For the Weekend
Econ 1: Spring 2016: UC Berkeley: Thinking Like an Economist

Weekend Reading: McKay Coppins: The One Thing I Didn't Get Wrong About Donald Trump

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McKay Coppins: The One Thing I Didn't Get Wrong About Donald Trump: "About half an hour into Thursday night’s presidential debate...

...Republican frontrunner Donald Trump took a moment to call me out for the worst prediction of my career. It happened when a moderator asked him to respond to a recent BuzzFeed News report that he had secretly hedged on his hardline immigration proposals during an off-the-record interview with liberal New York Times editors. Trump responded, characteristically, with a small declaration of victory:

‘First of all, BuzzFeed, they were the ones that said under no circumstances will I run for president, and were they wrong....

He was referring to a 2014 profile I wrote, titled, ‘36 Hours On The Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump.’ In the story, I chronicle two accidental days spent inside the billionaire’s bubble, and I make the case that his 25-year history of flirting with — and then abandoning — various presidential bids constitutes a ‘long con’ designed to generate publicity. ‘If history is any judge,’ I wrote at the time, ‘Trump is about as likely to run for president in his lifetime as he is to accept follicular defeat.’ Two years later, Trump is on the verge of winning the Republican presidential nomination....

I was not the only political journalist to get this... wrong. But I was wrong earlier, and at greater length... a 6,000-word profile... the next year making the same argument on TV every time ‘Trump 2016’ speculation meandered into the news cycle. I have a vague recollection of offering, at one point, to bet my entire annual salary that Trump wouldn’t appear on a ballot in Iowa. Thankfully, no one at the MSNBC roundtable that day took me up on it. When Trump declared his candidacy last year, I called him the ‘bearded lady’ of the campaign season, and for several days I publicly questioned whether he would actually file paperwork.... I continued my streak of wrongness through much of last summer, routinely tweeting that Trump’s flameout was inevitable.... Eventually I gave up altogether on predicting Trump’s 2016 trajectory. But by then, I had already racked up enough faulty forecasts to fill years’ worth of the ‘what I got wrong’ columns.

Yet... there’s at least one thing I didn’t get wrong....

Among the chorus of ‘Yes, Mr. Trump’s and ‘You were great, Mr. Trump’s that tumble out of his yes-men at even the faintest prompt, the Donald can still hear the din of guffaws coming from a political class that long ago stopped taking him seriously. And it’s driving him crazy.

Trump’s obsession with gaining the attention and respect of political-media elites was the thing that most struck me.... He wanted serious people to take him seriously — and in the wake of his 2012 ‘birther’ crusade, he was generally regarded by the political class as a buffoon. The billionaire’s presidential candidacy seems motivated, in part, by a fierce desire to prove those haters wrong....

Over the past nine months, friends and media types on Twitter have made a running gag out of blaming me for Trump’s candidacy — and I’ve often played along. But lately, the meme appears to have spread beyond colleagues in the political press, and the tweets that now daily populate my @ mentions seem to be taking on an increasingly accusatory tone. If Trump did, in fact, launch his presidential bid to prove the ‘haters’ wrong, it’s fair to assume that category is considerably bigger than a single profile-writer. But just in case it will help, allow me go on the record now: Mr. Trump, I underestimated you. You can leave the campaign trail and return to Trump Tower secure in the knowledge that you’ve put me fully in my place. Consider this hater duly scorned.

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