“He’s a man that hears what he wants to hears … and he puts it through the lens of a marketer. He is a marketer,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “His image is, ‘I’m on top of this, I’m tough,’ and anything he hears that supports that theory of the case, he grabs and utilizes.”
Those around Trump disagree. They say his numbers-focused mindset is a crisis asset. Trump’s specific obsession with the number of coronavirus cases is the right approach, argued former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who made headlines when he insisted — wrongly — that Trump had drawn the largest ever inaugural crowd.
“Having a metric-based business mentality is what you need during periods of crisis,” said Spicer, who visited the White House at least twice this week. “Either people are getting better and it’s being contained or it’s not. It’s the only judge of success.”
Trump is obsessed with records, ratings and statistics, mentioning them constantly on seemingly every issue as he talks about what’s best — often inflating the numbers, often failing to acknowledge the human aspect, often overhyping his own role. There’s interest rates and unemployment rates, crowd sizes and polls, stock markets gains and immigrant apprehension numbers.
Before running for office in 2016, Trump had spent his five decades in the real estate, marketing and reality TV businesses. He sold himself to voters on that background, touting his ability to strike deals with countries and companies alike.
Once in office, he talked about policy moves like one-off deals, often becoming preoccupied with certain figures.
For example, he has constantly complained about trade deficits — when the value of what the country imports exceeds its exports — spouting off the amount with each country. $500 billion a year with China, $100 billion with Japan, $17 billion with Canada.
When Trump has struck new deals with China, Mexico and Canada and others, he’s always noted how much the agreement will reduce each trade deficit.
“When you’re in the real investment business, the performance is only based on numbers and that’s all that matters,” said a Republican who speaks to Trump. “He spent a lifetime on it. He’s not going to think differently now. That’s how you judge real estate. That’s all they have. It’s all about the money.”
But Trump has been accused of forgetting the people behind the numbers.
In August, Trump touted the crowd size of a rally — held at the same time as an event of then Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke —- while visiting medical staff who had treated victims of a mass shooting.
That criticism has resurfaced during the coronavirus pandemic.