The transcript of Donald Trump’s interview yesterday with the New York Times runs over 7,000 words. But you can boil down its essence to two words: I’m better. No matter what the subject, Trump finds someone to compare himself to. And in every comparison, he comes out the winner.
The Times reporters start the interview by asking Trump about health care, where the Senate—by refusing to even vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare—has handed him a major defeat. Trump doesn’t admit any mistakes. He barely mentions the substance of the bill. Instead, he immediately compares himself to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In the fourth sentence of the interview, he declares that, “Hillary Clinton worked eight years in the White House with her husband as president and having majorities and couldn’t get it done.”
Trump never acknowledges that Clinton was trying to pass an entirely different health-care bill. He doesn’t compare the merits of her legislation versus his. The comparison is purely political: She had eight years and couldn’t pass health care. I’ve had only six months. So I’m better.
The Obama comparison is trickier, since Obama actually did pass health-care reform. Again, Trump offers no substantive comparison between the bill Obama passed and the replacement he supports. He latches onto the fact that it took Obama longer. “How long did it take to get Obamacare?” he asks the reporters. Maggie Haberman answers: “Fourteen months.” Satisfied, Trump declares that, “I’m here less than six months.” So Trump has failed to reform health care in less time than it took Obama to succeed. But since the comparison is now not even about success or failure but about who succeeded or failed first, Trump has won again.