President Donald Trump conceded that his White House is often too combative, but he added that “the only way you survive is to be combative.”
A wide-ranging Time interview published Thursday spans a variety of topics, from the recent missile strikes in Syria to the future of aircraft carriers to what he watches on television. Time conducted the interview on Monday in the White House, just a day before the president publicly fired FBI Director James Comey.
“It could be my fault. I don’t want to necessarily blame but there’s a great meanness out there that I’m surprised at,” Trump said when asked if he thought the White House was too combative. “I’d like not to be. But the only way you survive is to be combative. I’ll read stories in the New York Times that are so one-sided.”
The aggressiveness of the White House, both inside and out, is well documented. Within the White House, his chief strategist Steve Bannon is known to be a fiery populist who has clashed with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Similarly, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, often feuds with the press during daily briefings. His pugnacious nature has even become a staple of Saturday Night Live, where the actress Melissa McCarthy caricatures Spicer as belligerent hot-head who screams at the media.
The Time interview also seemed to catch Trump in brief moments of reflection, as when he admits that “politics is tough” and there are aspects of it that he doesn’t understand, such as people apparently not embracing his agenda of lower taxes and better healthcare. “I don’t quite get it,” he said.
And just as telling is his explanation for why he decided to send a missile strike to Syria in early April. Trump repeated that he was disturbed by the violence of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s regime. But he added that he wanted America to also appear tough.
“I think we have to be a strong nation,” he told Time. “I think we were being laughed at by the world. They’re not laughing anymore.”