindu and Buddhist religions sometimes like to imagine their gods with several heads. It's an idea that Trumpian devotees might borrow these days.
SUBJECT 1: Yeah!
GILLIAN TETT: No, that's not just because The Donald has an entirely unholy ability to disrupt high politics.
SUBJECT 2: Because they're stupid.
GILLIAN TETT: Nor because some of Trumpian's devotees view him and his reality TV shows with near-religious awe, as his tweets rain down from the heavens-- or his cell phone at 6:00 AM.
DONALD TRUMP: It's like owning a newspaper without the losses. It's incredible.
GILLIAN TETT: No, the real reason why Hindu images are so relevant is this-- as Trump prepares to become America's 45th president, nobody quite knows who he really is.
SUBJECT 3: Huh?
GILLIAN TETT: After all, in the past year he has displayed multiple personas, or, if you like, numerous heads and faces-- and it's anybody's guess which of these heads will end up dominating in the next year. In fact, I doubt whether even Trump himself knows which of his faces or personalities will rule.
DONALD TRUMP: I look so good in those pictures. I'm so handsome.
GILLIAN TETT: So what are these Trumpian heads? Well, to my mind, there are three key faces that investors, executives, voters, or politicians and journalists need to watch.
The first might be described as the sensible and serious Trump, or, rather, moderately sensible at least part of the time.
SUBJECT 4: Woo!
GILLIAN TETT: This is the Trump who is almost the heir to Ronald Reagan. This head has called for radical economic reforms that are supposed to turbocharge the American economy. He wants to slash the headline rate of corporate tax by, say, 15 percentage points, and impose a 10% flat tax if companies repatriate their estimated $2 trillion worth of overseas cash piles. He also wants to deregulate sectors, such as energy or finance, rip up Obamacare, and embark on a major infrastructure spending plan worth around $1 trillion. Dollars
Now, lots of people hate those ideas.
SUBJECT 5: [BOOING]
GILLIAN TETT: Or they argue they're contradictory. Left-wing economists, for example, loathe the thought of all those tax cuts, and environmentalists and consumer groups hate the idea of deregulation.
SUBJECT 6: [INAUDIBLE] man.
GILLIAN TETT: Some Republicans dislike infrastructure spending, too, if it raises the national debt.
SUBJECT 7: Outrage!
GILLIAN TETT: But what nobody can deny-- even if they hate the plan or think that it's downright illogical-- is that this is the stuff of relatively normal politics. It's wonky. It's classic Washington. And these proposed economic reforms have caused the stock market to soar, because people are betting that the sensible head of Trump will unleash animal spirits.
But the second Trump head is not so normal by Washington standards-- far from it. This head calls for the construction of a wall to keep out Mexicans. It wants to rip up trade deals. It bullies American companies that have factories in Mexico. It wants to cuddle up to Russia. It denigrates the CIA. It placed a telephone call to Taiwan before speaking to China.
This head of Trump, in other words, is a head that loves to shock, seemingly deliberately. It's turning the normal tenants of foreign policy upside down, by accident as much as design-- and that terrifies investors, not to mention other governments, particularly since these shocks keep tumbling out by tweets-- often at 6:00 AM.
And then there's the third head of Trump-- the sleazy head, or, more accurately, the freewheeling, write-my-own-rules, anti-elitist Trump. That head also communicates via tweet, attacking foes at all hours.
It's a bully. It uses offensive language. It lambastes the media.
DONALD TRUMP: You are fake news.
GILLIAN TETT: It refuses to release tax details or explain how Trump will handle conflicts of interest. It does not, in other words, look remotely presidential. Indeed, this third head is so unconventional that many observers assumed that Trump could never win the election. Some never noticed that the other two heads existed at all.
So which Trump head will dominate? I doubt even Trump knows.
The sensible Trump will certainly appear in Washington. His team wants to create a legacy by unleashing those animal spirits through radical reforms.
The shocking Trump will also be on display. His team wants to rewrite the tenets of American foreign policy. And they actually think it's an advantage to act or tweet in unpredictable ways, since this keeps other countries on the back foot.
And that sleazy Trump head, sadly, I doubt that will disappear, even if his own advisers would like The Donald to be more presidential.
So prepare for some shocks, both good and bad. Nobody knows yet whether this presidency will be a complete disaster or unexpected triumph. Time to burn the incense, perhaps, and pray.