Peter Thiel’s $1.25 million donation to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign two weeks ago sparked some outrage in liberal Silicon Valley. In an effort to clarify his support for the candidate, the PayPal cofounder and venture capitalist spoke Monday at the National Press Club.
“Just as much as it is about making America great, Trump’s agenda is about making America a normal country,” Thiel said. “A normal country doesn’t have a half-trillion-dollar trade deficit. A normal country doesn’t fight five simultaneous undeclared wars. In a normal country, the government actually does its job.”
He continued: “Very unusually for a presidential candidate, he has questioned the core concept of American exceptionalism. He doesn’t think the force of optimism alone can change reality without hard work.”
“The Manhattan Project, the interstate highway system, the Apollo program — whatever you think of these ventures, you cannot doubt the competence of the government that got them done. But we have fallen very far from that standard.”
Thiel said he supports Trump because he agrees with him on larger issues: “I think it’s because of the big things that Trump gets right. For example, free trade has not worked out well for all of America. It helps Trump that the other side just doesn’t get it.”
He even suggested that Trump’s humble — at least in the way he views America’s position in the world:
“Nobody would suggest that Donald Trump is a humble man, but the big things he’s right about, amount to a much-needed dose of humility in our politics.”
Thiel continued: “No matter what happens in this election, what Trump represents isn’t crazy, and it’s not going away. He points toward a new Republican party, beyond the dogmas of Reaganism. He points even beyond the remaking of one party, to a new American politics that overcomes denial, rejects bubble thinking, and reckons with reality.”
Thiel did address Trump’s various personal problems, including his numerous remarks about women over the decades.
“Now, I don’t agree with everything Donald Trump has said and done, and I don’t think the millions of other people voting for him do either. Nobody thinks his comments about women were acceptable. I agree, they were clearly offensive and inappropriate. But 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. We’re voting for Trump because we judge the leadership of our country to have failed.”
Since Thiel endorsed Trump in May, he’s been an active, public backer. He delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention in July, saying then: “When Donald Trump says make America great again, he’s not talking about the past. He is running to lead us back to that bright future.”
Thiel is deeply rooted in Silicon Valley’s history and culture, and while his support of Trump is directly at odds with the likes of Sam Altman and Mark Zuckerberg, neither has taken any action to have him removed from the boards of Y Combinator or Facebook, respectively.
Watch the full speech below: