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My Meeting With Donald Trump: What Trump Got Right On The Conservative Agenda (Part 2 of 4)

Richard Viguerie and Donald Trump

A week ago today I participated in a series of meetings between cultural conservative leaders, activists and thinkers and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

I think it is fair to say that the meetings at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, that included about 1,000 individuals, represented most of the conservative movement’s cultural conservative organizations, interests and issues.

In a large town hall-style meeting Donald Trump took questions that had been submitted in advance of the meeting. Of course with 1,000 people in the room it was obvious not every issue was going to be addressed or every question answered, but by my count Trump addressed only nine questions.

While I wish Donald Trump could have covered more points on the conservative agenda, in fairness to Trump he isn’t a typical politician trained to answer every question as a made-for-TV soundbite – and frankly some of the questions were a bit repetitive – but Trump was genial and thoughtful and for the most part he didn’t stall or rope-a-dope even as he sometimes wandered off point.

The first question Trump took was a softball lobbed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who, when he folded his campaign for President, endorsed Donald Trump and subsequently has become one of his key advocates to Evangelicals and cultural conservatives.

Governor Huckabee posed his question this way:

The relationship that you have with your family, the relationship and bond that you have with your adult children, is one of the most admirable I’ve ever seen from any father with children. People can fake it onstage — they can walk out and do a happy family moment — but you can’t fake that backstage, over and over again. What I saw was real. And it was one of the reasons that I have had no hesitation endorsing you, supporting you, and enthusiastically encouraging people to get behind your candidacy. We’re going to talk about a lot of issues. But I want you to begin today by expressing: What is it about the relationship you have with your children that is so special? What is that bond all about? *

From this question Donald Trump went on a rambling discourse about his relationship with his children, his efforts to inculcate in them “no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes,” his church attendance as a child and his incredulity that so many religious leaders have abandoned advocating traditional values in the public square for fear of losing their tax-exempt status.

Said Trump:

…one day, at one of our meetings, somebody said, “They’re petrified of losing their tax-exempt status.” And I said, “What is that all about?” And they went into it. It was what happened during the Johnson administration. And I will tell you folks that some of you will agree, some of you will disagree, and some of you, it’s been ingrained and that’s the worst thing because you don’t even think about it. You can’t see the forest for the trees, some of you are so close to it. But I can tell you, I watched this during the last year, and I watched fear in the hearts of brave, incredible people. And we are going to get rid of that, because you should have the right to speak.

Whether through good briefing or being a good listener in meetings with his cultural conservative advisors, such as Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., he made it clear he’s on the side of conservatives in the ongoing battle over the place of religion in the public square.

And most importantly, Donald Trump made it clear that a Trump administration, unlike Hillary Clinton, is not going to stifle religious liberty by siccing the IRS on churches and ministers who, for example, advocate the Biblical definition of marriage in opposition to the secular Supreme Court imposed definition of marriage.

So, score one for Trump.

Next to ask a question was my old friend Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson’s question was this:

… when Barack Obama became president, I think there was a conscious effort to undermine our religious liberty. You’ve probably seen it from that time to this. Have you noticed that the president and Democrats and Hillary — yes, Hillary — no longer talk about “freedom of religion”? They talk about “freedom of worship.” Why have they changed that? It’s very small, a one-word change. Well, freedom of worship means that you are confined to your churches and your synagogues, but freedom of religion, as identified in the Constitution, is in the public square, it’s everywhere. So they have tried to limit us to our church activity. So we’re seeing more and more of that.

Mr. Trump, we would like you to start your comments by answering that question: What will your administration do to help promote all of our freedoms — all of the Bill of Rights, and what it has meant to be an American — and protect us? Or do we have to fight another Revolutionary War to preserve them?

Again, Trump’s answer, while wandering back to IRS rules, was one that every conservative should embrace:

We talk about religious liberty, and I think it is the number one question. There are numerous things that we’re going to be doing. For one thing, we’re going to appoint great Supreme Court justices. And these will be Supreme Court justices that will be great intellects, that will be talented men in what they do (and women), but also be pro-life.

Trump then reminded the audience that he had already released a list of 11 prospective Supreme Court Justices who had been vetted by the Federalist Society and concluded his answer with this commentary on the role of religion in the public square:

We’re becoming so politically correct that we can’t function as a country anymore. We’re going to be saying “Merry Christmas” again, and we’re going to be saying a lot of other things. When coaches aren’t allowed to pray on the field with their team, going into battle? That’s a disgrace, and that’s gonna change. And not everybody has to pray if they don’t want to, and that’s fine. But when a coach has a team and they’re going into battle and they’re restricted from praying — and they fire the coach! — those days will be over.

Trump may not have all the nuances of Federalist 10 internalized, but he captured and applied almost perfectly to today’s far-Left PC police, Madison’s definition and the effects of an oppressive faction: “…a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Score another point for Trump.

The next question was asked by Ronnie Floyd (former president of the Southern Baptist Convention) who asked:

If you’re elected president of the United States, what will you do to address the real need of poverty and crime, violence and a lack of opportunity in the urban areas of our country? And to heal the worsening racial tension in the United States of America?

Let’s face it, right here is where most politicians, and especially most establishment Republicans, would immediately endorse spending billions on Midnight basketball and other programs that, over the past sixty years have consumed trillions of dollars while making no impact on urban poverty, other than to institutionalize intergenerational welfare dependence.

Here’s what Trump said:

Now, there is one word that would take care of a big chunk of it, and that’s jobs. We need jobs. [Applause] Our jobs are being taken away to other countries. NAFTA — which is one of the worst things ever signed economically in this country’s history, it was signed by Bill Clinton — it’s a disaster. I won all these states by such big margins, I’m looking at all these factories that closed 20 years ago and are rotting, really. Jobs have to be brought back.

With that, we also have to understand — and they don’t get enough credit — but our police forces do an unbelievable job. They are so ridiculed and so maligned: You have one bad actor, something happens, it’s a national story for weeks, and they don’t show you the good work the police do.

One thing I have to say is that when Obama got elected, I didn’t think he was going to be a great president — I didn’t know it would be like this. … But I thought he would be a great cheerleader, especially when you’re talking about the inner cities. And what they need is they need training, but they also need spirit. There’s no spirit in these inner cities. You look at what’s going on in Chicago. Chicago’s like a tale of two cities. There’s no training, there’s no spirit, there’s no hope for these people. We’ve gotta get in and we’ve gotta straighten it out. We’ve got a spirit crisis in this country, and I’m not only talking about the inner cities — I’m talking everywhere.

While Trump saw Rudy Giuliani’s community policing and “broken window” strategy work in New York, I’m pretty sure Donald Trump never read the Moynihan Report (The Negro Family: The Case For National Action by Daniel Patrick Moynihan) or Jack Kemp’s American Renaissance.

Though Kemp would no doubt cringe at Trump’s attacks on free trade, once again in his own rambling language Trump captured the core conservative ideas that jobs and economic growth, along with law and order in every neighborhood, are key to restoring the quality of life and establishing social justice in our inner cities.

Score another point for Trump.

The next question was asked by David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, who asked:

When you become president, we want to know how you are going to stand with Israel and stand against those who want them to give up some of their land in order to have peace.

Trump’s answer was clear, simple and direct:

I’m 100 percent for Israel. I have been forever. It is an amazing country. It has been shunned by the United States, in favor of Iran and others... And now Israel’s almost like lost to our country. We will bring that back, and we will bring it back fast. We’re going to be close to Israel.

The next question went to Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who asked:

One of the issues that concerns us is immigration. We are not in favor of amnesty. We have every right to stop all illegal immigration as expeditiously as possible. [Applause] There are terrorists coming in, narco traffickers coming in that want to do us harm. But you talk about building a wall. And because of what’s taken place previously — and even the interpretation through various media platforms and such — there is the idea in the Latino community that you have no commitment whatsoever to building a bridge to the Hispanic-American community. What’s your strategy, Mr. Trump, in doing both things — in protecting our borders, protecting our nation, and simultaneously building a bridge with this wonderful community called the Hispanic-American community?

Once again, Trump didn’t waffle or backpedal or flip-flop, he said:

We have a country, but we don’t have borders. The southern border is a disaster. Coming in through the southern border are massive, massive, massive amounts of drugs and lots of problems. If we don’t have a border, we don’t have a country. And there is no country. There’s gotta be a border, a line, you know, something to obey. I have thousands of Latinos and Hispanics and Mexicans working for me, phenomenal people. And this has nothing to do with anything other than, to have a country, we have to have a border.

This was a solid conservative answer that certainly satisfied Sammy Rodriguez and most of the people in the room, but part of the Trump political phenomenon is that he weaves together seemingly disparate elements or issues to attack the establishment and politically correct thinking, and put himself on the side of country class Americans, thus there was a second part to Trump’s answer:

And, by the way, other politicians said, “You can’t build a wall,” like it’s hard to build. In China, they built the Great Wall of China, which is 13 times longer. Thirteen times. They built the Great Wall of China in — well, they probably didn’t have Caterpillar tractors, by the way. You know, 2,000 years ago, they built the Great Wall of China, and we’re saying we can’t build the wall. The wall is so easy from a construction standpoint. They actually wanted to build it, and they were unable to get their environmental impact statements — can you believe that? Because probably a certain form of rattlesnake was in their way. That’s a true story.

I jokingly say, as China is building a massive, massive military facility in the South China Sea, I say, “How long do you think it took them to get their environmental impact statements?” As they have the largest excavators in the world ripping the hell out of the ocean and dumping? They started working not on Monday, they started working on Saturday morning.

You know, we are really in a very dangerous world right now, and we’re going to have to readjust our thinking very, very rapidly.

Not many politicians would use the word “hell” in a room full of Evangelical preachers, Catholic priests and lay ministers of who knows how many denominations, but Trump did and to heavy applause at the conclusion because of the self-evident truth of his answer.

*To supplement my notes I’ve relied on news reports, records/articles by other participants to ensure I report the speaker’s words as accurately as possible.

Click the link to read My Meeting With Donald Trump - Part 1 of 4

Next - My Meeting With Donald Trump: Trump Fumbles But Closes Strongly (Part 3 of 4)

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Thanks for your reports, Mr Viguerie.

Looking forward to the next two.

The Donald Has Wisdom

I’m certainly pleased to see that The Richard has finally awakened to the Goodness and natural wisdom of The Donald. Although as smart as The Richard is, he should have recognized The Donald’s Goodness and Wisdom from the beginning of his candidacy as I did.

Honesty requires that admit a momentary weakness on my part that lasted less than one day, which I believe can be excused. I was naive enough to fall for a powerful but false accusation I’d heard about The Donald on the liberal media.

I’ve learned my lesson, and I hope The Richard has too.

John Wagner
Ann Arbor