Donald Trump has demonstrated pretty remarkable flexibility on any number of issues over his years in public life, and that was never more on display than Wednesday when it was announced that he had been named Time Magazine Person of the Year. That he would win the award seemed an almost foregone conclusion, but how he would respond to it was, at least, open to question.
Trump has been less than complimentary toward Time and its various lists over the years. When he didn’t make its “Most Influential” list in 2013, he tweeted, “The Time Magazine list of the most influential people is a joke and stunt of a magazine that will, like Newsweek, soon be dead. Bad list!”
Later, he added, “Just took a look at Time Magazine--looks really flimsy like a free handout at a parking lot! The sad end is coming--just like Newsweek!”
Last year, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the honor, Trump again complained that he was not the winner despite being “the big favorite” and blasted Merkel for “ruining Germany.”
Time has done little to bridge the divide. In the final months of the campaign, it ran two covers illustrated with a drawing of Trump’s face melting away, claiming that his candidacy was in meltdown. Earlier in the campaign, after staging a photo shoot in Trump’s office with a majestic-looking bald eagle, the magazine released “behind-the-scenes” video footage that made it look as though Trump was frightened of the bird.
Nevertheless, Trump appears to have accepted the award with a measure of grace, sitting for an interview in his Manhattan apartment, which turned into a lengthy article that did not stint on descriptions of the racism, anti-Semitism, and general coarseness that was stirred up by his presidential campaign.
Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs, in a companion piece to the accompanying profile of Trump, wrote, “For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair, and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s, Donald Trump is TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year.”
The interview also demonstrated, if there was any remaining doubt, that Trump’s commitment to the principles held dear by the establishment Republican party is just as flexible as his attitude toward news magazines.
In a statement that appears to run counter to years of GOP dogma, Trump touted the effectiveness of stimulus spending by the federal government as a spur for economic growth.
“Well, sometimes you have to prime the pump,” he told writer Michael Scherer, in defense of his plan to pour federal dollars into massive infrastructure project. “So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1 percent growth.”
After running a campaign in which his signature issues were the construction of a massive wall along the border with Mexico and the wholesale deportation of people who have entered the country illegally, Trump suddenly sounds a lot like an immigration reform moderate, at least when it comes to the so-called “Dreamers,” people brought to the country illegally as children.
“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” he told Scherer. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in the never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
While he didn’t go so far as to offer some the dreaded “amnesty,” that’s a far cry from the rigidly anti-immigrant rhetoric that was his daily staple on the campaign trail. And, though not for the first time, Trump made it clear that he seems to think everyone else’s commitment to truth is similar to his own.
Scherer asked about the assessment by the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had actively interfered with the U.S. presidential election by hacking Democrats’ computer networks and email accounts. Trump dismissed the judgment of the country’s top intelligence professionals
“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump said. When he was asked if he thought their joint statement was simply motivated by politics, he replied, “I think so.”