What you won’t hear from Donald Trump is that in the 1980s he trashed Ronald Reagan

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tags: election 2016, Reagan, Trump



Michael D’Antonio is author of more than a dozen nonfiction books including "Mortal Sins" and "Never Enough, Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success."


In 2016, there are 14 Republican presidential candidates for whom Ronald Reagan is both the benchmark for conservative values and the lodestar of conservative ideas. There’s also one who wrote, in the second to last year of Reagan’s presidency, that he had been “so smooth, so effective a performer” that “only now, seven years later, are people beginning to question whether there’s anything beneath that smile.”

The gadfly was Donald Trump, writing in his book The Art of the Deal. But it wasn’t just a glancing blow; to promote the book, Trump launched a political campaign that tore into Reagan’s record, including his willingness to stand up to the Soviet Union. Advised by the notorious Roger Stone, a Nixon-era GOP trickster, in 1987 Trump took out full-page ads inthe New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post blasting Reagan and his team.

In the text, which was addressed “To the American people,” Trump declared, “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.” The problem was America’s leading role in defending democracy, which had been fulfilled by Republicans and Democrats all the way back to FDR. Foreshadowing his 2015 argument that would have Mexico pay for an American-built border wall, Trump then said that the United States should present its allies with a bill for defense services rendered. 

The ads, which cost more than $90,000, came after Trump had visited the Soviet Union and met with Mikhail Gorbachev. (A few years earlier, Trump had offered himself as a replacement for Reagan’s nuclear arms control negotiators, whom he considered too soft.) Trump followed his letter to America with a trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where voters were eyeing the candidates in the 1988 primary. There he spoke to the Rotary Club, which met at Yoken’s restaurant, where the sign out front featured a spouting whale and the slogan, “Thar she blows!” In his talk, Trump sounded some of the same themes he offers today, except for the fact that the bad guys who were laughing at the United States were the Japanese and not the Mexicans or Chinese.

“We’re being ripped off and decimated by many foreign nations who are supposedly our allies,” said Trump. “Why can’t we have a share of their money? I don’t mean you demand it. But I tell you what, folks, we can ask in such a way that they’re going to give it to us—if the right person’s asking. … The Japanese, when they negotiate with us, they have long faces. But when the negotiations are over, it is my belief—I’ve never seen this—they laugh like hell.” ...






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