As many conservatives do, I paid close attention to the events at CPAC this year. Speeches from Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich piqued my interest. But for me, the surprise was Donald Trump. His speech began in an almost boring fashion with Trump essentially just reading the text. However, as he continued, the speech began to be a bit more interesting to conservatives. It was straight-talk, seemingly shooting from the hip. He mentioned gas prices being too high, America’s lack of respect abroad, and China being a threat to the U.S. economy. Towards the end, he also noted that he was pro-life, causing the ears of the socially conservative crowd to perk up.
After listening to the speech many Republicans had to ask the question: what’s not to like? Trump is a well-known celebrity, albeit a less serious one, and a self-made millionaire who knows how the economy works because he has actively worked in it throughout his career. He knows the right conservative talking points to mention. And on top of all this, he is pro-life. Perhaps he has the star power to elevate him to being a real contender against President Obama in 2012. It even makes some on the right dream of Trump repeating his famous line from “The Apprentice” to Obama post-election day: “You’re fired!”
But unfortunately, as with most politicians, the record behind the stump speech tells an altogether different story. Trump is not a conservative and he never has been.
In his book The America We Deserve, Trump laid out his case for universal healthcare with the following statement: “We must have universal healthcare. Our objective [should be] to make reforms for the moment and, longer term, to find an equivalent of the single-payer plan that is affordable, well-administered, and provides freedom of choice.” Although he is low on specifics, a single payer system typically insinuates something close to the healthcare system of the U.K. or Canada, but the reference to “freedom of choice” is closer to that of ObamaCare, a program which Trump now decries.
While the TEA party movement may not hold George W. Bush in as high regard as Ronald Reagan, I highly doubt they would offer the criticism that Trump gave of Bush back in 2008 when he said Bush was “so bad, maybe the worst president in the history of this country. He has been so incompetent, so bad, so evil that I don’t think any Republican could have won [in 2008].” In the same interview, he also said he thought that Obama “has a chance to go down as a great president,” particularly due to the change that he would bring in foreign policy.
Although many on the left favor raising taxes on the rich, Trump’s proposed tax hikes will likely not sit well with many on the right. In The America We Deserve, Trump said he would “impose a one-time, 14.25% tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth over $10 million. For individuals, net worth would be calculated minus the value of their principal residence. That would raise $5.7 trillion in new revenue, which we would use to pay off the entire national debt [and shore up the Social Security Trust Fund].” While this would hardly damage the wealthy who would be taxed by Trump’s proposal, it would certainly discourage investment and inhibit job growth in the private sector.
Trump’s history with eminent domain may not offend everyone on the right, but it will certainly raise eyebrows for many on both sides of the aisle. In 1997, he attempted to evict an elderly widow to allow for the expansion of his casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The land would have been used to build a “limousine waiting area,” among other things. He also proposed the use of eminent domain to seize control of private property in Bridgeport, Connecticut to build an amusement park.
Those who favor tort reform are also unlikely to find a friend in Donald Trump. While lawsuits aren’t terribly unusual for a businessman of Trump’s stature, the lawsuits themselves tend to border on the frivolous. The targets of such lawsuits include a small company in Georgia producing business cards they called “Trump Cards,” the county of Palm Beach, Florida where a proposed airport runway threatened to increase the noise near his property, and his former law firm in New York for referencing him as a past client.
If the expression “putting your money where your mouth is” means anything to Trump, his money is certainly not in the same place that his newest political positions are. Recipients of Trump’s political donations include the likes of , Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Anthony Weiner, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Charlie Rangel, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Frank Lautenberg and Kirsten Gillibrand, all proponents of the Obama agenda. Furthermore, Trump still defends these donations without regret.
Despite his attempts to woo the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Franklin Graham, conservatives should be willing to examine Trump’s record on the issues, rather than the newfound conservatism of his stump speeches. A candidate whose own statements and actions are in direct conflict with his current positions must be examined to determine his authenticity or perhaps, the lack thereof.