Trump Will Make America Great Again
An Interview with The Honorable Joseph Borelli, New York City Councilman

 
The Honorable Joseph Borelli is a member of the New York City Council, a New York Republican and is known as one of the most prominent Trump supporters. During the presidential election in 2016, he served as one of the New York State Co-Chairmen of the Donald Trump campaign, and regularly appeared on CNN, Fox News and the BBC. In the early days of the new presidency, we interviewed him to these what he foresaw during the Trump Presidency. Although the mainstream media remain critical of the Trump administration, this interview will help us understand some controversial issues and present an alternative view to that espoused by the mainstream media.

 

The Media’s Double Standards on the “Russian Hacking”

 

Joseph Borelli

A member of the New York City Council from the 51th District since 2015, and the Minority Whip in the Council. A former member of the New York State Assembly from 2013 to 2015. A professor of Political Science at the City University of New York and a Lindsay Fellow at CUNY’s Institute of State and Local Governance.

 

Interviewer:

Motohisa Fujii

Director General of International Politics Division, Happy Science

Fujii: What is your view on the Trump administration now?

Borelli: Trump is someone who enjoys a little bit of controversy. We definitely see a bias in the media against him. I’ll give you an example. They criticize him for “wiretapping”. He uses “wiretapping” so much, and they got into the minutia of what the word meant. The same media doesn’t correct anyone who says, “Russia hacked our elections.” That’s a broad statement. Russian hacking? It never happened. They allegedly hacked the email accounts of people associated with the election. They didn’t hack our voting systems. So, there are two standards, depending on whether you’re attacking Donald Trump, or you’re part of the Trump organization or administration.

 

Renegotiating Trade Deals

Fujii: I think Trump knows a lot about world trade, but some economists criticize his trade policy. What do you think about this?

Borelli: Conservative economists have always been supportive of truly “free trade” with almost no restriction on imports and exports. I think this president has always been open about his belief that we should be renegotiating trade deals and not focusing solely on a “free trade” concept. It does go against a lot of what traditional conservatives thought had been for the past 75 to 100 years. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct or it’s right. I think the president wants to do what the majority of countries around the world do, and to negotiate trade policies with other countries that are mutually beneficial. If one side feels that the trade agreement is not benefiting their country, they should be able to renegotiate it.

In the case of NAFTA, you have the Canadians and the Mexicans also believing that NAFTA is not working. So, this is not unique to just Donald Trump. It’s something that nearly all of the countries involved want to reform and change. With respect to the TPP, pulling out of it is a bit more controversial than getting involved with it. Yet, the president wants to take a step back from where the previous administration left off, and re-examine whether it is worth engaging in a bilateral sense with many of these countries.

 

Withdrawal from Trade Deals

Fujii: Japanese Prime Minister Abe wanted to enter into the TPP with the U.S, but Trump withdrew from it on day one of his presidency.

Borelli: It is a tough position for him to be in, because President Trump was so specific about removing the U.S. from TPP. Part of the electorate that voted for Trump was specifically voting against trade deals like the TPP. It was something he made a focal point of his campaign. So, it would be tough for Trump to renege on that promise.

Fujii: Do you think it was a campaign strategy to get votes from the Rust Belt?

Borelli: Sure. It certainly worked. When you look at objective statistics from the consumer confidence index, there really is restored confidence in the American economy. I’m sure that had something to do with it and I think it’s generally a good thing.

 

Securing the Border

Fujii: “Building the Wall” was the most controversial issue during the campaign. I think Tump’s main purpose was to secure the border – not to be anti-immigration and racist.

Borelli: Illegal immigration in this country has been a problem. This is something that was a bipartisan proposal for the past thirty years. I think it goes back maybe as far as Ronald Reagan who was somewhat moderate on border control but he said, “We need to secure the border”. All of a sudden, the Democrat Party, because they lost the election, decided that it is now somehow racist to say, “We want to secure the Southern Border”.

Bear in mind that securing the border is something that the majority of nations in the world do. If we’re going to pick and choose which borders to secure, why would we go to the expense of having customs agents at airports? It makes no sense. I think the president wants to have responsible immigration and not just the chaos that ensues now.

 

Implementing the Travel Ban to Protect Americans

Fujii: What do you think Trump’s immigration policy should be?

Borelli: I think the second travel ban will be upheld within the court system and that will be implemented. You even saw the President changed the policy, with just a month between the first and second travel ban, where he said that now Iraq was able to vet the immigrants who wanted to come to the United States. I think the goal is to protect Americans.

The President was even criticized for something he had nothing to do with, when the airlines banned laptops from certain flights. People criticize Trump that he’s acting inappropriately when banning this. Yet, a few weeks later, the UK and some other countries came out and said, “No. We have an understanding that ISIS can develop batteries into bombs”. But of course, the reaction from the media is always a default against Trump.

 

Views on Trump’s “America First” Agenda

Fujii: “America First” is the main agenda of the Trump administration. The European Union leaders in particular are fearful of his stance. How do you see this situation?

Borelli: It’s funny how people see this as strange. You see in this European view, the very globalist view, of where the European Union leaders are essentially subjugating themselves to a confederation that they formed in putting their own countries sort of second in that list. Outside of Europe, you find the leaders in most countries of the world are not afraid to say, “I’m putting the people of my country first”. If Prime Minister Abe said, “I’m putting the people of Japan first”, that would be normal.

You expect the leader of many countries to say, “We’re going to try and do what we can to place the priorities of those who elected me first”. With the Obama administration, he had more of this globalist view where humans that live in America are primarily citizens of the world first, and not Americans. I think that view put him in conflict with the people that eventually supported Donald Trump in the election.

 

Media Bias Toward the Trump Administration

Fujii: Why do you think the mainstream media are always criticizing Trump?

Borelli: I don’t know. Even as a Trump supporter, I can look at it and say, “Donald Trump does cause some of the controversy himself”. If the president tweets out about a media outlet, he is as much to blame for fanning the flames as any reporter.

You take an incident like Sean Spicer, who was criticized for scolding a reporter in the White House briefing. This is something that has happened with every president and press secretary before them, and yet they treat this incident as unique and new. I think that’s just one example of media bias where the default of every story is “negative Trump”. If you watch Fox News and MSNBC, sometimes you don’t even think you’re living in the same country.

 

Trump is Against Political Correctness

Fujii: On the other hand, why do you think Trump is so popular among voters?

Borelli: Because I think people do like the fact that he’s not afraid to just stand up for himself, and he doesn’t need to be “politically correct” at every single moment of his life. I mean, political correctness has gone incredibly crazy in this country.

Fujii: Would you mind expanding on that?

Borelli: Political correctness is where basically everyone is encouraged to have the same liberal progressive views on diversity and multiculturalism. It is unacceptable to criticize anyone who doesn’t agree with you, so long as they are part of the “left”. Whereas if you are someone who is in favour of, for example, traditional marriage, pro-life, or you are just a conservative, you’re treated in a different way where your views are somehow not worth as much, or your views are offensive to others.

 

Trump’s Use of Twitter

Fujii: Trump is very good at gaining popularity. And he uses Twitter very often.

Borelli: Some presidents are criticized for not being transparent enough. Here, you have someone who speaks directly to the American public multiple times a day. Yes, sometimes it has not served his purpose. There have been some tweets even while he is president that he should not have sent out. They have caused nothing but problems. However, whenever he tweets something, he knows that they will dominate the story for the next twenty-four hours. That’s an advantage.

 

Obama’s Failed Presidency

Fujii: What are your thoughts on the Obama administration?

Borelli: You saw things not work out. President Obama’s really only major accomplishment was Obamacare. Despite the fact that we’re having this problem now repealing and replacing it, the one thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on is that Obamacare itself is a very flawed policy where it can’t sustain itself. So, it’s a bad policy. Yes, you do have some Democrats saying we need to go further as a solution, Republicans are saying the opposite.

The Obama presidency was a much failed presidency. There are some arguments you can make about the economy taking off again under his presidency. I think those are fair arguments to make. By and large, where are the foreign policy successes? Is the world safer? Is racism better in the United States of America as a result of his presidency? All these things are that he spoke about when he ran for office in his inauguration speech. And we just don’t see any of those changes ever happening. By his own measure, if you look back to 2009 in the things he said when he was campaigning and in his inauguration, by his own standards he might be a failed president.

Fujii: I remember that at the beginning of the Obama presidency, there was so much enthusiasm across the U.S.

Borelli: Sure. The Obama Inauguration was about one person. It was about Barrack Obama. Yes, it was historic. I mean, this is a country that has a history of slavery. This is a country that has a history of racism. We can’t ignore that and pretend that didn’t happen. I think it is a powerful moment when an African American does become the president of the United States of America. That’s something we’ll never take away from Barrack Obama. That’s why his inauguration was so powerful for many Americans.

I was very happy to see an African American president. Although I didn’t support him, I thought it was a good thing in terms of where racial issues are common in the country. However, his inauguration was about aggrandising Barrack Obama. Donald Trump took the opposite approach where his inauguration was about restoring power back to the people who elected him. I think that is a powerful message and that is the appropriate direction that you would expect the country to go in after a president like Obama who was very self-centred.

 

As a Republican in New York City

Fujii: After Election Day, There were many demonstrators here in New York City.

Borelli: I think you should take a time machine back to before June 2015 when Donald Trump was universally loved by New York City. New Yorkers, even the most liberal people, were fans of Donald Trump as a New York City businessman. The reason why? He was a celebrity. He was a media success. He was someone that was in the newspapers every day, if not every week, during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He was always this controversial between his love life, his family life and building skyscrapers. He was someone that New Yorkers were obsessed with for so long. That’s why he talked about running for Governor in 2013. There were people that disassociated themselves. He was a friend of Puff Daddy, a rapper. All sorts of people would attend his parties and he would attend their parties. All of a sudden, he decided to run for president as a Republican and suddenly everyone hated him. I guess that’s the price for living in a city like New York.

Fujii: And you’re one of a few Republican Councilmen in this city.

Borelli: We are a city the same size as Bahrain. We have the same population as Austria. We have a bigger gross metropolitan product as the country of Australia. All of the people that represent this city, except for three people, are Democrats. So, that’s how liberal the city is. We are the size of Austria in population and have a bigger budget and yet only three people out of the fifty-one who govern the city are Republicans. It’s a one party town, and it’s tough to be a Republican.

 

Views on the Populist Movement

Fujii: Mr Trump was a proponent of Brexit. The populist movement is said to be against globalism. How do you see it?

Borelli: Donald Trump did not start western populism or even devolution, the concept of restoring local control. People like Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, were all very popular politicians in their own country prior to Donald Trump. What you saw with Donald Trump, though, is he knew how to take the views of the right and adapt them to a broader audience. I think you see now unfortunately Geert lost. You also saw Hofer in Austria try to win as a far right candidate and he came up just short. The election with Marine Le Pen will be the real test. There’s this question of whether it’s wrong to say, “I am French and I’m proud to be French. And I think the French should govern France”. And whether the country agrees with that.

I think there are two separate arguments. There are people who are trying to say that’s an illegitimate idea that French people should govern France only. I think you have less of that problem in Japan where the culture is more favourable to people who believe that Japanese people should be governing Japan for the benefit of the Japanese people. This is an idea the West struggles with. What does it mean to be British? What does it mean to be Irish? And whether that should be subjugated by Pan-Europeanism is something they struggle with.

 

Supreme Court Justice Nomination

Fujii: From the viewpoint of the left leaning media, the populist leaders are sometimes regarded as “far-right”. What is your opinion?

Borelli: They’re trying to say that the Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, is now “far right”. This is why there is a media bias. You may recall: Neil Gorsuch, ten years or so ago, was nominated to the second highest court in the country and was unanimously supported by Democrats, because he is a conservative thinker but a moderate. He’s not someone who wants to take away rights that the legislative branch have voted for. He’s someone who believes the rule of law. Democrats voted for him unanimously. Now he’s up for the Supreme Court. The Democrats and the media are painting this person as someone who’s almost an extremist.

You see the default reaction of the media for every story is anti-Trump. How can we spin this so that the administration is wrong? How can we spin this so that the administration is somehow ineffectual in some policy? The problem for the media is that they’re going to go too far.

 

Return of Confidence

Fujii: “Make America Great Again” was the slogan of the Trump campaign. My last question is how do you think he can achieve this goal?

Borelli: I think you are seeing it already with the return of confidence to the American market, and to the American people. And you’re seeing a clear desire by so many in America to reinvest their own work product into American jobs, American manufacturing and American industry. Whereas it has become popular again to believe America should be a global power.

Fujii: Do you think the president Trump can “Make America Great Again”?

Borelli: I sure hope so. We have no choice but to try now.

Fujii: Thank you so much.


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Trump Will Make America Great Again
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