Will Donald Trump get asked back to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference next time around? At the moment, we’d guess the answer to that is no, as on Friday he delivered a CPAC speech so dismissive of the current Republican Party that it’s plausible he’s a Democratic secret agent sent to destroy the GOP’s morale.
“The Republican Party is in serious trouble,” he said within moments of beginning. It sort of went downhill from there, landing with a thump at bottom: his offer to build a ballroom for the White House (more on that in a moment).
OK, maybe the GOP really is in serious trouble; we get that. But Mr. Trump’s prescription for a turnaround involves either repudiating basic Republican beliefs or doubling down on stuff that’s getting the party in trouble at the moment. The headline on the report of Elspeth Reeve from The Atlantic captures this pretty well: “Donald Trump Fires Everyone’s Ideas.”
For instance, the most basic of GOP aims might be fiscal prudence in regards to US entitlement programs. If we don’t rein in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid, et al., America will go bankrupt and turn into Greece. That’s pretty much a core belief that unites the tea party and establishment Republicans. Even many Democrats know entitlements must be changed: The Obama administration has said it would accept more means testing in the system, for instance.
Trump’s view? Fuggedaboutit. The voters just don’t want their entitlements touched, even tea party voters, he told a surprised CPAC audience.
“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,” the mogul/reality-show star said.
Then there’s immigration reform. Already, CPAC has been a surprising showcase for the Republican turnaround on this issue, with some speakers hinting at a bipartisan immigration bill glinting in the distance. Trump’s view? It’s a trap! Run away!
Immigration reform would give 11 million illegal immigrants the right to vote, he said. And they won’t be grateful to Republicans.
“Every one of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic. It’s just the way it works. And you have to be very, very careful, because you could say that to a certain extent, the odds aren’t looking so great right now for Republicans, that you’re on a suicide mission, you’re not going to get those votes,” said the Donald.
Bracingly honest or defeatist? Over to you, Sen. Marco Rubio.
As for campaigning, Trump said he liked Mitt Romney, but his real trouble was that he did not “talk about his successes.” In other words, he did not advertise how much money he made for himself and others as head of Bain Capital, or how many jobs he created in that process.
You know, we remember that being quicksand for the Romney campaign. Is that just us? Every time he tried this, he just sounded like a plutocrat with friends who own NASCAR dressage teams that compete at the Olympics.
“And I just feel that the Republicans and Mitt – and I told him this – didn’t speak enough about the things he did, the great things. They were on the defensive instead of taking that offensive,” he said.
But Trump? He’s nothing if not on the offensive. The speech contained the obligatory "Celebrity Apprentice" reference and a quick shout-out to the Doral
Golf Resort, which he recently purchased.
“Anybody who’s a member of my club, I love,” Trump said to laughter at one point. “Maybe President Obama should join one of my clubs. I would love that.”
Hmm. Maybe he already has? That could explain the Debbie Downer tone of Trump’s CPAC endeavor.
Oh, and the tent – that was puzzling. Trump said that a couple of years ago, he saw a state dinner at the White House in a tent. And not just any tent, but “a bad tent, probably a tent that the guy who owns the tent made a fortune, probably rented it for one night for more than it cost him.”
So Trump picked up the phone and called the White House and offered to build a ballroom.
“I will do it. It’ll cost anywhere from $50 to a $100 million. I will do it. You can get the greatest architects. You’ll make it perfectly sympathetic with the White House and the architecture. It’ll be fabulous,” said Trump.
The White House said thanks, wow, what a great offer. Then Trump never heard from them again.
“That’s the problem with the country,” he told CPAC. "That’s a small thing, but that’s the problem with the country.... You don’t hear from people.”
I guess no one told Trump that the size of state dinners varies and that many are small enough to be inside the White House, or that being outside in a tent on the South Lawn on a summer evening is one of the most glorious experiences in the world, or that his idea of fabulous might not mesh with historic Washington architecture.
So there you have it, Trump’s solution to what ails the GOP: give up on entitlements, give up on immigration reform, talk about the money you’ve got, and no tents.
Plus, call people back. That’s a nostrum we heartily endorse as reporters.