Mark Halperin, a nationally known political journalist, author and contributor to MSNBC’s Morning Joe, sees in President Donald Trump a lot of good.
“I say there’s good Trump and bad Trump,” Halperin said at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Wednesday.
Former U.S. Sen. George S. LeMieux (left), political journalist Mark Halperin and PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. meet in the Rinker Board Room of the Warren Library prior to Halperin's public lecture. Several PBA students received copies of Halperin's book Double Down.
“Good Trump” is a gracious man who is charming and generous, knows how to make a deal, basically ran for the right reasons and has centrist leanings, he said.
“Then there’s bad Trump,” a man who is “vindictive, mercurial, doesn’t show a lot of graciousness toward people, is not very well informed, divisive, childish. All of that can be seen on his Twitter account on almost any given day. That person shouldn’t be president of the United States, and that person won’t be a successful president,” Halperin said.
Ultimately, “I hope he succeeds, but I think his chances of success will rest partly on practical everyday accomplishments … (and) partly on how many days good Trump shows up versus bad Trump.”
Halperin, the coauthor of the New York Times bestsellers Game Change and Double Down, spoke at a public lecture hosted by The LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Afterward, he participated in a question-and-answer session with former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, who called Halperin “the foremost chronicler of presidential elections in this country.”
Game Change, about the 2008 election, became an award-winning HBO movie, and the network has optioned the rights to Double Down, which is about the 2012 race. Halperin is now working on his fifth book.
During his presentation, Halperin touched on three general topics: the environment in which the last election took place, the president himself and what might happen going forward.
Halperin said he has covered politics in all 50 states. One of the biggest problems with political journalism is that “too much of it is focused on the sensibilities of people who live in Washington and New York,” he said.
His travels have taught him that people nationwide are troubled by both national security and economic insecurity, he said. On the economic side, the reality of 2 percent growth has been a major concern, Halperin said.
“(President Obama) started with 2 percent growth and, with few exceptions, he ended with 2 percent growth. This country will never be great with 2 percent growth,” he said. “It’s just not big enough. It’s not fast enough. It’s not enough.”
He said he believes faster growth and compromises on issues like regulation, healthcare, infrastructure improvement and tax reform are unattainable without bipartisanship.
As a candidate, former President Obama said healthcare reform couldn’t be done in a partisan way, Halperin said. “And yet, by both his choice and the unwillingness of Republicans to cooperate, he did healthcare with all Democratic votes. And the result is what we’re seeing before our eyes,” a movement toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
Voters elected President Trump because they saw him as someone who would bring needed change to Washington, he said. “They saw of the two choices they had, someone who would change things and someone who would not.”
His executive orders and other actions since taking office indicate that the president is serious about change, he said. But at the same time, President Trump has really damaged his chances with some of the things he’s done so far in terms of gaining needed Democratic votes on issues such as tax reform and infrastructure, he said.
If he passes tax reform this year and passes it with Democratic votes, “I think he will have a very, very successful start and he can build on it,” he said.
However, if he passes tax reform with only Republican votes or fails to pass it, “this term of his could be like President Obama’s second term, where there are very few significant domestic policy accomplishments.”
During the question-and-answer session, Halperin said he views President Trump as willing to work in a bipartisan way, possibly to the consternation of some in his own party.
Regarding foreign policy, Halperin said that he personally could attest to how gracious the president can be, and he knew that many of the Palm Beach residents in the audience could as well.
“He’s got a big challenge, but his personal skills with world leaders and members of Congress of both parties is a big advantage,” he said. “He does that effortlessly.”
In addition to his public lecture, Halperin met with a small group of students as part of PBA’s President’s Lyceum. He also spoke with student journalists with the campus newspaper, The Beacon. To view a video interview with Halperin, visit The Beacon’s website.