Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Idaho GOP primary victor Russ Fulcher thinks Trump is a jerk, but says he can speak his language

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 5:26 PM

click to enlarge Idaho GOP primary victor Russ Fulcher thinks Trump is a jerk, but says he can speak his language
Daniel Walters photo
UPDATE: Steve Ackerman, Russ Fulcher's policy director, calls to clarify that Russ doesn’t, in any way, think the President a bad person.

“Driven personalities can come across as abrupt, but they’re actually people who want to get things done,” Steve Ackerman, policy director.

Basically, Ackerman says, Fulcher is saying, “I know how these people think.”

Last night, former Idaho Senate Majority Caucus Leader Russ Fulcher trounced his opponents, including former Lt. Gov. Dave Leroy and Coeur d'Alene-based state Rep. Luke Malek. Despite facing six other candidates, Fulcher won over 43 percent of primary voters.

That gives us an excuse to draw out an interesting exchange from a recent interview we conducted with Fulcher in Post Falls, where he explains how he thinks he understands Trump — and how he can use that to the district's advantage. 

When considering Trump, Fulcher draws upon his experience working with other business leaders as a former executive in the Boise-based semiconductor device manufacturer in Idaho. He names one leader in particular: a guy named "Steve Jobs," from a startup called "Apple Computers."

"At least, from our standpoint, he was really a jerk," Fulcher says. "His staff, anyone around him — it was fire him next, fire him next — if they didn't agree with him or really see the vision, it was just, next, next... very unpleasant to be around."

Commodore founder Jack Tramiel was the same way, Fulcher says.

"There is a certain type of person who is very, very driven, very, very smart, very, very vision oriented — they don't look at the world like you and I do," Fulcher says. "They see everything as a 'cost center' or a 'profit center.'

"In most cases, they have a personal life [that] is in tumult all the time. In most cases, they are not pleasant to be around. They don't have buddies, they don't have friends, per se.

"My perception is that that's Donald Trump," Fulcher says. "I think maybe, just maybe, I can speak his a language a bit."

That doesn't mean Fulcher is going to be Trump's buddy.

"He is never going to be my friend," Fulcher says. "He is never going to be anybody's friend."

Yes, he acknowledges, that's kind of sad.

"Steve was kind of sad," Fulcher says "His life was a mess."

But with guys like Jobs, he says, you couldn't argue with their effectiveness and their vision.

"[Trump] can't help himself in a lot of ways, because he sees stuff and he's got a skillset and growth for making things profitable," Fulcher says. "But the cost, personally, that comes with it is very, very high."

Sure, Fulcher knows he'd only be one out of 435 congressional delegates. He's not naive. But he thinks he knows how to talk to guys like Trump. It's all about the success of the corporation.

As an example, he role plays about how he would convince Trump to open up federal lands in Idaho to more state management, including recreation and judicious logging.

"Mr. President, there's a massive cost center in Idaho, that has the potential to be a state and federal profit center that is off the charts. Today, your expenditures and the contribution to the debt due to mismanagement or lack of management for resources is contributing X amount to a $21 trillion debt... I can take that red and turn it green in X amount of time."

That, Fulcher says, is how to speak "Trump."

Fulcher can't rely on discussions of recreation opportunities, saving Elk herds or preventing carbon emissions when trying to convince Trump to let Idaho have a larger role in managing federal lands. That doesn't move the needle for Trump.

"It's What?! What?!" Fulcher says, doing an impression of Trump's reaction to those sorts of arguments. "Whaddyagot? ... He's looking at this like a bottom line up, like every CEO. I won't say he doesn't care but — he doesn't care." Unless, Fulcher says, it has to do with profits or losses.

However, Fulcher says he and Trump differ significantly on style.

"It's 'launch the bomb and ask questions later,'" Fulcher says about Trump's style.

And yes, he clarifies when asked, he means that metaphorically.

"That's his style and it seems to work for him. I use Korea, as an example," Fulcher says. "Basically he tells this guy over there, look, 'I'm gonna decimate your country,' or something like that. But then again, look at him. If I can believe the reports, they're having conversations, they wouldn't have ever had! Would I have done that? No."

He also says he disagrees with Trump's views on DACA, a program that has protected some unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the country as a child. Though, he notes that Trump hasn't always been consistent on this issue.

“If I understand correctly, he's had circumstances where basically the president says — it’s almost a pro-amnesty message,” Fulcher says. “I’ve also heard reports ... where Trump says, ‘No amnesty, I’m going to throw them all out!' So, I don’t know which is true. But in terms of policy, I don’t think either is the answer.”

In Idaho, however, Fulcher notes, there's something to keep in mind. Idaho loves Trump.

"He's well over a supermajority of favorability in Idaho," Fulcher says. "With the Republican Party, it's just not that high."

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Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters was a staff reporter for the Inlander from 2009 to 2023. He reported on a wide swath of topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.His work investigated deep flaws in the Washington...