MT: Where would you say that “body of success” is beginning to appear?
SA: In China, Trump was received like a rock star. He is super popular with the Chinese population and he gets along well with the leader of China. Similarly, Japan loves him, South Korea loves him and Israel loves him. He is on a trajectory to be, perhaps, the most successful president we’ve had internationally in some time. It’s too early to call that, but his Asian trip illustrates that some countries really like his “brash, free-wheeling style,” as Reuters referred to it. So internationally, he’s a complete surprise to the people who hated him, because he’s not just doing okay.
It is also impossible to ignore that we are seeing ISIS being defeated. We see illegal immigration coming down and we are seeing some prototypes for the Wall that the doubters never imagined could become a reality. Of course, funding for the wall will not be what he said it would be, but that was part of his technique (described fully in “Win Bigly”) where he starts big and pulls back. Mexico paying for the Wall is what made that story so interesting. That’s one of the techniques he uses for persuasion—it makes his point of view more interesting.
Also, the economy is doing very well—jobs, the market and consumer confidence are strong. And, I would argue that although North Korea is as close as you can get to an impossible problem, I am sure that the leader of North Korea, Little Rocket Man, is wondering about his own mortality. Whether he’ll be alive next month. I don’t think the leaders of North Korea have ever wondered if they would be dead in the next 30 days. And while it would be unlikely bordering on impossible that North Korea would launch a preemptive nuclear attack as long as he’s worried and getting more worried. To the contrary, there’s more chance that he’ll come to the table with a little more flexibility than we’ve ever seen before.
So I’m not going to predict a win there, but we might be on the verge of a president who’s done more internationally than any president in decades. Now, it could go easily the other way, and it could turn quickly. But, if you were to look at the big signs, it looks like we might be on the cusp of a golden age, where the United States has a super strong economy, the world respects us, we are getting our trade deals in order, and, we are less adventurous in terms of wanting to effect regime change in other countries.
MT: You made a comment earlier that you didn’t vote in the election. But you clearly shifted your endorsement at one point from Hillary to Trump. So how do you define yourself politically?
SA: I am to the left of Bernie, except that I prefer plans that work. What I mean by that is, I would like everyone in the United States to have healthcare, but nobody knows how to get there. But unlike current politicians, I think we should have a plan that says, all right, we don’t know how to get there, but we have to get there. I would love to see free college as well. But again, nobody knows how to get there. So philosophically, I would like some of the basic things taken care of. I think you’ll see something closer to socialism in the next 20 years.
MT: Yet your stated positions on tax policy and defense are decidedly more traditionally conservative.
SA: Well, on the big issues like let’s say, national defense in particular, citizens never have enough information, so I couldn’t tell you if we should spend more on it or less on it because I don’t know how you would ever become informed enough to have a good opinion .
When it comes to tax policy, I think everybody is sort of on the same page that our business corporate taxes are too high to be competitive with other countries.
I have a background in economics and got my MBA from Berkeley and one of the things you learn is that if the economy’s doing well, you don’t want to mess with it too much, unless there’s something specific you’re fixing. And fixing the business tax is something specific that logical people can agree on.
MT: What about Dilbert’s politics?
SA: I keep Dilbert completely out of politics. But he is an engineer by trade, so he is not going to be on board for anything that doesn’t make sense on paper. And that would be most plans.
MT: You mentioned previously that your acceptance of Trump was bad for your business?
SA: Yes, so my speaking engagement inquiries went from a couple per week, down to exactly zero, and has stayed zero for a year the first time in 20 years. But the President’s rhetorical and persuasive talents allowed me a framework to explain things that would have been impossible to explain without people watching it unfold as a once-in-a-lifetime situation and I wanted the public to see it for what it was.