Trump friend in Aspen: Give the president a chance | AspenTimes.com

Trump friend in Aspen: Give the president a chance

A major fundraiser and supporter of Donald Trump suggested Thursday in Aspen that the president is taking his political licks for the betterment of America.

Thomas Barrack Jr., who served as chairman of the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee and was senior adviser to Trump's campaign, said the commander-in-chief's abrasive, unorthodox style is forcing Americans to give greater examination to critical issues while the president gives a voice to the voiceless.

"The hyperbole creates dialogue," Barrack Jr. told interviewer Jimmy Reiss in the final installment of the McCloskey Speaker Series hosted by the Aspen Institute.

Speaking before a near-capacity audience at Paepcke Auditorium, Barrack Jr. conceded that he initially did not advocate Trump's run for the Oval Office.

"Nobody advises Donald Trump," he said. "President Trump advises you."

Recent polls have put Trump's approval ratings in the mid-30 percent region. Trump, however, entered an office with few political alliances like his predecessors, but he has managed to surround himself with some of the most qualified Cabinet members in U.S. history, thanks to their experience in business in finance, Barrack Jr. argued.

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All the while, Trump has been "chipping away" at a federal government by doing things his way rather than playing along with a tedious bureaucracy, he said.

"In a little while, the team will start getting in place," Barrack said of the Trump administration, which has seen a number of resignations and terminations that include those of FBI Director James Comey, press secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus and national security adviser Michael Flynn. "Congress will come together, because the midterm elections are going to force them to come together. The voices of all of them will be sounding loudly on all of these issues, on difficult issues and easy issues. And the process of governing will continue."

Americans should not view Trump through the same lens they have judged other presidents, he said. Rather, Trump is running the country through a calculated method of chaos and confusion. In other words, Barrack Jr. said, give President Trump a chance.

"We have a different warrior sounding a different drum," he said. "And I think we should have to judge him differently. So it's not really by popularity. It's, Is he making the visualization for us and the complexity of this government and the issues that we're dealing with any more vibrant for us to examine? And if that's so, then we have to take responsibility ourselves for what's happening. It's quite complicated."

Barrack Jr., an attorney and real estate investor who once served under President Reagan as deputy undersecretary of the Department of Interior, said he has known Trump for some 40 years. The two talk regularly, he said.

"Every time I go to him with some brilliant scheme," he said, "because I'm more moderate than he is, he explains to me that if he would have listened to me, he'd still be on 'The Apprentice.' … In just my view as a person, just as an individual, first of all, he's much better than his billing. So those of you who are skeptical of him or those of you who look at his conduct and his actions and find it abhorrent, it may be abhorrent, but there's a reason and a rationale behind it. He is a very driven human being."

That can be on display through Trump's regular tweets that often generate headlines and indignation. Barrack Jr. said he doesn't endorse Trump's behavior with his Twitter account, but the president successfully gets ahead of his message before the media distorts it.

"I think he undercuts the work he's trying to do," Barrack Jr. said, adding that Trump's tweets put into focus his insistence that "'I am going to be who I am. I'm going to say things that every American would like to say about the press. And I can do what our 18-year-old kids can do in bypassing institutional media by going to Twitter and having 35 million people instantly, which retweets to another 160 million people instantly with my point of view.'"

Barrack Jr. is credited with raising more than $32 million for Trump's campaign. He introduced Ivanka Trump at the Republican National Convention last year, and he stood behind the Trump family when Donald Trump was sworn in as president.

Barrack Jr. insisted that the president had no ties to Russia's purported meddling with the election. And as much criticism as Trump has received since taking office — from his travel ban to withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris accords — the president believes he is doing the right thing. Barrack Jr. suggested Trump is blazing a new trail in American history, and that comes with its lumps.

"That path that nobody has been on is lonely, it's daunting, you're never deafened by the applause of going down the road at that time, but at least there's someone who's going to do it," he said. "I could never succumb to the daily abuse that all these people take."

In the end, through, Trump will be judged on whether the economy flourishes, the labor force's income rises and the job market is robust, he said.

"I can tell you honestly that he's on target," Barrack Jr. said. "He feels he's doing 100 percent the right job."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com