President Trump was among friends in the State Dining Room in Washington on Thursday when he received 24 CEOs from the largest U.S. manufacturers.
He hadn't yet met them all, except through the media. "Many of you I know from reading all of our wonderful magazines," Trump said, according to the official transcript. "Business magazines, in particular."
He reminded the bosses they were there to talk about bringing millions of factory jobs back to the United States, as he promised.
That got him elected, Trump said: "Bringing manufacturing back to America, creating high-wage jobs, was one of our campaign promises and themes." And it worked! "States that hadn't been won in many, many years, they came over to our fold."
Trump asked himself: Were factory jobs his top priority? Top three, at least. "The border, a big part. Military strength, big part. And jobs, big part. I don’t want to say which is most important," he said. So big military contractors are a twofer, he added.
The president gave GE boss Jeffrey Immelt a shout-out — "Hello, Jeff!" — and bragged about enlarging U.S. markets for warcraft by dropping Obama-era restrictions on sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The Obama administration worried the Arab neighbors used U.S. weapons to kill too many civilians. "I want them to buy from us," Trump said.
He didn't conflate correlation and causation when he noted that the U.S. had lost factory jobs since the Canada-Mexico free-trade agreement of 1995 and China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001. He just noted the time line, and maintained that a good trade deal is one that leaves a U.S. surplus.
He boasted he'd gotten Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson to reduce costs for F-35 fighter jets: "She cut her price over $700 million, right? You think Hillary would have asked for $700 million?" The CEOs laughed. "I assume you wanted her to win," he told Hewson, then assured her, "You'll do all right."
The CEOs introduced themselves.
"Denise Morrison, from Campbell Soup Co."
"Good soup," said Trump.
"Thank you," said Morrison.
Trump expressed delight at U.S. Steel chief Mario Longhi. "You’re going to be doing pipelines now. You know that, right?" said Trump. "We put you heavy into the pipeline business because we approved, as you know, the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota," which call for U.S.-made pipe.
"One hundred percent, Mr. President," said Longhi.
Andrew Liveris, lame-duck CEO of Dow Chemical, was there, though his imminent merger and cost-cutting partner, DuPont Co. CEO Edward Breen, missed this one.
Liveris, who went to a similar meeting eight years earlier with Barack Obama and wrote a book about how the U.S. government should subsidize U.S. industry to compete with those socialists abroad, was smooth. "Thank you for the opportunity, and bringing the language of business back to the White House, and I'm here to make chemistry sexy again," he cracked.
The CEOs laughed.
"Look forward to really working with you on creating more manufacturing jobs," Immelt told Trump.
Trump replied with a golf brag: "Jeff actually watched me make a hole-in-one, can you believe that?"
"I've seen the magic before," Immelt concurred. "We were trying to talk President Trump into doing The Apprentice," when GE owned NBC. Future "President Trump goes up to a par-3 on his course, he looks to the three of us and says, 'You realize, of course, I’m the richest golfer in the world.' Then gets a hole-in-one."
The CEOs laughed. The ultimate country-club moment, for the ultimate country-club set.
And then Trump corrected Immelt: "No, I actually said I was 'the best golfer of all the rich people,' to be exact. And then I got a hole-in-one."
And Immelt agreed, yes, it was just as the president said.