‘”I really believe the Republicans are just too crazy right.”
And with that, Donald Trump left the Republican Party.
It was October, 1999. Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was president. Texas Gov. George W Bush was the GOP front-runner for the nomination in 2000.
And Trump was disgusted by what he viewed as a too conservative Republican base.
“The Republicans are too far right, and I don’t think anybody’s hitting the cord, not the cord that I want hear,” Trump told CNN’s Larry King.
Trump was gearing up to seek the Reform Party nomination for president in 2000. He told the New York Times he would register with the Independence Party, the New York version of the Reform Party, and would meet with officials “in the next few months.”
His leading challenger was former Nixon aide and columnist Pat Buchanan who had twice before sought the Republican nomination.
”Look, he’s a Hitler lover,” Trump said about Buchanan. ”I guess he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays. It’s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy.”
Trump aligned himself with supporters of former pro-wrestler turned Independent Gov of Minnesota Jesse Ventura.
As he bolted the GOP, Trump said, “I’ve actually been an activist Democrat and Republican. I support almost equally — I really go for the people rather than the party.”
And he began a huge left-hand political turn on a variety of issues including health care.
“I’m conservative, generally speaking, but I’m quite liberal and getting much more liberal on health care and other things,” Trump told King. “If you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it’s all over. I mean, it’s no good. So I’m very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care. I believe in whatever it takes to make people well and better.”
When asked if he believed health care was an entitlement at birth, Trump replied: “I think it is. It’s an entitlement to this country, and too bad the world can’t be, you know, in this country. But the fact is, it’s an entitlement to this country if we’re going to have a great country.”
Trump was also pro-choice on abortion, and he had lined up with Ross Perot and progressives against NAFTA and other trade deals.
When asked about a potential running mate on the Reform Party ticket, Trump answered, “Oprah, I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice. She is a terrific woman. She is somebody that is very special.”
Trump made it clear there was no other political post he’d be interested in other than the top job. “I’m tired of politicians being president, because I see the lousy job they do, and I’m just tired of it,” said Trump. “And I think a lot of other people are.”
In the end, Trump would not seek the Reform Party nomination as I discuss in my book Front Row Seat at the Circus.
In fact, nearly a decade later he remained an Independent, called Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “impressive” and suggested she start impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush for taking the country to war in Iraq.
So in 2016 when Donald Trump threatens to leave the GOP take him at his word. He’s done it before.