Elections

5 questions about whether Trump is really conservative

In this Jan. 19, 2016, photo, Donald Trump smiles after speaking at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona, Iowa. Trump and some mainstream Republicans are engaged in a long-distance flirtation. Both sides are coming to the realization that they'll need each other if the billionaire businessman becomes the party's presidential nominee.
In this Jan. 19, 2016, photo, Donald Trump smiles after speaking at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona, Iowa. Trump and some mainstream Republicans are engaged in a long-distance flirtation. Both sides are coming to the realization that they'll need each other if the billionaire businessman becomes the party's presidential nominee. AP

For as long as Donald Trump has been riding atop the Republican primary polls, his record has raised questions about his conservative credentials.

The conservative National Review magazine is the latest, releasing a broadside from 22 right-leaning writers and Republican Party officials who argue that Trump – a onetime registered Democrat – is only “playing” a conservative to secure the nomination.

They point to his past support for President Barack Obama’s stimulus program, universal health care and campaign contributions to Democrats. (And there was Hillary Clinton’s invite to his wedding.) Moreover, Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael, says the brash New Yorker has frequently broken Reagan’s “11th commandment” against speaking ill of other Republicans.

Trump himself has invoked Reagan when asked about his changes in position – noting the former president was once “a somewhat liberal Democrat.”

Where does Trump say he’s conservative and what does his record say?

Spending and the stimulus plan

Trump promised deep spending cuts when he unveiled his tax plan last September, telling reporters that “there is so much waste in government that I believe that when I get in there we will be able to cut tremendous amounts.” His tax plan, however, offered no overall cost estimate, nor estimates for how much it would cut or raise debt and deficits. It wasn’t paired with a plan to cut spending, not did it specify deductions to be scrapped.

Republicans note that Trump backed bailouts of the auto and banking industries and praised President Barack Obama’s $830 billion stimulus program, which few congressional Republicans supported.

Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell panned Obama’s proposal as a “trillion-dollar spending bill” and questioned whether it would create jobs and grow the economy – or “simply create more government spending, more bureaucrats and deeper deficits.”

But Trump said of Obama that “it looks like we have somebody that knows what he is doing finally in office, and he did inherit a tremendous problem.”

Building infrastructure, building great projects, putting people to work in that sense is also very good.

Donald Trump to Fox News

Health care

Trump has called President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Health Care Act a “complete disaster” and promises that it will be “repealed and replaced” – as congressional Republicans have long sought to do.

But he’s lauded single payer systems in countries such as Canada and Scotland, and in September told 60 Minutes that “everybody’s got to be covered.” He said it was an “un-Republican thing for me to say,” but vowed to “take care of everybody.” He said the government would pay for it, but that “for the most it’s going to be a private plan.”

Immigration

Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, would end the provision that extends citizenship to U.S.-born children of parents here illegally and would require Mexico to pay for a wall across the U.S. southern border.

But conservatives note that Trump in 2012 criticized Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s call for immigrants in the United States illegally to voluntarily return home as a “crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal.”

How do Donald Trump’s speeches match up with the facts? We annotated a hour-long speech from the campaign trail.

In an interview with Newsmax’s Ronald Kessler after Romney’s loss, Trump said the former Massachusetts governor “lost all of the Latino vote” and he said that although Democrats didn’t have much of an immigration policy, “they weren’t mean-spirited about it.”

Contributions to Democrats/ties to the Clintons

Trump said earlier this month at a rally in Biloxi, Mississippi, that “the last person that Hillary Clinton wants to run against is me.” He’s attacked her stamina and suggested that former Bill Clinton’s past indiscretions should be aired during the campaign.

But critics point out that Clinton attended Trump’s 2005 wedding (and Bill attended the reception), and that Trump contributed to Clinton’s Senate campaigns and donated to the Clinton Foundation, along with other Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Trump, who has in recent years given more to Republicans than Democrats, has defended his contributions to Democrats, noting that he lives in a blue state: “Everyone’s Democratic,” he said of New York in 2011. “So what am I going to do – contribute to Republicans? One thing: I’m not stupid.”

Gun control

Trump wrote in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, that he “generally” opposed gun control, but added that he backed a ban on assault weapons and a “slightly longer waiting period” for gun purchases.

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Trump has suggested that the assailants might have been vanquished had people been carrying guns. He now says he opposes any gun or magazine bans and backs a national right to carry law.

I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools. You have to. And on military bases. My first day. It gets signed my first day. No more gun-free zones.

Donald Trump

He ended a rally earlier this month in Vermont by calling for an end to gun-free zones on schools and U.S. military bases.

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

  Comments