President Donald Trump – a former Hillary Clinton donor and George W. Bush impeachment advocate and a past supporter of abortion rights, an assault weapons ban and a massive “wealth tax” – is not a product of the conservative movement.
But part-time Palm Beach resident Trump will be the featured speaker today at the movement’s premier annual event, the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C.
It’ll be Trump’s fifth CPAC appearance.
Since he first spoke at CPAC in 2011, Trump and conservatives have traveled a bumpy road.
Just last year, Trump cancelled his scheduled CPAC appearance. His campaign cited the need to campaign in Kansas before that state’s caucuses, but critics accused him of trying to avoid a planned mass walkout organized by a conservative activist.
On its official Twitter account last year, CPAC said Trump’s cancellation “sends a clear message to conservatives.”
Despite his variegated ideological history, Trump has been remarkably consistent in his remarks to CPAC since his initial speech six years ago.
Some past Trump CPAC highlights:
• 2011: ‘Our country will be great again’ — Trump was considering a 2012 run for president when he spoke at the 2011 conference. Entering to the 1973 O’Jays classic “For the Love of Money,” Trump gave remarks that sounded a lot like his 2016 stump speech.
“The United States has become a whipping post for the rest of the world. The world is treating us without respect. They are not treating us properly…The United States is becoming the laughingstock of the world,” Trump said early on.
He listed China, India, South Korea, Mexico and the OPEC nations as countries that “view our leaders as weak and ineffective.”
CPAC crowds always feature a strong libertarian element, and when someone shouted support for former Rep. Ron Paul during Trump’s remarks, Trump dismissed the idea.
“By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected, I’m sorry to tell you…He just has zero chance of getting elected,” Trump said.
“If I decide to run I will not be raising taxes. We’ll be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries that are screwing us. We’ll be creating vast numbers of productive jobs…and we’ll rebuild our country so that we can be proud,” Trump said. Then, offering a precursor to his 2016 slogan, he added: “Our country will be great again.”
• 2013: Immigrants = Democratic votes — When Trump spoke to CPAC a few months after Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss to President Barack Obama, many Republicans were calling for the GOP to embrace immigration reform to appeal to the growing segment of Hispanic voters. Not Trump.
“Every one of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic. That’s just the way it works…You’re just not going to get those votes,” Trump said.
Trump told reporters it was “so early” to speculate about a 2016 run for president. Most of the presidential attention at the event was focused on speakers such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal.
Trump told the CPAC crowd that Republicans needed to abandon conservative calls for entitlement reform.
“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,” Trump said.
“We have to make America strong again and make America great again,” Trump said early in his speech. He returned to the signature phrase at the end.
“We have to start manufacturing and building again and we have to make America great again. Our problems will be solved,” Trump said.
• 2014: Putin ‘toying’ with Obama — Trump bragged about not using a TelePrompTer, promoted his Doral golf course and Old Post Office hotel in Washington and said President Obama’s “weak” and “pathetic” leadership had encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin to take Crimea from Ukraine a few weeks earlier.
“You look at what he’s doing with President Obama. He’s like toying with him. He’s toying with him,” Trump said of Putin.
Trump also repeated his warning to the GOP that a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would help Democrats.
“I don’t care who stands up, whether its Marco Rubio, and talks about ‘Let everybody in.’ You won’t get one vote. Every one of those votes goes to the Democrats,” Trump said.
Looking to 2016, Trump said: “I think in 2016 you’ll probably be running against Hillary. I think it’s going to be a tough race but I think it’s going to be a race that, by that time, will be so bad that the Republicans will likewise take that and then you can actually end Obamacare, which is a total catastrophe.”
• 2015: Birtherism revisited — A few months before formally launching his candidacy, Trump insisted he was seriously considering the race and not merely stoking interest in his brand.
“A lot of people think I’m doing this for fun. They think it’s good for my brand and I’m here and I’m doing that. I’m a big successful guy. I’m not doing this for fun. I’m doing it because we have to take our country back,” Trump said.
In a post-speech Q and A with Sean Hannity, Trump put the odds he would run in 2016 at 75 percent to 80 percent.
“We are in a position where we just never win. And that’s because of our leadership. You need somebody, perhaps, that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ – one of the great business books of all time,” Trump said.
He continued his tough talk on immigration, this time throwing in the notion of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico — but not adding his later insistence that Mexico pay for the wall.
“We need strong borders. We need a wall. If I run, I will tell you, the king of building buildings, the king of building walls, nobody can build them like Trump. That I can promise you,” he said.
Bush at the time was the establishment favorite to win the GOP nomination.
“Jeb Bush — he’s in favor of Common Core. He’s weak on immigration,” Trump said. “I don’t see him winning. I don’t see there’s any way. You people are going to have to make your own choice. Who knows?”
Trump by 2015 had largely abandoned his trafficking in birther conspiracy theories about Obama. But he still voiced doubt about Obama’s birthplace and boasted that he had persuaded the president to produce a birth certificate in 2011 while others failed.
“Trump comes along and said ‘birth certificate.’ He gave a birth certificate — whether or not that was a real certificate, because a lot of people questioned it, I certainly questioned it — but Hillary Clinton wanted it, McCain wanted it and I wanted it. He didn’t do it for them. He did it for me,” Trump said. “So in one sense I’m proud of it. Now all we have to do is find out whether or not it was real.”
Trump in Palm Beach: Not this weekend; March visit(s) coming
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