Peter Thiel, an eccentric libertarian billionaire funding Donald Trump’s campaign, sometimes seems hard-hearted. After all, this is the man who bankrolled the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that put Gawker out of business. But Thiel has a tender place in his heart: for single-digit millionaires.
“If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” he somberly told a National Press Club audience.
Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, came to Washington to talk about his affection for Trump and opposition to war. By backing Trump and giving $1 million to a super PAC supporting him, Thiel has become arguably the most controversial figure among his Silicon Valley peers. Coming to D.C. gave him a chance to reframe the narrative around his support for Trump—and to make the eyebrow-raising case that Clinton, not Trump, would do the most to get us into nuclear war.
Thiel did all this without mentioning (and without getting asked about) the fact that while he delivered that speech, one of his companies won the right to bid for a lucrative contract with the U.S. Army.
Palantir had charged that the Army unfairly boxed them out of competing for contracts that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And at about 11:30 a.m., news broke that a federal judge ruled that they were correct, and that the Army has to give them a second chance to cash in.
It was a curious incongruity that highlights just how odd Thiel’s place in American politics is.
Thiel said Trump would stop pointless military interventions and protect gay rights—apparently having missed the mogul’s “take their oil” talking point and vice presidential pick. And Thiel didn’t just argue that Trump would bring peace and goodwill; he suggested that a Hillary Clinton presidency could precipitate nuclear war.
“The Democratic Party is more hawkish today than at any time since it began the war in Vietnam,” he said.
Then he said that Hillary Clinton’s current position on Syria—that the U.S. should enforce no-fly zones in the country—would have terrible consequences.
“That would be a mistake even more reckless than invading Iraq,” he said, adding that it could pit American troops against Russian fighter planes that are helping Assad in his war against the rebels. “It would risk a direct nuclear conflict.”
A Trump presidency, he continued, would make America normal, like other countries.
“Just as much as it’s about making America great, Trump’s agenda is about making America a normal country,” he said. “A normal country doesn’t have a half-trillion dollar trade deficit. A normal country doesn’t fight five simultaneous undeclared wars.”
He said those wars—in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya—were among the biggest threat to Americans’ individual freedoms today, along with mass incarceration and federal regulations.
What Thiel didn’t say is that as long as we’re at it with this whole endless military intervention thing, his company will fight tooth-and-nail for its cut of the war pie.