NEW YORK CITY-“You don’t trust each other,” remarked Donald J.Trump, to the roughly 160 head audience at the Real Estate LendersAssociation breakfast. He noted that it was nearly impossible toget lending for big buildings and that “none of you are gettingalong” as a result of some deals that went south during therecession.

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The breakfast was held at the Yale Club on the 20thfloor of 50 Vanderbilt Ave., overlooking Grand Central Station. Thelush backdrop of midtown’s skyscrapers suited the chairman and CEOof the Trump Organization well, although he noted that he was moreconfident facing some of the lenders today, regardless of theeconomy’s woes.

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“I recognize a lot of people,” he explained. “Thankfully I don’towe any of you money. In 1990 I would be shaking, but now I don’tgive a crap.” Although known for his failures as much as hissuccesses in the construction arena, he noted that his company wasin a strong cash position and had not been building as muchrecently, which helped in not having as much trouble during therecession. This was in part, he joked, thanks to being too involvedin making his NBC reality show, “The Apprentice.”

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“I love land,” he intimated, explaining that his recent ventureswere mainly golf courses, such as the old Pine Hill, now renamedTrump National Golf Club Philadelphia and his Trump National GolfClub Hudson Valley. Trump pointed out the safety net of purchasingand revamping a golf course in that “you always have the back-up ofland” if things don’t work out. So far, with the Encap exception inNew Jersey, his golf club investments have been faring well.

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His scattershot speech ranged from his own successes ontelevision and investment recently to politics and the economicoutlook of the country. “People want to give me all sorts of moneyfor Trump Tower and I don’t want it,” he wondered. “But no one willgive you money for development.” He remarked that it seemed oddthat there were low interest rates and, yet, no money to be lent,recalling a time when interest rates were high because of lack ofcapital. He pointed to the issue of trust again among lenders, notwilling to take more risk on new buildings.

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Trump knocked taxes as “too high” and declared, “I’m notleaving, but we will lose entrepreneurs to other countries. Theyhave no loyalties.” His solution was to tax Chinese imports,lamenting “Do we make anything anymore? Everything is made inChina.” It was a problem that would persist until the US figuredout how to deal with the value of the yuan to dollar which waskilling American competition with the one-billion-plus nation.

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The issue with China, for Trump, boiled down to poornegotiations. He wanted someone like himself or Carl Icahn to takea crack at China’s trade agreements. His interpretation was simplythat China sent “trained killers” to the trade table while the USsent diplomats.

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Trump felt the US should get equally tough on OPEC regardingoil, who were essentially fixing the price of oil and killing theUS and other oil intake countries. Trump also took the opportunityto weigh in on the two foreign wars, which he felt were in thewrong countries. Iraq particularly irked him, as he noted that inthe first Iraq war, the US paid billions of dollars to free Kuwaitand then handed it back to them for nothing. And Kuwait still doesnot invest in the US or help regarding oil prices. Trump pointedout that, “You pay the mafia for protection” or even privatesecurity companies, so it seemed like those organizations weregetting better deals than the US.

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The political scorecard, in very Trump fashion, was notparty-biased, but person specific. He like Pataki, but the currentgovernor was “incompetent,” Koch was good for four years, but“overrated” as a mayor, Bloomberg was great, Christie was doing agood job in New Jersey, but Corzine “didn’t have a clue.” His viewof the former president Bush was less than flowery. “You looked inhis eyes and you thought, ‘does he know what’s going on’?”

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As importantly, he felt the “Obama administration is failing,”but that with smart leadership it wasn’t too late for them to turnit around. As with trade, he felt Obama needed to focus intenselyon infrastructure, noting that as a construction advocate, he mustlook at things differently than the president.

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Trump trashed the conditions of the Lincoln Tunnel, the WestSide Highway, the Long Island Expressway, to name a few. Going backto the wars, he complained about the US’s inability to act smartlyfor its own best interests at home, saying that the US will spendbillions of dollars and soliders’ lives to “take a hill” inAfghanistan, “build a school” and a “shopping center,” and then ina month it’s blown up and the US does it all over again, “but wecan’t fix the West Side Highway?”

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Rounding out his remarks, he did not feel it was the end of daysfor the US, despite some of his gripes. Large buildings in New YorkCity were a little too over-priced in his opinion, and the value inplaces like Vegas or Miami was dubious, as he wasn’t completelysure some of those places would ever fully recover. Withoutleadership and focus, Trump was pessimistic, however he said, withthe US you always “have a chance to see something great.”

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