Barry Soper is Newstalk ZB's Political Editor

Barry Soper: Kiwi perspective on American politics

Chris Liddell. Photo/Doug Sherring
Chris Liddell. Photo/Doug Sherring

It was an invitation to lunch that was hard to refuse and we were in the Big Apple after all.

It was during the run up to the American Presidential election last year and the man who was a big hitter in the Mitt Romney camp four years earlier was no longer a political player, or so he thought, so it was a good opportunity to pick his considerable brain about what was making the Republicans tick with Donald Trump heading the ticket.

And it was even better getting a kiwi perspective on American politics from the former boss of Carter Holt Harvey who went on to pull the financial strings at Microsoft and General Motors. Four years earlier I spent an hour interviewing Chris Liddell on stage for the Auckland Business School and found him an engaging character.

In New York he greeted me with a bear hug and his perspective was certainly worth getting. He didn't hold out much hope for Trump pulling it off, but neither did most of New York with one Republican supporter telling me that with a Hillary Clinton win it'd be like putting a pistol to your head and pulling the trigger.

With Trump he said the same pistol would be at the head but at least he'd be playing Russian roulette.

Well in the past three months or so, the trigger's been pulled more than once but Trump's still standing and it's Chris Liddell's job to ensure that continues to be the case.

Over the years, Liddell's employed many people and he has an unusual interviewing technique, he asks them for three words that'd best describe them. He says it tells him whether someone has a brain that can simplify things.

Trump's appointed him as chief of the White House think tank, charged with bringing Trump's big picture transformative change items to fruition and given that he has so many of them, that's a big ask. If Liddell can't he might be on the receiving end of television Trump's three most favourite words, You Are Fired.

But that's not going to worry Liddell too much. He comes in an number eight on the White House employees' rich list with assets of up to $280 million. This is diminished slightly, apparently - with his purchase of New Zealand's most expensive penthouse apartment, on top of the old Fonterra building in downtown Auckland - so a return to the penthouse after the White House is obviously on the cards.

Imagine asking Trump to give you three words to describe himself, easy: Me, myself, I.

- NZ Herald

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