Donald Trump on Thursday took a self-styled victory lap at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, where the president-elect relived the controversial deal he recently brokered with the manufacturer’s parent company to prevent roughly a 1,000 jobs from moving to Mexico. Notably absent from his rambling remarks were details about what, exactly, he promised and/or threatened that persuaded United Technologies to change its mind.
The reason for that, as my colleague Henry Grabar has already explained, is that what happened in Indiana represents exactly the problem, not the solution, in America’s approach to corporate negotiation. Based on what has been made public about the negotiations, it appears Trump secured millions of dollars in state tax breaks for a massive corporation that will still send more than a thousand other Indiana jobs to Mexico. The less said about the specifics the better for Trump.
He did, however, offer fresh details on Thursday about why he claims he got involved with Carrier in the first place. Assuming they are true, they were remarkably candid (emphasis mine):
I’ll never forget about a week ago I was watching the nightly news—I won’t say which one because I don’t want to give them credit because I don’t like them much. I’ll be honest, I don’t like them, not even a little bit. But they were doing a story on Carrier and I say, “Wow, that’s something, I want to see that.” And they had a gentleman worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn’t even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, “No, we’re not leaving because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving.” And I never thought I made that promise; not with Carrier—I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier, and I said, “What’s he saying?”
He was such a believer, he was such a great guy. He said, “I’ve been with Donald Trump from the beginning and he made the statement that Carrier’s not going anywhere, they’re not leaving.” And I’m saying to myself, man. And then they played my statement, and I said, “Carrier will never leave.” But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in because they made the decision a year and a half ago. But he believed that that was—and I could understand it; I actually said [it]—when they played that I said I did make it but I didn’t mean it quite that way. So now because of him, whoever that guy was, is he in the room, by any chance? That’s your son? Stand up, you did a good job. … Well, your son is great.
First thing’s first: The next president of the United States might not know what the word euphemism means. More importantly, though, was that Trump now says that when he specifically promised during the campaign to use the threat of stiff tariffs to bring back the Carrier jobs, he wasn’t actually promising to bring back the Carrier jobs, nor did he even intend to try.
I’d guess Trump told this particular story—the closure was a done deal; I did the impossible!—to hype up the deal even more than he already has. In reality, though, contained in his one-man play was the admission that his pre-election bluster about the plant was just further proof of a PR/propaganda strategy he’s been talking openly about since the 1980s, and that he will now take with him to the White House: “I play to people’s fantasies.”