Meeting with The Gazette's editorial board Friday, Donald Trump exuded a level of warmth, vulnerability and humility that surprised us. He was nothing like the strident buzzsaw so often seen on TV.
Trump gave us 35 minutes for a thoughtful discussion on national defense, the Veterans Administration, marijuana, the Supreme Court and more.
The feistier side of Trump appeals to his large base. Yet, it is hard to meet the real-life, personal and more presidential Trump without pondering his potential. The masses experience his eccentric side, which political prognosticators argue may keep him from the White House.
The soft and compassionate side emerges when Trump is asked about the struggles of veterans. The board explained a concern about local veterans waiting weeks and months to be seen at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. Some die while waiting. Trump was well aware of the problem and obviously concerned.
We wanted to know what Trump might do during his first 100 days to bring immediate relief to suffering veterans. Trump said he would arrange for vets, at least temporarily, to use standard private-sector hospitals and clinics without having to wait days, weeks or months before qualifying to do so. Meanwhile, he would work on a more permanent and sustainable resolution.
The board lacked time to mine for all the detail needed to adequately examine a federal stop-gap plan of such magnitude. But Trump's commitment to providing immediate access, and somehow funding it, was not in question.
A board member explained how El Paso County has five major military bases—more than any other county in the country. He asked if Trump would consider using our community as the location for testing a new and improved approach to veteran health care. Doing so could put this home of 80,000-plus veterans on the leading edge.
"I like that idea," Trump said. If he's elected, we'll be sure to remind him.
Compare Trump's desire to fix the VA to the response Gazette reporter Megan Schrader received from President Barack Obama this month. She asked the president about VA problems, and he boasted about improvements he had made to the system. He spoke of the VA's high quality of care—once you get through the door, that is—and said nothing about resolving the dilemma of vets waiting long enough to die.
When a board member told Trump about a new Aurora VA hospital's $1.2 billion cost overrun, he launched into a well-versed screed about the costs of rampant waste, fraud and incompetence he has seen as a private-sector builder observing and rescuing public-sector projects. Money wasted by the VA is money that could go for care.
Asked about Colorado's marijuana laws, Trump offered a standard Republican answer about states' rights and letting Colorado work things out, as part of a laboratory of democracy.
Before he would enforce federal law, which conflicts with Colorado's law, he would need considerably more information. Fair enough. He spoke supportively of medical marijuana for people in pain.
Trump believes he can win female voters because they want security, public safety, border control and better medical care.
Latino voters will support him "because they want jobs."
We've heard all that, and November will be the judge. We've also heard about Trump's plan to nominate Supreme Court justices who have the vetting and approval of the Federalist Society. The influential legal organization fights to maintain enforcement of the Constitution as it was intended by our founders. We've also heard Trump is bluffing to appease the Republican base. So we asked for a commitment.
"Can we get a promise and a guarantee that any Supreme Court nominees would be approved by the Federalist Society?"
"Yes, they'll all come out of the Federalist Society," Trump said.
"You're not going to go around that? Because, some people are suspicious," we said.
"No, no. One hundred percent out of the Federalist Society. I have 11, I'm going to add four more, but they're all coming out of the Federalist Society... That is the single biggest issue in this campaign. I mean, you always think defense and everything else. But if I'm not chosen, you're going to have super liberal judges. You'll never get the country back. The country will be gone."
We haven't been huge fans of the media's Donald Trump. The man who works the room is different. He seems wise, reasonable and impassioned. If the country meets that Donald Trump, he could be headed to the White House.
The gazette editorial board