A Trump a Liberal Could Love

Looking back at Trump’s past political acts

Edel Rodríguez

 

Donald Trump’s first tentative run for the presidency (1999–2000) ended almost as fast as it began. Video clips of interviews at the time reveal a progressive corporate executive, unlike the caricature Trump has devolved into. In excerpts from a February 24, 2000, interview with NBC News’s Matt Lauer, and an October 24, 1999 interview with “Meet the Press” Moderator Tim Russert, Trump comes off as a cautious center-left candidate who had hoped the Reform Party could gain a foothold. Lauer, questioning Trump as he was leaving the race, asked if it wasn’t all a publicity stunt.

***

Tim Russert: Do you think gays ought to be allowed to marry?
Trump: I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I live in New York, there’s a tremendous movement going on to have and allow gay marriage, it’s just something that is too premature for me to comment on.
Russert: How about gays serving in the military?
Trump: It would not disturb me. Again, I’d want to talk to lots of experts within the military. I mean, hey, I lived in New York City, in Manhattan all my life, so my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa, perhaps. But it’s not something that would disturb me.
Russert: . . . Would President Trump ban partial-birth abortion?
Trump: Well look, I’m very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything that it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still—I just believe in choice. And again, it may be a little bit of a New York background, because there was some different attitude in different parts of the country, and I was raised in New York. And grew up and work and everything else in New York City. But I am strongly for choice, and I hate the concept of abortion.
Russert: But you would not ban it? Or ban partial-birth abortion?
Trump: No, I am totally pro-choice in every respect, and as far as it goes, but I just hate it.

***

Trump: I’m not going to be running. The [Reform] party is as you know self-destructing. Jesse [Ventura] has left the party.
Matt Lauer: What do you see as the biggest problem with the Reform Party right now?
Trump: Well, you’ve got David Duke just joined, a bigot, a racist, a problem. I mean, these are not exactly the people you want in your party. [Pat] Buchanan is a disaster, as we’ve covered . . . I’ve always said, Matt, I would run if I knew I could win.
Lauer: Not only the nomination but the presidency?
Trump: The whole thing. I don’t want to get 20 percent of the vote, and I know I could. And I know I could get the nomination. I mean, New York wants me, Texas wants me. . . . Many of the states want me. . . . I’ve always said, and I said to you, if I could win the whole thing, you could only win the whole thing with a totally unified party.
Lauer: You’re sure this isn’t, and your critics are going to say, this is a great excuse for Donald Trump to back out now, they’re going to say, because first of all you’re thrown off the ballot here in New York . . . It’s undeniable that you’ve achieved an enormous amount of attention and publicity out of this. Again, your critics are going to say, “that’s what this was all about.”
Trump: That’s wrong. I mean, it’s wrong. It’s totally wrong. Most people that are into this thing and really into it and know me know that I’m totally serious about it. I have enjoyed it. I have a had a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of fun.