Everything about Donald Trump is larger than life and a bit stranger than you might expect. What kind of president would he be? We may get the chance to find out, but in the meantime there are only his official policies, and shifting public utterances, to go on.
Generally, Trump’s shifting positions seem to be aimed at reinventing himself as less of a liberal on social issues than he was 10 or 15 years ago.
IRAQ: Particularly for a Republican, publicly opposing the Iraq war would have taken tremendous political courage at the time. It would look wise now, though.
“I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East,” Trump told an audience in New Hampshire in February.
However, Trump was asked his position on Iraq in 2002, when war was being debated. “Are you for invading Iraq?” Howard Stern asked him (3:40 on the audio track). “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
DRUGS: In 1990 Trump backed the full legalization of drugs, (“We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war.”) but now backs access to medical marijuana and says the states should be allowed to make their own decisions on marijuana legalization — a position he shares with Bernie Sanders.
ABORTION: In 1999, Trump described himself as “very pro-choice”. (0:40) “It may be a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country,” he said. By 2011, when he was soliciting conservative support for a Republican presidential run at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said he opposed abortion. Asked about his change of heart, he said it was due to personal experiences of couples that had considered abortion, but ended up being happy to carry their pregnancies to term.
H-1B VISAS: This visa category lets foreigners with specialized skills work in the United States. Should they be expanded or curbed? It depends which Donald Trump you ask. Trump’s platform calls for reforms to the program, such as increasing the prevailing wage and forcing employers to hire Americans first, but last week he called for it to be scrapped entirely, calling it “very, very bad for workers”.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: “Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like “assault weapons”, “military-style weapons” and “high capacity magazines” to confuse people.” says Trump’s gun control platform. “Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice.” In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Trump wrote that “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”
Trump’s changing positions seem aimed at making a New Yorker, liberal on some hot-button issues before he was involved in national Republican politics, more acceptable to a conservative audience. When, or if, he secures his party’s nomination, it will be interesting to see if he shifts more to the centre to appeal to mainstream voters.