Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump went toe-to-toe with Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview that was aired on Sunday – covering the waterfront of issues from immigration and abortion rights to battling ISIS.
The multi-billionaire businessman is far ahead of the rest of the 17-member Republican field with 25 percent of the vote nationwide in the latest Fox News poll. But critics say that while Trump has been good with caustic one-liners, denigrating Republicans and Democrats alike, he has yet to speak with any depth or authority about many of the major issues of the day.
Here are nine takeaways from Trump’s 37-minute interview:
U.S. – Iran nuclear agreement: Trump says President Obama did a lousy job of negotiating the agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, including allowing a lifting of sanctions to be included as part of the deal. But unlike most of the other GOP presidential candidates, he won’t vow to rescind the agreement as one of his first acts as president. Instead, he said, “I’m good at looking at contracts” and would aggressively “police” the agreement to close the loopholes and assure Iran keeps its end of the bargain in scaling back its nuclear capabilities.
Battling ISIS – Trump repeated his vow to pound the powerful jihadist terrorist group in Syria and Iraq and strip them of their financial resources by taking back control of oil fields ISIS has captured in Iraq. He said he would then use a lot of the new oil money to assist the “Wounded Warriors” and the families of the U.S. veterans of the Iraq War. “ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil and certain areas of Iraq,” he said. “And I said you take away their wealth, that you go and knock the hell out of the oil, take back the oil . . . which we should have done in the first place.”
Hillary Clinton – Trump was pressed to defend his claim that Clinton was the “worst” secretary of state in history and to name other former State Department chiefs who were better. Trump said he didn’t want to “name names,” provoking a rejoinder from Chuck Todd that “Everything with you’s the best and the worst.” Trump lamely responded “No, it’s not.”
Planned Parenthood – Trump says he is disgusted by the highly controversial videos showing Planned Parenthood officials blithely discussing the sale of fetal tissue and body parts. He would favor cutting off funding for the group if it continues to perform abortions. But he said he would “have to think about” whether the issue should precipitate another partial government shutdown like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and other Republican lawmakers are demanding. He describes himself as “pro-life” although he thinks abortions are justified in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. And he said he would take into account candidates’ views on abortion in nominating jurists to the Supreme Court.
Who advises him on foreign policy – Trump gets most of his analysis and insights on foreign policy from watching experts on television – like most other Americans. “I watch the shows,” he said. When pressed to name some of the experts he actually talks to, Trump mentioned two: John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs. He said Bolton is a “tough cookie and knows what he’s talking about,” while Jacobs “is a good guy.”
Immigration Reform – Trump continued to take a hard line in dealing with the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country, saying that he is prepared to support deporting entire families back to their countries of origin, where they can apply for reentry. He also promised again to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep other illegal immigrants out of this country and to immediately rescind President Obama’s controversial executive orders allowing five million young immigrants and their families to remain here without fear of deportation.
Social Security – Trump says he would favor reforms of the premier federal retirement program to assure its long-term financial footing, but “without the cuts.”
Trump’s problem with women voters – Trump has been savaged by critics for his attacks on Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly and for past comments hostile to women. He devoted a chunk of time explaining that he “cherishes” women and has hired and promoted many women throughout his long business and TV career. “So I understand women, and women’s health issues are very important to me.,” he said.
D.C. Statehood – Trump agrees with District of Columbia officials and residents that it is grossly unfair that they pay federal taxes and serve in wars yet lack full voting representation in Congress. He said he likely would support a drive to make the District the 51st state.