Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has effectively presented himself as a fresh political face who will bluntly take on entrenched interests. He currently sits atop every major poll.
“Mr. Trump doesn’t have a proven conservative record,” Bush said in a town hall in small-town New Hampshire last week, for example. “He was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican.”
Trump has explained his party flip-floppery by insisting that he has broad national support.
“I don’t see how he’s electable,” Trump recently said of a Bush during a town hall of his own.
The real estate, casino and golf course mogul’s unshakable confidence that he can win elections does not come from a history of winning elections. He has never won one.
It is indisputable that Trump also has a long history of disloyalty to both major parties. The tycoon has changed his party affiliation at least four times in the last 16 years — an average of once for each presidential election.
Trump did run for president once — in 2000 — not as a Republican but as a member of the Reform Party, which still exists. (He lost that party’s nomination to Pat Buchanan, who went on to receive 449,225 presidential votes.)
With that failed presidential run and with public appearances galore, Trump has established a sustained record of habitually inconsistent political positions which clash dramatically with the current tide of American conservatism.
An in-depth study of Trump’s declared views on issues ranging from immigration to abortion to taxes to socialized health care shows that, in many ways, he would find a cozy home in progressive Democratic circles.
In the first of two installments, The Daily Caller focuses here on immigration, abortion and gun control.
Trump’s ever-shifting moods on illegal immigration
Immigration is the issue that has galvanized national support behind Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Despite his current hard-line immigration approach, Trump’s immigration views have vacillated constantly for nearly two decades. At times over the last 16 years, he has strongly endorsed legal status for illegal immigrants. At other times, he has condemned illegal immigration.
As a real estate developer, Trump’s business practices demonstrate a questionable commitment to immigration limits. His real estate empire has benefited handsomely from the work of both low-skill legal foreign laborers as well as low-paid illegal immigrants.
In mid-August, Trump released his campaign’s current immigration plan. It calls for an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants and “a wall across the southern border.” He wants Mexico to pay for the wall. He also wants to triple the number of immigration enforcement officials, defund sanctuary cities and deport criminal illegal immigrants.
“We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers” and to compel American businesses to “hire American workers first,” Trump currently says.
At the same time, the real estate magnate now endorses a “merit system” for illegal immigrants who already reside in the U.S.
As recently as 2012, Trump endorsed a broad pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens that is remarkably similar to President Barack Obama’s plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
U.S. immigration policy “must take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country,” Trump told journalist Ronald Kessler in the immediate aftermath after the 2012 election.
He condemned Republicans for “mean-spirited” attacks on illegal immigration and for a “maniacal” policy of self-deportation in 2012. He suggested that hostility on the issue partially cost Mitt Romney the presidency.
In 2011, Trump similarly suggested that the way to deal with America’s 15 million illegal immigrants is on a case-by-case basis. “You know, it’s hard to generalize,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly. “You’re going to have to look at the individual people.” He added that determining citizenship for 15 million people is “going to take a long time and a lot of people.”
In 1999, Trump said he supported stringent restrictions on immigration. “I think that too many people are flowing into the country,” he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press then. “We have to take care of the people who are here,” he also said in a meeting with California Reform Party leaders.
In 2015, Trump has both favored and opposed illegal immigration. While his August policy statement strongly denounces illegal border crossings, he now also believes that certain “outstanding” illegal aliens deserve legal status.
“I’m a very big believer in the merit system,” Trump explained in July 2015, a day after a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border. “Some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job. You know, in some cases, sadly, they’ve been living under the shadows,” he explained. “If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.”
Thus, Trump was a strong immigration opponent in 1999 but a proponent of a generous pathway to legal status in 2011 and 2012. By 2015, he had switched to opposition to illegal immigration except that he supports a merit system for many illegal immigrants.
Beyond a history of incessant indecision on immigration policy, Trump’s hiring practices as a commercial real estate developer are perhaps the biggest albatross around his neck relating to the immigration issue.
Records show that Trump’s own businesses definitely do not hire Americans first.
An August 2015 analysis by Reuters demonstrates that various companies owned by Trump have imported at least 1,100 foreign workers since 2000.
Since 2006, Trump’s genteel Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, Fla. has alone sought to import 787 foreign laborers. The 62,000-square-foot club, which charges $100,000 for membership privileges, sought to import 70 foreign workers as waiters, cooks and low-level cleaning staff just this summer.
During the last 30 years, Trump has employed illegal aliens for his multitude of construction projects.
A worker at the construction site of the posh, soon-to-be-opened $200 million Trump International Hotel near the White House in Washington, D.C. has claimed that Trump currently employs many laborers illegal immigrants.
“The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” a stone mason working at the site told The Washington Post — in Spanish — in July 2015. Several other interviewees admitted that they had entered the United States illegally — mostly from Central America. Some eventually acquired legal status through various immigration loopholes. Others remain undocumented.
Trump addressed the charge by pointing to a long history of immigration in the United States.
“I mean, ultimately, we were all sort of in the group of immigrants, right?” Trump said this summer in his defense on CNN. “I wish they would give us names. We’ll get them out immediately.”
Through an attorney, Trump also blamed Lend Lease, a multinational property corporation, for hiring illegal workers. He suggested that he needs — but has not necessarily hired — “more than one guy” on the construction site to check for illegal workers.
In the 1980s, Trump hired a group of 200 Polish laborers — many of them illegal aliens — to demolish an architecturally significant building which stood where the glittering Trump Tower now stands on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Trump paid the illegal Polish workers $5 per hour — if he paid them at all — at a time when the federally-mandated minimum wage was $7.40, according to testimony in a federal lawsuit. The illegal demolition men logged dangerous 12-hour shifts with zero overtime and slept on the construction site, they said. Trump’s contractor withheld no Social Security taxes and made no pension payments, the workers also alleged. When they complained, Trump’s contractor allegedly threatened them with deportation.
The plaintiffs in the case, which included an FBI informant who claimed to be an adviser in Trump’s inner circle, said Trump knew about the illegal workers but pushed hard to finish the job in a frantic effort to meet financing deadlines.
After nearly 20 years of legal wrangling, Trump eventually settled with the illegal Polish workers for an undisclosed sum.
In 2015, the would-be chief executive of the United States insisted that the buck did not stop with him for hiring illegal aliens at $5 per hour. He called questions about the illegal immigrants his company had hired “pretty pathetic” because the case was filed in 1983.
“I hired a contractor,” Trump pleaded with Anderson Cooper on CNN in July 2015. “Anderson, I hire a contractor. The contractor then hires the subcontractor. They have people. I don’t know.”
Trump’s strong support for abortion including partial-birth abortion
Throughout his public life, Trump has steadfastly supported abortion at virtually all points in the human gestation process.
As a Reform Party candidate in 2000, he declared his pro-choice chops. “I support a woman’s right to choose, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures,” he explained.
“I’m very pro-choice,” Trump told Russert in October 1999. “I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still — I just believe in choice.”
Calling himself “strongly for choice,” Trump explained that he would not ban abortions even in the third trimester of a pregnancy.
“I believe it is a personal decision that should be left to the women and their doctors,” he also said in 1999. “I want to see the abortion issue removed from politics.”
In July 2000, Trump said his support for abortion remained enthusiastic but he had decided that partial abortion is a bad idea after “consulting two doctors I respect.”
Planned Parenthood praised Trump’s position on abortion in August 2015. “Donald Trump seems to have realized that banning all abortions, shutting down the government, and defunding Planned Parenthood are extreme positions that are way too far outside the mainstream for even him to take,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the abortion advocacy group, said. (RELATED: StemExpress CEO Admits Planned Parenthood Sells Fully Intact Aborted Babies)
In 1989, Trump co-sponsored a dinner honoring Robin Chandler Duke, then-president of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). The event occurred at the Plaza Hotel, a Trump property. The real estate baron did not attend the event he co-sponsored. The NARAL organizers announced that they would use proceeds from the dinner to promote abortion through a high-profile print and television advertising campaign.
Trump’s support for gun control has never wavered
Trump has been a longtime advocate for a ban on guns labeled as assault weapons and for longer waiting periods to purchase all guns. He has also said he doesn’t like the idea of Americans owning guns.
In his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” Trump faulted the Republican Party for refusing to consider restrictions on gun ownership. After saying he opposes gun control, the 2016 Republican presidential candidate called for more gun control in the two immediately following sentences.
“I generally oppose gun control,” Trump wrote, “but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within seventy-two hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”
He criticized Democrats for wanting “to confiscate all guns” — “a dumb idea” — but also condemned Republicans because they “walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.”
At the same time, Trump has said he would like to see a society without guns, even though he realizes such a scenario is unlikely. “Look, there’s nothing I like better than nobody has them, but that’s not going to happen, Larry,” he told Larry King in 1999.