A Political History of Donald Trump's Publicity (1987-2011)

Trump has a long record of saying anything on politics for a headline

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In a campaign-style appearance in Boca Raton Saturday, Donald Trump told the Tea Party crowd that he's a real conservative--he's anti-tax, pro-life, pro-gun, and will "fight to get rid of Obamacare." Three elderly people fainted at the rally. We hope they swooned for the April sun, not at Trump's convictions. It shouldn't be a surprise that Trump has latched onto the far-right's birtherism. As he enters his fourth decade as a professional attention seeker, Trump has a long record of saying just about anything that will win him headlines. Especially when it strikes a cultural or political nerve.

It's not even the first time that Trump has flirted with running for office as part of his brand: Way back in 1987, for example, he started buying full-page ads in newspapers in which he opined on national issues. Two weeks after a jogger in Central Park was brutally raped and left in a coma, he took out full-page ads in several newspapers calling for the death penalty for the "savages." (Contrary to Trump's assertion that he's always been cool with "the blacks," some said the ad was race-baiting.) There was another set that ran in the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post (at a personal cost of $95,000) which proclaimed, "There's nothing wrong with America that a little backbone can't cure," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. His flack tried to stoke a little political speculation by denying any plan to run for mayor, governor or Senator but added that Trump "will not comment about the presidency."  In 2000, Trump wrote a faux presidential campaign book, The America We Deserve, which Slate's Dave Weigel actually bothered to read, in which Trump claimed that he was ready to lead America towards socialism (or at least single payer health care, just like they have up in Canada).

It's worth remembering that 2012 is not the first time Trump's nose for publicity has drawn him into the political arena. But it is rather remarkable that our political landscape (that is, the Republican voters who keep telling pollsters they're eager to vote for a strident birther like Trump) is ready to welcome him. So, drawn from Trump's other political non-campaigns of the last quarter century, here is a history of Trump on the issues.

Health Care:

  • 2000: "We must have universal healthcare... Doctors might be paid less than they are now, as is the case in Canada, but they would be able to treat more patients because of the reduction in their paperwork... The Canadian plan also helps Canadians live longer and healthier than Americans. There are fewer medical lawsuits, less loss of labor to sickness, and lower costs to companies paying for the medical care of their employees. If the program were in place in Massachusetts in 1999 it would have reduced administrative costs by $2.5 million. We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing.
  • 2011: "I will fight to get rid of Obamacare, which is a total disaster."

The Budget:

  • 1987: "The fact is we don't need a tax increase. We should have a tax decrease. We should have Japan and we should have Saudi Arabia and we should have all of these countries who are literally ripping us off left and right. . . . They should pay for our $200-billion deficit." [Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1987],
  • 2000: "By imposing a one-time 14.25 percent net-worth tax on the richest individuals and trusts, we can put America on sound financial footing for the next century. ... The plan would cost me $700 million personally in the short term, but it would be worth it."
  • 2011: “I think hundreds of millions of dollars of money, and let’s call it tax money, could come from other countries when we stop them from ripping us off... As an example, we are protecting South Korea from North Korea... Why aren’t they paying for this protection? ... So, when you look at a hundred other items just like this, hundreds of millions of dollars could come in, so you wouldn’t have to play around with Medicaid and Medicare, and things that are really dear to people’s hearts."

Global Trade:

  • 1987: "The Japanese, when they negotiate with us, they have long faces... But when the negotiations are over, it is my belief . . . they laugh like hell." [The Miami Herald, October 23, 1987]
  • 1987: "Let's not kid ourselves. We're supporting Saudi Arabia. We're supporting Kuwait. We're bringing in ships to Kuwait through the gulf. We're losing our men. We're spending billions of dollars. So what's happening? They don't contribute one penny of this defense." [Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1987] 
  • 1988: After buying a yacht that once belonged to a Saudi Arabian businessman: "This country has been taken advantage of by every country in the world, especially our allies, like Japan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. So I look at this ship as one of the great jewels of the world, and as an American I'm proud to have pulled it back here. This yacht was considered a jewel, the jewel of Monte Carlo, and I think Americans should have the jewels, should go out and buy the jewels of the world, because we're a great country." [The (Canada) Globe and Mail, July 8, 1988]
  • 2011: "The United States has become the laughing stock and the whipping post for the rest of the world, whether we like it or not, and we don't like it, the world is laughing at us.. ... I know a lot of people in other countries. I know the top people. I know the wealthy people. They deal with me on a constant basis... They would sit with me at dinners and say 'Donald we can't believe what we're getting away with.'"
Military Policy
  • 2008: Criticizing President George W. Bush, Trump said, "He'd go into a country... attack Iraq, which had nothing to do with the World Trade Center, and just do it because he wanted to do it."
  • 2011: "In the old days, when we won a war, we won a war. ...You keep the nation, you keep the land, you keep the oil. ... I'm only interested in Libya if, again, we get the oil."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.