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Trump wants private health care for veterans, talks Colorado issues in Gazette interview

By: VINCE BZDEK vince.bzdek@gazette.com
July 29, 2016 Updated: July 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm
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photo - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, center right, meets with the editorial board of Colorado Springs Gazette, Friday, July 29, 2016, in downtown Colorado Springs, Colo., before a rally at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, center right, meets with the editorial board of Colorado Springs Gazette, Friday, July 29, 2016, in downtown Colorado Springs, Colo., before a rally at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette) 

In his first 100 days as president, Republican nominee Donald Trump says he'd open private hospitals to veterans frustrated by long wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and he'd support a first-in-the-nation test program in Colorado Springs that would pay for vets to receive private health care.

"I like that idea," Trump told members of The Gazette's editorial board Friday. "We're going to have people sent to local doctors and local hospitals who are just dying for work. And we're going to have them taken care of and we're going to pay the bill, and it will be a lot cheaper than what's happening now."

Trump did not specify how privatized health care for veterans would be funded, but he did say he would immediately hire better managers for the Department of Veterans Affairs if he were elected.

"The Veterans Administration is a total disaster," he said. Using one of the trademark lines from his reality TV show, Trump said "I'd fire them (current managers) and say 'sue me.'"

Trump made his remarks in a 35-minute session with Gazette editors and executives in advance of a campaign event at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

"Donald Trump wants to win Colorado," said Patrick Davis, Trump's Colorado campaign director. "He does his research, and understands the reach and positive influence of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gazette. That's why he chose to meet with The Gazette's editorial board today."

Trump appeared in Colorado Springs one day after the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton was nominated as the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. In her acceptance speech, Clinton attacked Trump's qualifications to be president - casting herself as a unifier of the country in the face of what she called Trump's divisiveness.

Trump, whom Republicans nominated last week during their convention in Cleveland, called Clinton's speech "so average."

"She's not talking about the problems" the country faces and looks through "rose-colored glasses," he said. "I talked about the problems and how to fix them."

Among those problems is the depleted state of the military, Trump said. In her acceptance speech, Clinton blasted Trump for calling the U.S. military "a disaster," to which Trump responded Friday by saying that "the military is in very bad shape," the "least-prepared military in decades," and needs to be rebuilt.

He said the United States may need to use more boots on the ground to defeat the Islamic State, and insisted that NATO play a larger role in fighting the Islamic militants. If the United States could forge a better relationship with Russia, Trump said, he thought American troops should fight alongside Russian troops against ISIS.

Trump's demeanor during the editorial board meeting was measured and reflective, in contrast to the revved-up, over-the-top bombast on display at many of his rallies, He peppered the board with almost as many questions as he provided answers in an effort to demonstrate his interest in Colorado's issues and challenges.

He spoke on a range of subjects relevant to Colorado voters and a smattering of national and international issues. Here's a summary:

The Supreme Court

Trump called Supreme Court appointments "the single biggest issue of this campaign," arguing that four or five justices may be appointed by the next president. He promised that 100 percent of his nominees would be approved by the "Federalist Society," a leading conservative legal group. "You'll never get the country back," if he's not elected, he added.

Marijuana

Trump said he favors states working out the legality of marijuana rather than the federal government, and did not promise to enforce federal laws concerning pot use in Colorado. "Let's see what happens in Colorado. You're really a great test," he said. Trump said he's in favor of medical marijuana to treat some illnesses and for pain relief.

Electability

When asked what his game plan is for winning Colorado, Trump was short on specifics. He explained that he didn't win Colorado's Republican caucus system back in April because "it's a rigged system, because people didn't get to vote."

About 60,000 Republicans attended the state precinct caucuses and voted on delegates to the state convention. A presidential preference poll was not held, which is what Trump was referring to.

"Colorado was great for me because it awakened me to the fact that politics is a dirty business and a dishonest business," he said.

Trump said he believes if rank and file Coloradans had voted, he would have won the primary in a landslide.

His battle plan for winning Colorado now, however, is perfunctory: "I'm reducing taxes, I'm reducing regulation. Hillary's not. I think I'm going to do very well in Colorado."

Latino voters

Trump said that, despite his promise to build a wall at the border with Mexico, he is up to 33 percent support of Hispanics in recent polls. "Because they want jobs," he said. "They need jobs more than anything else. People who are here legally say, wait a minute, Trump's on our side. Because we don't want them (illegal immigants) to come in and take our jobs, take our homes. And tremendous crime comes in."

Women voters

"I do have plans to appeal to women," he said. After enduring months of criticism about sexist remarks and tweets - including a well-publicized blowout with Fox News' Megyn Kelly - Trump has tasked his daughter Ivanka with leading the effort to improve his image with woman. Ivanka Trump gave a well-received speech at the Republican convention that highlighted the opportunities Trump has given women in the workplace. Trump said he appeals to women "because they want security, they want safety, they want borders. I'm good on the medical issues" they care about.

"I have more women than men at my rallies," he added.

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