Why Conrad Black Supports Trump’s Reëlection

Why Conrad Black Supports Trump’s Reëlection

Conrad Black, the former owner of the Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous media properties in his native Canada, was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007, after charges of siphoning money from his company to fund his lavish lifestyle. The U.S. Supreme Court took up his case in 2010, which led to the overturning of two of the three mail-fraud counts, but Black served three and a half years in federal prison before being deported to Canada, in 2012.

Black, who considers Donald Trump a friend, wrote a biography of the President, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” that was published in 2018. Black had previously written an admiring biography of Richard Nixon, and has contributed for many years to National Review, so his flattering portrait of the President was no surprise. But the book became more notable the following year when Trump pardoned Black. Announcing the decision, the then White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to Black’s “tremendous contributions to business, as well as to political and historical thought.” Recently, Black signed a statement in support of Trump’s reëlection issued by a group called Scholars and Writers for Trump, which includes Dinesh D’Souza, who also received a pardon from Trump.

Black remains in Canada, despite having renounced his Canadian citizenship two decades ago in order to be seated in the House of Lords, in the United Kingdom. I recently spoke with him by phone about his support for the President. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed his long friendship with Trump, how Black responded to the “Access Hollywood” tape, and why he believes that the accusations about Trump’s racism are four-fifths false.

We hear a lot about Trump supporters who are coal miners or factory workers, and what they respect and admire about the President. But, as you make clear, he is also supported by media barons and multimillionaires. What is it that you like about him, specifically, that we might not hear so much about?

You have two aspects of that. In public-policy matters, I credit him with practically ending illegal immigration—although he is very much in favor of legal immigration—and by his tax reductions and his immigration policy eliminating unemployment prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. [The unemployment rate in February was 3.5 per cent.]

We can just forget the COVID-19 crisis and focus on before then.

Yeah. And the consequence of that was that you finally had the lower twenty per cent of income earners advancing more quickly than the top ten per cent. [Annual earnings for the bottom ten per cent increased faster than those of the top ten per cent during just one year, in 2018.] Second, while there have been some backing and filling on aspects of it, I think he has focussed correctly on the Chinese challenge, and he hasn’t done it in a bombastic way that reminds me—as an older person—of the McCarthy era. We aren’t getting that kind of paranoid hysteria. Third, I credit this President with standing resolutely against the more extreme demands of the climate-change- and environmental-alarmist groups. This idea that we have to shut down the oil industry is nonsense. The idea, in the words of Al Gore, that it is settled science—it is nothing of the kind.

On a personal level, I have known him a long time, and I had some considerable difficulties, legally, years ago, and he was extremely supportive and volunteered to come and give evidence for me, and I found him to be a loyal friend. Now, with that said, Isaac, I am disappointed and sometimes annoyed by the vagaries of his public personality, as I am sure most of your readers are, but in the balance of estimating the importance of these things, his personality is neither here nor there. It is what he does as President in policy terms that is more important, and that’s why I support him.

One thing that connects some of the things you are talking about is that he refers to global warming as a Chinese hoax.

I don’t think he said it was a Chinese hoax. He said it was a hoax. I think he quite rightly feels that the global-warming argument was a group of conservationists and ecological zealots who suddenly found a vast accretion of people in the international left routed after the collapse of international Communism, who embraced the environment as a new way to attack capitalism. That is what Trump thinks it is, and I agree with him.

I was just quoting him, when he said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

That was the Copenhagen thing. It was one of the dumbest ideas the Obama Administration had, and they had no shortage of them.

You mentioned lowering illegal immigration, but I think people have had issues with the way Trump has carried it out. A lot of immigrants were separated from their children at the border. Some of them remain separated. Do things like that concern you?

Yes, I thought that was botched when [Jeff] Sessions was still the Attorney General. I thought it was the dumbest thing I ever heard, and it didn’t last long. It was revoked quickly because the outcry against it was vigorous. I thought it was a mistake. I am not suggesting the President is infallible, for heaven’s sakes. I would be completely out of my mind if I said that. And he wouldn’t even claim it himself.

You write in your book, “Donald Trump possesses the optimism to persevere and succeed, the confidence to affront tradition and convention, a genius for spectacle, and a firm belief in common sense and the common man.”

Yeah, well, that’s what I wrote, and I think that’s accurate. In fairness, I would like to make the point that, in various places, I accused him of unutterable hucksterism and serious errors and ethically questionable conduct. I am not whitewashing this guy. We know what we are dealing with. But I think he has been a good President.

Can you talk a little more about your friendship with him, and what he is like as a friend?

Yes, and I am happy to do it, because the public Trump is often almost unrecognizable to people who know him personally. And I have known him for over twenty years. I haven’t seen much of him for the last few years. He calls me occasionally, very occasionally, and I would never presume to bother him.

He has a lot on his mind on the average day.

He is the holder of a great office, and the last thing in the world he needs is someone phoning him up for no good reason. But, to answer your question, he is a remarkable raconteur, a loyal friend, and his nature is positive. He can certainly be destructive about people he feels are doing something to him. That is a well-known fact, but his basic idea, and his whole ethos as a person, is that positive booster-ish thing, which got him into some pretty cheesy commercial operations, but that is his nature. He is a New York developer and he is a very positive personality. And, as a cordial acquaintance, he is always courteous. If you are having dinner with him, he never speaks over people. He is a good listener. He is very amusing and has a good sense of humor. And he is rather a generous man. A couple of times I have mentioned charitable causes I have been associated with, and he always donated well.

So reports about charitable donations being used for tax-avoidance purposes or being directed elsewhere are not in line with your experience?

Absolutely not. And all legitimate charities get favorable tax treatment, as they should. I don’t think his conduct, in that respect, is different from the Rockefeller Foundation to any university or the Roman Catholic Church or anyone else.

I often heard in 2016 from people who knew him that he was very different in private. Maybe that’s why the “Access Hollywood” tape was so shocking. It was the private Trump, and he seemed more in line with the man we see in public. How did you understand it?

Well, that was from eleven years before, and, of course, I knew him at that time. I was surprised, in a way. I had known he had been a womanizer of fairly energetic proportions, but I had thought that once he took up with Melania he laid off that. Now, what he actually said, as far as the recording of it, did not in itself contradict that. He didn’t say, “This is what I do all the time.” I think what he was saying was, “a celebrity can do this.” I have known him really only in the time he has been with Melania, and I have never seen the slightest hint that he was anything other than faithful to her. And the only contradiction to that that I am aware of is the Stormy Daniels business, which was, after all, a one-night stand.

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