Last fall Donald Trump shook up the political world by announcing he was joining the Reform Party, a major step in exploring a run for president. The pundits laughed, claiming that the real estate mogul knew more about glamour than politics, but Trump made a number of television and personal appearances that showed his proposed candidacy was no joke. Privately, friends speculated he was bored with the real estate business. In January Trump published The America We Deserve, which outlines his vision for the nation. Anyone who thinks his candidacy is a joke, he says, should read the book. For moderates in the Reform Party, Trump has emerged as their best hope of stopping Pat Buchanan from winning the party’s presidential nomination. With his name recognition and record in business, Trump could prove a wild card in the presidential race, appealing to people tired of politics as usual. Recently I put a wide-ranging set of questions to Trump concerning gay issues, to which Trump responded in writing. His answers might surprise some pundits, both for their thoroughness and for their bluntness.
Are you serious about running?
Yes, I’m quite serious. Washington is in gridlock, and nothing is getting done. No health care reform, no tax relief, no campaign finance reform. The special interests run the country. I think it will take a nonpolitician to break the logjam. Somebody with a big-picture outlook. I’m someone who has built a billion-dollar business enterprise and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye toward the bottom line. Perhaps it’s time America was run like a business.
Why should gays and lesbians be interested in you as a presidential candidate?
I grew up in New York City, a town with different races, religions, and peoples. It breeds tolerance. In all truth, I don’t care whether or not a person is gay. I judge people based on their capability, honesty, and merit. Being in the entertainment business — that is, owning casinos and … several large beauty pageants — I’ve worked with many gay people. I have met some tough, talented, capable, terrific people. Their lifestyle is of no interest to me.
Would we see gay people in a Trump administration?
I would want the best and brightest. Sexual orientation would be meaningless. I’m looking for brains and experience. If the best person for the job happens to be gay, I would certainly appoint them. One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government. I’d want to change that.
What would you do to combat antigay prejudice?
I 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.] Let me tell you something. Bradley is as phony as a $20 Rolex. He says the president ought to have big ideas. His last big idea — the 1986 [Tax Reform Act] — caused a recession and cost thousands of people their jobs. This guy destroyed the real estate industry, and he tanked the S&Ls. It was a disaster. Bradley walked out of the Senate like he was some kind of statesman declaring that “politics is broken.” The truth is, the voters were going to dump him in New Jersey. He walked away. Now he poses as some kind of outsider. What a joke. Bradley was a member of the Senate Finance Committee and a longtime part of Washington establishment. When I was $900 million and my companies were $9 billion in debt, I didn’t walk away. While others were declaring bankruptcy, I clawed my way back. My businesses are now bigger and better than ever.
Are your gay employees allowed to be out?
Everyone makes a personal choice. Look, it just doesn’t matter to me. I try to treat everybody equal and fairly. Maybe that’s why I can count men like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Sammy Sosa as my friends. When you hang with people who are different from you, you get an appreciation for other cultures.