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Donald Trump Sounded Like a Completely Different Candidate in 2000

In recent days, not one but two potential presidential candidates, presenting themselves as reasonable moderate alternatives to Donald Trump, have come out hard against programs like Medicare-for-all and taxes on wealth. Both Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg  would surely consider themselves more liberal than the president, but not so long ago, Trump was enthusiastically praising the same progressive ideas that these two have called “not American” likely to “bankrupt us for a very long time.”

On Twitter Wednesday afternoon, Zach Stafford, editor in chief of The Advocate, shared an interview that the LGBTQ magazine published in 2000 with the future president, back when Trump was flirting with the notion of running for the White House under the banner of the Reform Party. In the interview, which The Advocate first digitized in 2015, Trump often sounds like the politician that we’ve come to know all to well, in that he takes cheap shots at his competitors, talks about how he’s tired of America’s allies supposedly ripping us off via trade agreements and NATO defense spending agreements, and plays fast and loose with facts. However, Trump sounds strikingly progressive in other regards, specifically in his support of LGBTQ rights and a universal health care model now referred to as Medicare-for-all.

Here’s what Trump pitched for his health care platform, from The Advocate:

Third, I would press for universal health care. It’s ridiculous that the richest country on Earth can’t provide first-rate health care for our people. I would put forward a comprehensive health care program and fund it with an increase in corporate taxes. I’d strictly regulate the pharmaceutical firms to end these 500% profits on drugs that are cheap to produce. I like the Canadian system, although their health care is not the best. If you combine their system with the quality of our health care, we could provide cradle-to-grave health care for everyone.

You could just as easily read the above passage in Bernie Sanders’s voice. (As President, Trump has said that Medicare for all would turn the U.S. into Venezuela.) The Trump of 2000 also didn’t have a problem raising taxes in order to provide health care to all Americans, calling for an increase increase in the corporate tax rate to fund a single-payer system.

Trump also presented himself like the kind of guy who wouldn’t appoint a gay conversion therapy enthusiast as his running mate, talking instead about amending the constitution to explicitly protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. From The Advocate:

like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It would be simple. It would be straightforward. We don’t need to rewrite the laws currently on the books, although I do think we need to address hate-crimes legislation. But amending the Civil Rights Act would grant the same protection to gay people that we give to other Americans — it’s only fair. I actually suggested this first, and now I see [Democratic presidential candidate] Bill Bradley has jumped on the bandwagon and is claiming the idea as his own. [A bill to amend the Civil Rights Act that would have included protections on the basis of sexual orientation was first introduced in the 1970s. — Ed.]

As an Advocate editor’s note points out, this is one of those instances of Trump’s disinterest in the factual truth. He wasn’t the “first” to suggest an LGBT amendment to the Civil Rights Act; one such amendment proposal was introduced to congress in the ’70s.

Trump also talked at length about the need for strong hate crime protections, mentioning murder victim Matthew Shepard multiple times with an empathy that sounds alien to the Trump of 2019.

It turned my stomach. I have a son who is about the same age as Matthew Shepard and is a student at Wharton. The idea somebody would beat a young man to death just because he is different is almost hard to fathom. I hope that the boy’s death is not in vain and that the public revulsion about this case can be harnessed in a way that prevents this kind of hideous crime from happening again.

Perhaps Trump comes off more cogent and composed because the then real estate mogul wrote his answers out, rather than sit for a phone or in person conversation. Maybe he just had good publicists back then. Maybe he’s completely lacking a moral compass. Or perhaps Trump comes off as uncharacteristically accepting of others because he was trying to wrestle the Reform Party nomination away from noted bigot Pat Buchanan, who trafficked in exactly the kind of xenophobic, anti-immigrant hysteria that Trump capitalized on in his later bid for the White House:

I used to like Pat. I was on Crossfire with him. I thought he was a nice guy. Then I read the things he had written about Hitler, Jews, blacks, gays, and Mexicans. I mean, I think it’s disgusting. That speech he made at the ’92 Republican convention was a disaster. He wants to divide Americans. Clearly, he has a love affair with Adolf Hitler, and that’s sick. Buchanan actually said gay people had chosen “satan[ism] and suicide.” Now he says he welcomes gay people into his campaign. The guy is a hypocrite.

It’s an incredible statement from a guy who kicked off his presidential campaign in 2015 by proclaiming that undocumented Mexican immigrants are largely rapists and shut down the government in the hopes that he could secure funding for a wall along the Southern border. But times change, I guess.