Donald Trump receives higher marks for certain issues and his ability to communicate and low marks for certain issues and lack of political skills.
Trump has no political experience to speak of, and although he now identifies with the GOP, he has supported Democratic candidates and issues. He scores highest for his communication skills, which are often tailored to bring him a lot of media attention, but low for his political skills – demagoguery is not a political skill of true leaders.
While he holds some free market positions, including lower taxes and current opposition to Obamacare, he also has voiced support for forms of universal health care and has benefited from corporate welfare. As he proudly announced during the first Republican debate, he is a shameless crony politician.
Of concern are his divisive and strident positions on immigration, his public ethics scandals, and his failed financial deals.
Trump’s tax reform proposal, unveiled in late September 2015, would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to four: 0 percent on income under $25,000 for an individual ($50,000 for a married couple) 10 percent on income between $25,001 – $50,000 ($50,001 – $100,000 for married couples), 20 percent on income $50,001 – $150,000 ($100,001 – $300,000 for married couples), and 25 percent on income beyond the $150,000 and $300,000 thresholds. He would also eliminate the inheritance tax and Alternative Minimum Tax, and lower corporate taxes to 15 percent from the current 35 percent. He would also impose a one-time tax of 10 percent on corporate profits currently held overseas, and future overseas profits could no longer be deferred.
His plan would also reduce various deductions and exemptions, particularly for higher-income earners, as well as treating “carried interest” earned by investment managers as regular income. The deduction for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions would remain.
Following the first week of 2016 and a decline of nearly 1,000 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average of stock prices, Trump said, “Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us. We’re going to tax Wall Street.” It was not clear what, if any, new taxes he might have been referring to.
Trump’s plan is largely consistent with his rhetoric in recent years. In 2010, he supported the extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all income brackets and he has supported the complete elimination of the corporate income tax in order to help spur job creation in America. He has generally opposed transitioning the U.S. income tax system to a flat tax, feeling that this system benefits the wealthy far too much, and has proposed in the past raising taxes on carried interest.
In 1999, Trump proposed implementing a one-time “net worth tax” of 14.25 percent on individuals and trusts worth more than $10 million, to be paid over 10 years, coupled with the repeal of the inheritance tax, to help pay off the national debt.
Trump has mostly been critical of politicians’ refusal to cut spending and rein in the budget, but he only recently described specific areas where he would reduce spending, singling out the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency for cuts. He called the budget deal reached in 2011 “a joke,” adding that “eventually you have to balance the budget.” He has suggested that the GOP should have refused to raise the debt ceiling, stressing the political benefits of debt default would have prevented Obama from being re-elected.
He has also been critical of the sequestration budget cuts for only having slowed the growth in federal spending, adding “it’s not really a cut” and calling for more spending cuts to balance the budget.
His tax proposal, unveiled in late September 2015, is supposedly revenue-neutral and would not add to the deficit, although that depends on an assumption of 6 percent economic growth, which few consider to be realistic.
Trump’s business dealings have often brought him into conflict with organized labor. His Chicago development, Trump Tower Chicago, was picketed by the hotel workers union in 2008, angry that the hotel hadn’t signed an agreement to let it attempt to organize its workers. In 2014, the survival of Trump’s bankrupt Taj Mahal casino/hotel Atlantic City property was “staked” on winning a battle with the unions over “proposed cuts to their health and pension benefits” that included transitioning workers to 401(k)-style retirement programs and ending health benefits while moving workers to Obamacare exchanges. Trump Entertainment Group received court permission to break its union agreement for the Trump Taj Mahal on Oct. 17, 2014, with unions announcing immediate plans to picket the property.
He has announced that he opposes an increase in the minimum wage, arguing it would hurt U.S. economic competitiveness, and said that men and women should be paid the same for doing the same job but noted that it’s “very difficult to say what is the same job,” suggesting some skepticism about further legislation on the matter (it’s already illegal to pay men and women different wages for doing the same job).
Trump has been a frequent beneficiary of eminent domain, where the government has seized property (and compensated the owners) in order to build privately-owned developments. He recently defended the practice, calling it a “wonderful thing.”
Trump has repeatedly expressed doubt as to the validity of climate change, including an interview with Breitbart News in September 2014 where he said “[t]axing everybody for climate change is absolutely ridiculous. Many people don’t even think there is such a thing as ‘climate change.’ It’s called weather.”
In his 2011 book, Time to Get Tough, Trump criticized Obama’s embrace of cap-and-trade policy to combat climate change, saying the administration wanted “higher energy prices because they believe that will force America to drive less and businesses to slow down on production and transportation” and “drive energy prices sky high.”
He has called for more drilling of oil in the U.S. and expressed his support for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to develop American oil and natural gas.
He has supported construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, although in late October 2015 he suggested the U.S. should get a “better deal” from the company building the pipeline in exchange for allowing it to be built, saying that “Maybe we should get 10 per cent, 15 per cent, maybe 20 per cent as that oil flows,” apparently meaning the U.S. should impose a tariff on the oil that transits the pipeline.
Trump does not generally support free trade deals, specifically calling for “a 15% tax for outsourcing jobs and a 20% tax for importing goods” and renegotiating existing trade deals with other countries.” He has been critical of NAFTA and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which he said “will do next to nothing to even out the trade imbalance, will further erode American manufacturing and kill more American jobs, and will wipe away the tariffs South Korea presently pays us to sell their stuff in our country.”
He has announced his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which in May 2015 he criticized for “not addressing the number one cause of the unfairness, which is the currency manipulation.” Trump also suggested he would seek a 45 percent tax on all imported goods from China.
Trump’s record on health care issues is inconsistent. He is a fervent critic of Obamacare and in his 2011 book he said it would “destroy jobs & small businesses,” “explode health-care costs,” and “lead to health care that is far less innovative than it is today.”
However, in Trump’s 2000 book, The America We Deserve, he argued “we must have universal healthcare,” and called for the U.S. “to make reforms for the moment and, longer term, to find an equivalent of the single-payer plan that is affordable.” He also described a health care marketplace system very similar to the concept of Obamacare exchanges: “It operates through a centralized agency that offers considerable range of choice. While this is a government program, it is also very much market-based. It allows 620 private insurance companies to compete for this market. Once a year participants can choose from plans which vary in benefits and costs.”
In January 2016, Trump said he favored allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, a longtime priority of Democrats. Most free-market analysts believe this action would effectively establish price controls and diminish research and development for new drugs. He said, “I like the mandate,” referring to the requirement in Obamacare that most people obtain health insurance, although he later claimed he didn’t mean that.
While Trump has offered very few specifics about what he would do on health care, he has suggested that the government would pay for the medical costs of low-income individuals, and he has repeatedly stated that nobody would “die in the streets” for lack of medical care under his plan. He has also endorsed allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines in order to promote competition and said health savings accounts would be part of his plan as well.
Trump has called the food stamp program an “outrageously mismanaged government program” that despite being a “blatant waste” of tax money “doesn’t bother Obama, because it’s all part of his broader nanny-state agenda.”
He has called for welfare-to-work requirements to be expanded, saying “[w]e need to take a page from the 1996 reform and do the same for other welfare programs. Benefits should have strings attached to them. After all, if it’s our money recipients are getting, we the people should have a say in how it’s spent.”
Trump has also been inconsistent on making major changes to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
He has said that Social Security is “honoring a deal” not an “entitlement,” adding that “Social Security is here to stay” and we must “reform it, root out the fraud, make it more efficient, and ensure that the program is solvent.” He has called for at least partial privatization of Social Security, saying “[d]irecting Social Security funds into personal accounts invested in real assets would swell national savings, pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into jobs and the economy.”
However, he has cautioned Republicans against making changes to these systems. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013, Trump said, “As Republicans, if you think you’re going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you’re going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen.”
He has also pledged that he wouldn’t make changes to the systems, saying: “People have been paying in for years. They’re gonna cut Social Security. They’re gonna cut Medicare. They’re gonna cut Medicaid. I’m the one saying that’s saying I’m not gonna do that!”
Trump has become a leading critic of both legal and illegal immigration and adopted one of the more hard-line stands against it of any candidate. He has told Americans that immigrants are “taking your jobs. You better be careful.” He has also warned that “half” of those in the country illegally are criminals, and drew a firestorm of criticism and protest during his announcement speech when he said many of the Mexicans coming into the country illegally were “rapists” and “criminals.”
Trump has been critical of Republicans embracing and pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, calling it “a suicide mission” for the GOP and warning that they “will not get any of those votes no matter what you do.” He has stressed the importance of building a wall at the border, which he says he will force Mexico to pay for, and accused Obama of breaking the law with his executive order on immigration.
He has vowed to deport all illegal aliens currently in the U.S and also said he will prevent remittances being made by illegals to their home countries. Most recently he has suggested that “birthright citizenship,” which grants U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the U.S., should be ended, something most believe would require a constitutional amendment.
In a March 2016 debate, Trump appeared to soften his stance somewhat in regards to H-1B visas, which are given to skilled workers sponsored by American businesses. He said he was changing his position, which previously was that American employers should be required to offer jobs to Americans first, in order to bring in and keep highly skilled foreign workers that he said the U.S. needs. Shortly after the debate, however, he reversed himself again, vowing to crack down on what he termed “abuse” in the program.
During the financial crisis, Trump said that the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was “something that has to get done, because your financial system is most likely going to come to a halt if it does not.” He did, however, call the necessity of TARP a “pretty sad day for this country.” He has been critical of the impact of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and called for it to be repealed.
Trump has also expressed criticism of the Federal Reserve banking system. He has accused them of “creating phony numbers” and has said that it should “absolutely” be audited.
Trump has said little directly about U.S. agriculture policy, although some in the farm community have expressed concerns that his immigration policies will have a negative impact on their ability to hire laborers to harvest crops.
He has been critical of the Obama administration’s subsidies to green energy companies, calling them a “massive government giveaway of billions and billions of taxpayers’ dollars,” but he spoke supportively of the government bailout of the automakers, saying in 2008 that “we cannot lose the auto companies,” and that we need to “have the big three,” and he “stands behind them 100%.” He did, however, criticize the auto bailouts later in 2012, but then expressed ambiguous support for the auto bailouts in August 2015, explaining that “You could have let it go bankrupt, frankly, and rebuilt itself, and a lot of people felt it should happen. Or you could have done it the way it went. I could have done it either way. Either way would have been acceptable.”
In his business dealings, Trump has often benefited from corporate welfare. He built his real estate empire with the considerable help of tax breaks and federal financing. He has also benefited significantly from the government’s use of eminent domain to seize private property to facilitate his real estate developments. In 2012, Trump announced plans for a major film and TV studio in Florida, which could take advantage of the state’s 20 percent film tax credit.
Trump also made a bid to become the new owner of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills franchise, which included plans for a new Buffalo Bills stadium that would be built with public financing.
In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump criticized the 3 percent of GDP level of funding for the military as “too low,” adding, “Defense spending in the last year of the Carter administration came to 4.9% of GDP. During the Reagan buildup it was 6.5%.” He also criticized the sequestration cuts to military spending, and pledged a large buildup of the military under his presidency, although he did not specify details. He did not appear to know that the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has three separate components (bombers, land-based missiles, and submarine-based missiles) when the subject was raised at the December 2015 GOP debate.
He said he favors subsidizing private health care for veterans instead of forcing them to wait for Veterans Administration care, and in late October 2015 he offered a specific plan for addressing health care for veterans. The main element of his plan include giving veterans the ability to visit any doctor or health facility that accepts Medicare, as well as increasing funding for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders, brain injuries, and suicide prevention. He also pledges to crack down on corruption, waste and inefficiencies at the Veterans Administration.
Trump has spoken hawkishly on the war on terror. He has pledged “nobody would be tougher” than him in dealing with ISIS, promising that he would “hit them so hard and so fast that they wouldn’t know what happened.” He asserted that he has a plan to defeat ISIS, but won’t yet reveal the details of the plan. He also said he would “take out their families,” referring to killing the families of ISIS terrorists, reiterating his support for such a policy during the December 2015 GOP debate.
Following a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015, Trump proposed a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States either as tourists or immigrants, and he suggested in an interview that he may have supported the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II if he had been president.
He recommended against the U.S. becoming involved in the conflict in Syria, saying, “Wouldn’t you think maybe it’s time to stay out of one of these?” He has also recommended letting ISIS destroy Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, then going in to Syria and taking out ISIS there. He initially said the U.S. should take in some Syrian refugees without specifying how many, but he has since reversed himself over concerns terrorists could infiltrate the refugees and come to the United States. He pledged to deport any Syrian refugees who arrive in the U.S. during Obama’s term, and he also suggested “safe zones” in Syria might be the best option for refugees.
Trump has been critical of the Iraq War. He has said he “would have never been in Iraq,” and has said “those who supported the Iraq War are ‘unqualified’ to be commander-in-chief,” although he is on record supporting an invasion of Iraq in 2002 when he was asked about it. He has said that he may have supported it at one point but had come to oppose it by the time it began. In 2011 he suggested U.S. troops should remain in Iraq and “take the oil” as compensation for American lives lost and funds spent on the war. He has made similar statements regarding seizing Libya’s oil and bombing Iraqi oil fields held by ISIS to deprive the terrorist group of revenue.
In late October 2015, Trump said the world would be better off if both Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi were still in power instead of having been forcibly deposed by the U.S. and allies and although he has said recently he did not favor U.S. intervention in Libya, his 2011 comments on the subject clearly indicate he supported the Obama administration’s actions in helping to overthrow the dictator.
After initially calling the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan a “terrible mistake” in early October 2015, Trump quickly reversed his position and said Afghanistan was “where we should have gone,” presumably meaning the U.S. should have focused on Afghanistan and not invaded Iraq. He agrees with President Obama’s plan to keep at least 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through early 2017.
He has voiced support for the Patriot Act and legislation that allows the NSA to hold what is known as metadata, essentially the phone records (but not the content) of calls made in the U.S.
Trump has endorsed the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique, as well as “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” He also suggested that the U.S. would have to shut down some American mosques where “some bad things are happening.”
Trump has urged his supporters to boycott Apple over that company’s decision not to assist the FBI in decrypting the iPhone of one of the terrorists involved in the 2015 San Bernardino attack.
While Trump has been vocal on a number of foreign policy issues, he has been vague as to what specifically he might do. In a September 2015 interview he explained his vagueness was intentional because “People can’t know exactly what your intentions are…you want to have a little guesswork for the enemy… I don’t want to broadcast my intentions.”
He has criticized the Obama administration’s handling of Russia, saying that Vladimir Putin has “eaten Obama’s lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time.” He contends that Putin is “playing [Obama] like nobody’s ever played him before,” calling it “quite embarrassing to watch it unfold.” He asserts “if Russia respected us they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing.” As to what he would do as president in dealing with Putin, he has simply said he would “get along” with him and when asked said “I wouldn’t care” whether Ukraine was invited to join NATO.
Trump has also criticized the Obama administration’s attempts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran” and advised U.S. negotiators to walk away from the table if they can’t get what they want.
On Israel, Trump called Obama “Israel’s greatest enemy” and said Obama was the “worst thing that ever happened to Israel.” He also said he would be “neutral” between Israel and the Palestinians in attempting to broker a peace deal.
Trump has spoken frequently, and critically, about China, warning the U.S. is losing economic power to China, and calling on the U.S. to crack down on China’s currency manipulation. He has recommended a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports. He has said of China: “These are not our friends; these are our enemies.”
Despite a generally hostile stance towards China, he has suggested he would like to see it take care of one problem for the U.S. in the region by making North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “disappear.”
Despite a generally hostile stance toward China, he has suggested he would like to see it take care of one problem for the U.S. in the region by making North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “disappear.”
Trump has called on the U.S. to eliminate foreign aid to other nations.
Trump has had little occasion to comment on judicial nominees until recently, but his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a senior U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Trump said that his sister would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court Justice, although it’s not clear how serious he was in that assessment. She was appointed as a district court judge by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President Bill Clinton. She authored an opinion striking down a New Jersey law banning the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion as unconstitutional. In 2006, Barry testified in support of Justice Samuel Alito — her colleague from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit — in his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Trump has spoken critically of President George W. Bush’s choice of John Roberts for chief justice of the United States, noting that it was Roberts who authored the Supreme Court opinion that saved Obamacare. Reacting to the Supreme Court’s opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), Trump said “once again the Bush appointed Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has let us down.” This statement has caused some confusion because Roberts sided with the minority, dissenting from the majority’s opinion on the case.
In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump warned that “unless we stand up for tough anticrime policies, they will be replaced by policies that emphasize criminals’ rights over those of ordinary citizens.” He supports the death penalty.
Trump supports legalizing drugs, saying, “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.” He has suggested that legalized drugs be taxed, and the resulting tax revenue be used to fund anti-drug educational campaigns.
Trump said that as president he would sign an executive order mandating the death penalty in cases where police officers have been murdered, which would seem to overstep the authority of the presidency and violate the role states have in seeking penalties for non-federal crimes.
In potentially troubling comments regarding religious liberty, Trump suggested that the federal government could shut down some mosques as part of an effort to fight terrorism, similar to what the United Kingdom has done. He qualified his statement by suggesting such closures may not be legal (and presumably he would not then attempt them) and that they would only be used at mosques that were “loaded for bear,” although it’s unclear if that means actively involved in supporting terrorist attacks or engaging in religious speech generally seen as extreme. He later reiterated his view that some mosques where “some really bad things are happening” would need to be shut down.
Trump has said Christians are “being treated horribly because we have nobody to represent the Christians. Believe me, if I run and I win, I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they’ve had in a long time.” He said churches that engage in political activity should not lose their tax-exempt status.
Trump has said the Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage should try to find a different job or at least allow others in her office to issue the licenses, saying, “I embrace both sides of the argument.”
In other troubling comments on the First Amendment, Trump vowed to “open up our libel laws so when [newspapers] write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” suggesting he would use libel laws to silence or chill the speech of his media critics.
Trump has suggested he views contributions to candidates as an effective way to buy access, influence, and favorable decisions, but has otherwise been quiet in recent years about limits on campaign contributions and political speech. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve he favored a ban on soft-money contributions to political parties, opposed contribution limits, and supported “full and fast” disclosure of campaign contributions.
Trump opposes Common Core, saying, “[P]eople don’t want to have somebody from Washington looking down and saying this is what you’re going to be studying.” He supports school choice and recommends competition to improve public education, and he favors eliminating the Department of Education.
Regarding college student loans Trump has said he would restructure the program and eliminate government profits from the process, without providing any other details.
Trump says he is opposed to gun control and has said he is a concealed-carry permit holder. Speaking to Breitbart News in 2015, he stressed “[i]t is so important that we maintain the Second Amendment and that we maintain it strongly. … It is absolutely imperative that we maintain the Second Amendment in its strongest form.” In a 2015 interview he said he opposes both expanded background checks on private firearm sales and restrictions on the number of bullets that can be held in a gun magazine, and in 2014 he was one of the featured speakers at an Albany, N.Y., rally against gun control.
He recently proposed allowing concealed carry permits issued in one state to be valid in all 50 states, and also called for ending all gun and magazine bans. The latter represents a shift in his position, as in his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Trump wrote he supported “the ban on assault weapons.” During a March 2016 debate he reiterated his opposition to an assault weapon ban.
He also favored “a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” and it’s unclear if he has shifted his position on this issue. He said he would consider a ban on gun purchases by those on government terrorist watch lists, something opposed by most gun-rights advocates because the lists are often inaccurate and violate due-process rights.
Trump used to be pro-choice but changed his mind and became pro-life several years ago. He explained his shift as the result of several personal stories, telling an interviewer “They changed me. Yeah, they changed my view as to that, absolutely.” He would allow exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
On same-sex marriage Trump has consistently said he favors the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, and he seemed to criticize the Supreme Court’s decision in the case when he said Chief Justice Roberts had “let us down,” although Roberts actually was in the minority and voted against granting same-sex marriage constitutional protection. He has called it a “states-rights issue.”
Trump has been politically involved over his adult life, increasingly more so in recent years. While he has contributed to both Republican and Democratic candidates over his life, he has become an increasingly consistent supporter of Republicans and Republican causes. In recent years, he has spoken regularly at the Conservative Political Action Conference and other conservative and Republican events.
He has also expressed criticism of corporate welfare received by green energy companies from the Obama administration. Trump has, however, benefited numerous times throughout his professional life from government benefits. He has received numerous and considerable tax breaks and federal financing throughout the building and growth of his real estate empire. Trump has also constructed a TV studio in Florida that can take advantage of that state’s significant 20 percent film tax credit. In his effort to purchase the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, he has also stated that he is open to accepting public financing for a new football stadium.
He has also benefited from the use of government’s use of eminent domain power, or the threat of it, to seize property. This includes the famous battle he had with Vera Coking, who refused to sell her Atlantic City, N.J., property to Trump to help facilitate the expansion of Trump’s hotel/casino property. Coking successfully resisted the seizure of her property.
Trump has also been a fervent critic of Obamacare, although in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, he called for universal health care coverage and a single payer-equivalent system in the U.S. In an apparent double-reversal of positions, Trump first expressed support for the Obama administration’s bailout of the Detroit auto makers, then criticized them years later, and most recently said he could have gone either way on the bailouts and thought they were acceptable.
He also changed his position on the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, saying in early October 2015 that it was “a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place,” but two weeks later he denied saying it was a mistake and asserted that Afghanistan was “where we should have gone” (instead of Iraq).
And while Trump has been frequently opposed to new and higher taxes, he did in 1999 propose a one-time 14.25 percent tax on individuals and trusts worth more than $10 million, to be paid over 10 years. He has also said he identifies with Democrats more than Republicans on some issues, adding to the questions about Trump’s ideological consistency and professed commitment to conservative ideas.
Trump has also been involved in a number of questionable ethical situations, as well as a number of legal battles.
He was sued by the Justice Department in 1973 for racial discrimination, when it alleged that his New York real estate company had discriminated against several black renters.
In 1999, during a dispute with a nephew regarding his father’s will, Trump reneged on a commitment to pay for the medical treatment of his nephew’s newborn son, born with cerebral palsy.
In 2002, the SEC filed brought a financial reporting case accusing Trump of committing several “misleading statements in the companies third-quarter 1999 earnings release.” The matter was settled without Trump’s company admitting or denying the charge.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also sued him for his operation of Trump University. Schneiderman’s suit alleged that Trump had defrauded 5,000 people out of $40 million, paid for what was billed as a chance to learn Trump’s real estate investment skills at Trump University. Similar claims against Trump University have been allowed to proceed in separate cases in California, Florida and New York. A New York judge found Trump liable in October 2014 for operating a for-profit investment school, in violation of New York state education laws, leading to the restricting of the Trump University program.
Trump’s marriages have also raised questions about his ethics. His first marriage, to Ivana, ended after his affair with Marla Maples was made public in the press. This led to Ivana receiving a $25 million settlement with the divorce.
Trump has made flatly untrue statements on the campaign trail in defending his record. During the second Republican debate in September 2015, he denied that he had ever sought to get into the gambling business in Florida. As numerous accounts attest, Trump was very vigorous in pursuing casino opportunities in the state.
Trump also denied that he had ever filed for bankruptcy during the same debate when an opponent brought up the four times his companies had filed for bankruptcy, three involving casinos and a fourth time a hotel in New York City. Trump appeared to be trying to distinguish between filing for personal bankruptcy, which he has never done, and business bankruptcies.
Perhaps most troubling are Trump’s alleged ties to organized crime. He was a developer of hotels and casinos in New York City and Atlantic City, requiring significant dealings with a construction industry in both locales that was firmly under the control of the mafia, and numerous Trump properties were built by firms run by organized crime figures. An unauthorized biography of Trump from the early 1990s details several alleged connections between Trump and organized crime, including a meeting between him and Anthony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, after he obtained a gambling license in Atlantic City. Trump has consistently denied all allegations.
Trump has no record in public office to judge his commitment to political principles.
Having never been an elected official, Trump has no political accomplishments to his name. His business accomplishments are substantial, however, and he has estimated his net worth to be close to $9 billion. While Trump inherited a substantial fortune from his father, who had built a successful real estate empire, his own business skills and flair for promotion turned a bequest of tens of millions of dollars into billions.
The issue most associated with Trump prior to his presidential run, one that he helped bring to national attention, is the “birther” movement, which seeks to demonstrate that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States. In the early years of Obama’s presidency, Trump became a leading figure in the “birther” movement, appearing on TV and in other media regularly questioning the validity of the president’s citizenship and of his publicly available birth certificate.
Belying his often resonant communication skills, Trump’s political judgment is lacking. In his case, leading in the polls is not a sign of political acumen. For Trump, there is a fine line, perhaps indiscernible to him, between uniting and dividing Americans. Boldness for boldness’ sake, not prudence, seems to guide his politics. His support for the deportation of millions of people and the separation of those families; his desire to track even U.S. citizens who are Muslim; and the latest, his recommendation that no Muslims be allowed into the United States: all are examples of undisciplined thinking. Demagoguing these ideas is not in itself a political skill. The jury is out on whether his candidacy is about America or himself, but his severe lack of political skill (even if welcomed by some voters) suggests an inability to expand his support beyond those drawn to his anti-establishment persona, celebrity, and business background.
Trump is a skilled communicator with a distinct style. He is frank and blunt, and frequently self-promoting, although his clarity in expressing his views is lacking, as are details of his policy proposals. His extensive experience as a media entity, first as a businessman and later as a reality TV star and frequent political commentator and interview guest, make him roughly as experienced as many politicians in terms of communication skills and handling the media. Trump has, in the past several years, spoken regularly to conservative and Republican conferences, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference. He typically seems to connect well to the crowd he’s addressing.
Any candidate who can self-fund a campaign with seemingly limitless resources has a big leg up on the competition. Trump gets our highest rating for fundraising. But even with such an advantage, his viability is a mystery. He leads most polls despite a very unorthodox campaign personality and obvious policy shortcomings. Can he overcome his lack of “policy IQ” and his rude candor? He is lost in any serious policy debate (even immigration) and, while some Americans might like his straight talk, it is unclear whether his candor can survive broadly civilized voters.
Please select up to 5 candidates.