Peter Thiel: Donald Trump wants to make America 'normal' again

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Peter Thiel, the billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist who serves as GOP nominee Donald Trump's most notable Silicon Valley supporter, doesn't take what his candidate of choice says literally.

Neither do many of his other supporters, Thiel said at a pro-Trump speech delivered Monday at the National Press Club in Washington. He said it's the media who takes the candidate at his every word, and it's the media that's missing the driving factors behind Trump's underlying support base.

"The media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally," he said. "I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. And so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or like the wall comment ... what they hear is, 'We're going to have saner, more sensible immigration policy.'"

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Business leaders who endorse Donald Trump
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Business leaders who endorse Donald Trump

Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes 

Photo: Reuters

Peter Thiel, Venture Capitalist, co-founder of PayPal

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Kenneth Langone, co-founder of The Home Depot

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Bernard 'Bernie' Marcus, co-founder and former chairman of Home Depot 

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Pete Coors, Chairman of MillerCoors

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Linda McMahon, formerly CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment

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Brian France, Chairman and CEO of NASCAR

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Herman Cain, American author and business executive

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Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
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Thiel is a self-described libertarian who co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies and has invested in a cavalcade of other big-name tech startups, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, Yelp and Friendster. He had backed former GOP Rep. Ron Paul of Texas in the congressman's former presidential bids and was an early supporter of Republican candidate and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina during the 2016 primaries.

But the more Thiel listened to Trump's message, the more he liked what he heard. And it's not necessarily Trump's promise to make America great again that peaked Thiel's interest – it''s the idea that the outsider could make America "normal" again.

"The truth is no matter how crazy this election seems, it is less crazy than the condition of our country," Thiel said. "Trump's America is about making America a normal country. A normal country doesn't have a half-trillion-dollar deficit. A normal country doesn't fight five simultaneous undeclared wars. In a normal country, the government actually does its job."

Thiel noted that both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are "imperfect people." But he thinks support has flocked to the outspoken Republican candidate because of the "big things Trump gets right" and his representation of "a new Republican Party beyond the dogmas of Reaganism."

Free trade, Thiel said, has not benefited everybody, and the country has lost millions of manufacturing and production jobs over the last few decades as a result of more open trade policies. Trump's promises to shake up the North American Free Trade Agreement and more thoroughly restrict trade with China and Mexico are exactly what the victims of globalization want to hear.

Indeed, a recent Pew Research Center report showed 68 percent of Trump supporters feel free trade agreements have "been a bad thing for the U.S." Only 32 percent of Clinton supporters said the same.

Thiel also highlighted Trump's anti-establishment platform as highly appealing to those in the U.S. who "judge leadership to have failed" in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats. He highlighted the dot-com bubble that developed during President Bill Clinton's administration and the housing bubble that surfaced during that of President George W. Bush. Thiel said insider policies too often amount to "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" rather than actually solving problems.

To that point, the same Pew report showed that 83 percent of Trump supporters believe that "government is almost always wasteful and inefficient." Only 31 percent of Clinton supporters concurred.

"No matter what happens in this election, what Trump represents isn't crazy, and it's not going away," Thiel said. "On the kinds of issues I talk about today – trade bubble, war bubble, globalization bubble, these various bubble policies – the insiders have been getting it wrong for a very long time."

Thiel earlier this month surfaced plans to donate $1.25 million to Trump's campaign and pro-Trump super PACs. News of the fund infusion came after a tape surfaced featuring Trump making lewd comments about women in a conversation with media personality Billy Bush. Thiel was asked about the timing, but said he hadn't pledged funds beforehand because he didn't think Trump needed his money.

"I didn't think as much even about the donation as I should have. My general perspective this year is that money didn't really matter as much," Thiel said, alluding to the fact that Trump's campaign coffers have been dwarfed by Clinton and primary opponents like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Thiel ultimately praised Trump as a candidate who "overcomes denial" and "reckons with reality." Critics of Trump, however, have hit out at the real estate mogul for having an "outdated worldview" and championing claims that "have no basis in reality."

Thiel also commented on some of the darker corners of the internet and suggested the country's libel laws should not be changed dramatically no matter what happens on Nov. 8, which is an interesting position for him to take, as Trump has suggested he'd make it easier to sue media organizations over less-than-favorable stories. Thiel also secretly helped fund a lawsuit involving former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker that involved free speech arguments.

Gawker ultimately filed for bankruptcy and shuttered its doors in the wake of its legal battle. Thiel said he "strongly believe[s] in the First Amendment" and thinks that journalists are a "privileged group in our society." But he called Gawker a "pretty flimsy business" and a "singularly sociopathic bully" that wasn't "remotely in the same ballpark" with other media organizations he'd encountered.

Despite his role in the Gawker lawsuit, his public comments stand in stark contrast to Trump's. And, as such, Thiel said, he thinks it would be "crazy" to be held responsible for Trump's more controversial comments and stances.

"I don't think the voters pull the lever in order to endorse a candidate's flaws. It's not a lack of judgment that leads Americans to vote for Trump," Thiel said. "We examine people under an electron microscope if you're running for dogcatcher in this country. And I think this is the single biggest reason why more talented people do not run for political office and do not get involved."

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

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Peter Thiel through the years
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Peter Thiel through the years
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Portrait of Peter Thiel, a tech investor, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, fund manager and co-founder of Paypal, taken at his San Francisco office of the Founder's Fund. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
Portrait of Peter Thiel, a tech investor, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, fund manager and co-founder of Paypal, taken at his San Francisco office of the Founder's Fund. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
SQUAWK BOX -- Pictured: Peter Thiel, American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager. Thiel also co-founded PayPal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk and served as its CEO; he is pictured here in an interview on September 17, 2014 -- (Photo by: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 12: Peter Thiel speaks onstage at Peter Thiel: You Are Not A Lottery Ticket during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 12, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jordan Naylor/Getty Images for SXSW)
BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 27: (CHINA OUT) Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc., speaks during a forum themed on entrepreneurship and investment at China National Convention Center on February 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Peter Thiel, head of Clarium Capital Management LLC and founding investor in PayPal Inc. and Facebook Inc., listens during the LendIt USA 2016 conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Thiel discussed his outlook for the tech industry. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Partner at Founders Fund Peter Thiel participates in a panel discussion at the New York Times 2015 DealBook Conference at the Whitney Museum of American Art on November 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times)
BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 27: (CHINA OUT) Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc., speaks during a forum themed on entrepreneurship and investment at China National Convention Center on February 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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