Talks with Chris Matthews (Interview)

Date: Nov. 18, 1999
Location: Hardball With Chris Matthews
Issues: Guns






MATTHEWS: Five, four, three, two, one. Yes, I'm here—I'm here in Washington. This is Houston. We have a problem.


From the University of Pennsylvania with 1,200 students and our special guest, Donald Trump.



TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.


MATTHEWS: Wow. I'm Chris Matthews. Let's play HARDBALL.

OK. Isn't this a great country?

TRUMP: It's a great country. It's a great school, and boy, do I love Wharton. How many are from Wharton?



MATTHEWS: You know, besides the fact that you went to Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania, there was another incident in the history of this city. I think it was 1776.

TRUMP: Correct.

MATTHEWS: And it was decided then that God had endowed us with certain inalienable rights: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What do those words and phrases mean to Donald Trump?

TRUMP: Well, I think they mean a lot. I mean, this is truly a great country, and life, and frankly, happiness. I've had a great time in this country. This is a great country. I don't think I could ever be happy in another country, and I think we can see it even today. These folks are going to go out, they're going to go into the world, they're doing to do great, and I even have my son...

MATTHEWS: Where is he? Introduce him.

TRUMP: Come here, Donnie, where are you?

MATTHEWS: Mr. Trump. Have him stand up.


(inaudible) standing up.

TRUMP: He's much better looking than I am.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. And you have another special guest here I'd like you to introduce at this time.

TRUMP: I do indeed.

MATTHEWS: I see her.

TRUMP: My supermodel. Where is my supermodel? Malania (ph).


This is Malania Genell (ph). Stand up.


MATTHEWS: One thing it's safe to say about you, Donald, is you know the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia.

TRUMP: I do. I do. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. Let me just put you into a situation, a professional situation. You just got out of Wharton Business School, you're out practicing, you're an accountant. Your client comes to you and says, "I'm scared to death. Some crazy guy wants to put a tax on everybody who owns more than $10 million. How do you protect me?" What would you say?

TRUMP: Well, I'd start off by saying the man must be brilliant, because you pay off the national debt. These folks are going to love it, because they haven't made their $10 million yet.


And, to be honest, the rich folks are going to like it, because we get rid of the inheritance tax, which is 55 percent, which is a total catastrophe, it really is. And your parents when they leave you the farm and they leave you the business you're not going to have anything left. It's a terrible, onerous tax. The economy's going to boom. But the biggest beneficiary is going to be Social Security, which we saved, and the middle income person and worker, which—I mean, the taxes are going to go down by at least by at least $100 billion a year.

MATTHEWS: We're going to take a lot of questions from Wharton School people especially here as we go on through the hour. I want to ask one primitive question, which is what stops people who see this coming, say, they start to see you getting elected, they see you winning the Reform Party nomination, they see you going into the debates, they see you as one of the real possibilities of being president next time, and they shipped all their money to the Cayman Islands? How do you stop that?

TRUMP: Well, it's not going to happen, and the economy's going to boom...

MATTHEWS: Why not? Why wouldn't it happen?

TRUMP: It's not going to happen. I mean there are always things and there always ins and outs for every little thing, and having gone to this incredible school—Wharton was actually just ranked by Business Week as the number one business school—and I will tell you, I did ...


... I did well at Wharton and I know, I think, (OFF-MIKE) incentive. And I know when people are going to be incentivized. And they're going incentivized to keep their money in this country. Taxes are going to come down and other than the fourteenth—that's sort of interesting. The 14.25% tax—that's one tax. When you die and you leave your estate, like to my children, we have a 55 percent tax. So you get rid of the national debt right now, you get rid of the inheritance tax, and a lot of people are going to like that.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the kind of country—I always like to talk about that on our program sort of implicitly. Let's make it explicit. Donald Trump, what kind of a country do you want to live in?

TRUMP: I want to live in a country very much like it is now, but with better spirit and even more booming times. I mean, if you really look at the stock market, and these folks know what I'm saying exactly, you have about four percent, maybe five percent of the companies that have gone up, and most of it's gone down. And the Dow Jones, the big companies, they've gone up, but most companies haven't gone up. They've gone down and down substantially, whether they're doing OK or not.

So you know, this economy is not booming like people think it's booming by any stretch of the imagination. General Electric is doing well. Microsoft is doing well. Numerous large companies are doing well. But for the most part, the companies are not doing well. If you do what I'm advocating, you will have a boom economy. We'll keep it going for a long time.

MATTHEWS: Are you running for president?

TRUMP: I am, indeed.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the costs.


Let me talk about the costs quickly. I want to get to the questions very quickly. The costs of running—one of them you wrote about in "The Art of the Deal." I think I talked to you about it one time. You said Jimmy Carter, the former president, who I think is great, came into your office one time and asked you cold for $5 million for his library. You said at that moment, you realized how he got elected president: chutzpah.

TRUMP: That's true.

MATTHEWS: Would you have the chutzpah to take the tin cup around and ask your business competitors to help contribute to your presidential campaign?

TRUMP: Well, I think I probably would. I mean, why not? I'm in a unique position because I can take a lot of money, as much as I need, and run for president and not have to ask anybody. But I would never look a gift horse in the mouth. If these folks want to contribute to my campaign, I'll take their money.


MATTHEWS: (OFF-MIKE) you're ready (OFF-MIKE).

TRUMP: Or your daddy's money.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—one of the humiliations of running for the presidency and we saw this with Geraldine Ferraro from New York—her husband's a real estate developed—you've got to show your tax returns. You've got to come out with a full financial statement. People in real estate don't normally like to do that. Are you ready to do that kind of, you know, show yourself kind of disclosure?

TRUMP: You know, one of the things about me, I've been an open book. I've been out there for 20 years— longer than 20 years. And I think everyone knows who I am, what I am, and they like me, they hate me, they somewhere in the middle. The fact is, I've really been an open book. When I go through in Atlantic City, where I have great casinos that a lot of the folks here go to all the time, because it's right down there.


MATTHEWS: Right. It's nearby.

TRUMP: But I do—I have great casinos. And we have a thing called the Casino Control Commission. These folks that are on the commission—the commissioners have done an unbelievable job in keeping the mob out; keeping things clean; making sure taxes are paid—everything else. It is an unbelieve—if I write a check to you, they'll get to see a copy of that check. If I write a check...

MATTHEWS: But when you run for president, will you release your income tax returns?

TRUMP: You know, it's something I haven't even thought of, but I certainly, I guess, as I get closer to the decision, which I'll probably make in February, it's something I will be thinking of. They're very big. They're very complex. But I would probably have—I probably wouldn't have a problem with doing it.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you another civic question.

TRUMP: I've been very much by the book.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we have another civic question. You've—imagine you're elected president and you take office January 20, 2001, and you're taking the office, and meanwhile your building is going up next to the United Nations building. It's dwarfing the United Nations building. It's overshadowing it. It's reaching all the way across to Queens, whatever's across the river there. Is that a good diplomatic move for a president whose just taken office?



TRUMP: I had a feeling that was going to come up.

MATTHEWS: That's probably what they're saying at the UN, they have a feeling it's going to come up.

TRUMP: At least it shows I'm smart.

MATTHEWS: Right. Would you stop—would you limit the amount of floors in that building as sort of a—sort of a—sort of the greeting card to the fellow members of the United Nations, rather than just do what you're intending to do as a citizen?

TRUMP: I wouldn't have to because it's the people from the United Nations for the most part that are buying the apartment. I think they'd be very upset about it.

The fact is that...

MATTHEWS: Well, Kofi Annan doesn't like this. The secretary general didn't like it...

TRUMP: ... didn't like it today, but he hasn't seen it. I mean, now (OFF-MIKE) it's on the 15th floor, it'll be 90 stories tall, it'll be actually the tallest residential tower in the world, and the tallest concrete in the world. And I'm very proud if it. It's going to be an amazing landmark.

MATTHEWS: Will they be able to see your building? Will they be so much in shadow they won't be able to make you out?

TRUMP: They will—no, no, they'll be able to see my building very beautifully...

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask a tough question. This is a technical thing, but it's kind of fun. The president of the United States gets an allowance to live on. That's why you never have to cash a check when you're president. They live off us basically. You wouldn't have that problem. But they have an allowance for parties and whatever, and whenever they pass out the wine glasses and the hors' dourves. The first lady gets to control all that under the-she has a thing called the East Wing. How you going to handle that?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I got myself into a lot of trouble if I said I could be married within 24 hours if need be. And...


See, that's what happens when you go to Wharton, folks, I mean...


But I could handle it. I could handle it very easily.

I'm not sure that today, being married—and I really could be married, and, you know, it's one of those things— but I just got out of a marriage...

MATTHEWS: So you'll handle the social arrangements if you get elected president, yourself.

TRUMP: I'll really handle it, I guess, probably myself or we'll see what happens. Lots of things can happen, lots of changes made.

And I believe—you know, I have to tell you, though, in all seriousness, I believe strongly in the institution of marriage. To me, marriage is just an incredible institution when you get it right. My parents—my father just died, as you probably know, a few months ago. They were married 63 years. And they just had the most incredible marriage.

So I think the one thing that my father couldn't believe and really didn't understand is how could you get divorced. Divorce wasn't even a word in his vocabulary. But it happens.

I believe in the institution of marriage, there's nothing better. It beats being the world's great playboy by a million. But sometimes you don't have a choice.

MATTHEWS: So if you're president of the United States...


I've got a question about that later. But if you're president of the United States, you expect there will be inevitably a first lady adjoining you at some point?

TRUMP: I do. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go to the first question, the center aisle. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Trump. Having been born in Cuba, I have been following the strong anti-Castro, pro-embargo stance that you've taken. I know that you were in Miami recently, and you spoke to the Cuban-American National Foundation and I fully support you for that.

I just wanted to know what else you feel the U.S. should do, in addition to the embargo, to bring about the collapse of Castro, and what should the U.S. do once he's gone?

TRUMP: Well, I'm very concerned about Cuba in that—and I was just down there with a tremendous group of Cuban-Americans, and we really have a problem with Cuba, because the administration has softened up very much on Cuba.

It looks to me like essentially, they're going to lift the embargo. Maybe they won't use the words "lift the embargo," but, I mean, already people are calling me: Let's do a deal in Cuba. And all you're going to do is perpetuate the Castro regime, which I think is terrible. He's been a killer in every sense of the word. He's destroyed lives, destroyed families and destroyed a country.

And you're really at the end. I mean, he's not going to last very much longer, if he lasts at all, and all of a sudden they're talking about making him, at least in his final days, a wealthy man again.

So, you said you were Cuban. I would imagine you would like to see the embargo stay. And I, because I'm down in south Florida so much, I really have a lot of Cuban friends, and I will tell you, they are just—they can't believe what's happening.

Cuba's going to fold, it's going to fail, and good people are going to go. And I know the people that will be there, and they're great people, and Cuba has a great chance, but not if they lift the embargo. The embargo would be terrible.

MATTHEWS: OK. We're going to go to a commercial right now. We'll be back with Donald Trump and his thoughts on Pat Buchanan, Jesse Ventura, and that guy, I think his name is Ross Perot. Back with HARDBALL in just a minute.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back. We're at the University of Pennsylvania is Philadelphia, my home town.

We have another guest of the show besides Donald Trump. I want to give her a shot right now. Well, Malanni (ph), would you like to stand up and answer one big question? The only person I could imagine putting Jackie Kennedy to shame. Malanni (ph), would you like to be first lady?

MALANNI: Yes, it would be an honor to be a first lady.


MATTHEWS: Thank you. I could ask her a follow-up question but that's your job. Let me ask you this. Pat Buchanan...

TRUMP: That would be—oh, Pat Buchanan?

MATTHEWS: Talk about him—talk about him. Take all day.

TRUMP: In the same breath?

MATTHEWS: Talk all day about Pat Buchanan.

TRUMP: Well, look, I know Pat Buchanan. I've down "Crossfire" with Pat Buchanan. I always liked some things about him. But in terms of what I've learned recently in just reading his past articles and commentary, he's obviously an anti-Semite. There's no question about that.

MATTHEWS: You base that on what he's written?

TRUMP: On what he's written. He's—you know, he's a lover of Adolf Hitler. Now, how you love Adolf Hitler— I thought those days were over. But certainly he's that. He seems to be a racist, and I think that...

MATTHEWS: How do you know that?

TRUMP: I can only go by—based on—based on a number of things. I have...

MATTHEWS: You mean any...

TRUMP: I have seen...

MATTHEWS ... language...

TRUMP: A lot of language. But based on the fact that I have received more letters from blacks concerning that...


TRUMP: ... from Jews concerning the anti-Semitism. I mean friends of mine that are very, very much into it. Very, very talented guys, guys that really study it think he's got to be stopped. He's an anti-Semite. He's got to be stopped. I mean, I've never seen anybody that could polarize like this. So, I don't—I just don't understand the Reform Party from the standpoint that Pat can run, and Pat can get three or four percent of the vote, but he's never going to win, and what's the purpose of running if you're not going win?

MATTHEWS: Well, I agree with that, and I don't want to get into anybody's soul, but I do agree that he has used terms like (inaudible) over and over again, Ruth Bader Gingsburg, over and over again. The Rubin Barshefkowski (ph) trade policy, over and over again. He talks about Jose. He talks about throwing mama from the train. That is Amos and Andy talk and he used it about Jocelyn Elders.

And I have to ask you this. Would you think that knocking him off the tracks would be reason enough to run?

TRUMP: Well, a lot of people think I'm there to do that, and that's not the sole purpose. I think he's very dangerous. I think that when he ran, frankly, he really was responsible for the defeat of George Bush, and with his terrible speech at the Republican Convention. When he made that speech, that was so bad. That was like some 500 years ago.


TRUMP: So, I—look, if for no other reason I think that wouldn't be so bad, but that's not the reason I'm doing it. I would not run under any circumstance if I didn't think I could win the whole thing.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about that. Give me a scenario, as you say in the movies, of a perfect Donald Trump run for president, all the way to November of next year.

TRUMP: Well, I think a perfect run would be I do no campaigning. I run only on Election Day. I get at least 51 percent in a three-way race.

MATTHEWS: Right. OK. How about...

TRUMP: I'd become a great...

MATTHEWS: As we say in economics, the second-best solution.

TRUMP: Second-best and second-best. Well, I think I'd have to run very hard.

TRUMP: Look, the Reform Party is terrific. I've met some incredible people; in fact, people from New Jersey Reform today and Pennsylvania. But we're at a big, big disadvantage. The Democrats and Republicans, as you know better than—they've been there for a long time.


TRUMP: They've got the get-out-the-vote machinery. They've got all sorts of machinery. They've got union support. Now I think I'd have a lot of union support. I think I'd have a lot of support period. But we are at a huge disadvantage, so I'd have to work very hard, despite the perfect scenario.


TRUMP: I'd have to work very hard. I'd have to be doing shows like this all the time and lots more.


TRUMP: And I think I could do it. I mean...

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's think about the prize. If you get to be president, define the nirvana, the Great Age of Trump.

TRUMP: Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: What would it be like?


TRUMP: Well, I think the nirvana would be cleaning up the world from nuclear missiles, because ultimately we have got ourselves a big problem. And these young folks in this room—and they're incredible—these people are going to have themselves a bigger problem than me or you or anybody else. I mean, frankly, you have North Korea, that's just loading up with nuclear warheads.


TRUMP: You have other countries—China. You have—Russia has them, and they don't even know who's controlling them. And I think it's singly the biggest issue out there, and somebody has to talk about it. Now I brought it up. People don't like mentioning it. It's not—but that really has to be done, number one. I'd like to see the economy go—of course, relative to what I just said, economy and everything else (inaudible) doesn't mean. But I'd like to see the economy boom. I think with my plan and with what I've done.

You know, in 1990 I had billions and billions of dollars in debt. My company was in trouble. There was a recession like we've never seen. There was a real estate depression, and friends of mine went bankrupt never to be heard from again. I mean, my company, as you know, is stronger, bigger, richer than it's ever been before, and we've just done a job.

I understand debt. I understand economics. I understand all this.

MATTHEWS: Are you finished? Did you pay off all those losses? Are you flush now?

TRUMP: Yes. I'm in such—I'm just in good shape. I mean, you read...

MATTHEWS: What would you be willing to invest in a campaign that looked like a winning strategy? Figure you and Roger Stone (ph) and other people working for you get a winning strategy together, and you figure we can do it. We can knock off Pat Buchanan. We can get enough publicity out of that and enough support from the media and other people, having been the giant killer, to go into those debates, get into debates with these two legacies you're probably going to run against. You show them up. You win. How much would you pay to execute a winning strategy to win the presidency, if you knew you had one?

TRUMP: If you get the nomination—and getting the nomination, I think I could get the nomination, based on everything I'm seeing, not just, you know, in terms of thinking...

MATTHEWS: Right. Of the Reform Party.

TRUMP: Yes. The Reform Party. If I really thought then—and I'd only do it if I thought I could—if I really thought that I could win, I would spend comparable numbers to the money that George Bush has raised, and he's raised $80 million to $100 million.

MATTHEWS: Out of your pocket?

TRUMP: I would just do it. I'd have to...

MATTHEWS: You'd cash a check for that?

TRUMP: I mean, I'll take as many contributions as people want to give me.


TRUMP: But I would spend $100 million, up to $100 million if I thought I could win.


TRUMP: Now, at some point you say, well, I'm doing a great job, but really the apparatus isn't there. But if the apparatus were there, the Reform Party people got out and really wanted to win, I would be willing to spend upwards of $100 million. I think you need that.

MATTHEWS: Let's take a question from the center aisle.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, I am a Wharton graduate student, so I thank you for the plug...

TRUMP: Good.

QUESTION: ... for the best business school in the country.

TRUMP: Well, it's only true.


QUESTION: Given Pat Buchanan's isolationist ideology and philosophy, do you perceive a potential Buchanan presidency to be a threat to the U.S.'s preeminent role in U.S.—I'm sorry—in world affairs, and as a consequence, a more dangerous world?

TRUMP: I don't even think about it, because he can't be elected. Look, we can...


We can talk about Pat, and he can get a nomination...


We can talk about Pat all we want if he's president. But you're just wasting your time. It's not going to happen. He can't get elected. He's impossible to elect, OK?


He could get the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Would you debate him? Would you debate Pat Buchanan on national television on a program? In fact, would you debate him on HARDBALL?

TRUMP: I would debate him. I don't know if I'm going to give you the credits for that. Maybe I'll go on a much more important program.



TRUMP: I'll only go—I'll only—only on network. Only on network. We might consider HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: (inaudible) not on, because we're on all night these days.

Let's take another—we have another question over here. Go ahead for Mr. Trump.

QUESTION: Would you consider a woman for your running mate, and if so, who?

TRUMP: Well, I would consider, and as Chris can tell you, I threw out the name of a friend of mine who I think the world of.

TRUMP: She's great. And some people thought it was incredible I did. Some people didn't. But Oprah—I said Oprah Winfrey, who's really great.


And I think we would be a very formidable team.

MATTHEWS: Would she accept the bottom of that ticket? Or would she (OFF-MIKE) a little higher?

TRUMP: I don't know. She's pretty good, but she's a great woman ...


TRUMP: ... and she's really a very outstanding woman in every way. So I would consider a woman, depending on who the woman is.

MATTHEWS: Did she respond to that proposal yet?

TRUMP: She did. She said she really doesn't feel like running.

MATTHEWS: We're going to come back and talk with Donald Trump again in one minute on HARDBALL.



MATTHEWS: We're back to Donald Trump at the University of Pennsylvania. By the way, the crowd here is four times as big as it was at that other school I went to with Jesse Ventura—Harvard.

I have to ask you a question ...



This is a serious question, and I'm sure everybody here has thought about it before, because this is strange. I'm sort of a conspiracy buff kind of guy and I'm thinking about the patterns here.

Let's see. Gary Hart, Donna Rice—Rice, Bill Clinton, Gennifer Flowers—Flowers, and you and Marla Maples.


They're all blond. They're all good looking. And they're all—they all have names that are unmistakably vegetative.


What's going on here?

TRUMP: I don't know. I just ...

MATTHEWS: Did you ever think about that?

TRUMP: I never gave it much thought.


MATTHEWS: Let's go to the first serious question right in the middle here.

QUESTION: Donald Trump, in case you become the president of United States of America, how do you think you can handle both business and politics? Can you be a businessman and a politician at the same time?

TRUMP: Well, it's a great question, and look, I've made billions of dollars. I've also suffered through tough times, not because of us, because Bill Bradley and a bunch of stiffs from the Senate passed a stupid tax cut in 1986 that destroyed the economy.


MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. This is where—this is where private and public just don't dissect. You don't like the tax rates going down, because it's bad for the real estate business, but most people like what Reagan did, which was to lower the rates across-the-board. Why are you against lowering the rates?

TRUMP: This wasn't—what he did, and really Bradley, led that whole charge—in the 1986 law—bill, he took away incentives to own real estate, which ultimately hurt real estate terribly ...

MATTHEWS: Those were loopholes.

TRUMP: ... hurt the banks terribly. Well, they were. You could have solved the loopholes without changing everything. What he did ...

MATTHEWS: What's wrong with lower rates so that everybody gets a break?

TRUMP: Everything. Everything. But they weren't lower ...

MATTHEWS: Everything's wrong with lower rates?

TRUMP: Let me just tell you. I'm the biggest advocate of the biggest tax cut. There's nobody that wants a bigger tax cut than me. And I'm going to make that tax cut based on trade deficits and other things, because this country is just being ripped off...

MATTHEWS: Let's come back and talk more with Donald Trump in a minute. More HARDBALL coming back.



MATTHEWS: Thank you, we're back. We're back with Donald Trump, and I want to talk about the three hats the president has to wear, and I want you to take all the time you need in this segment to talk about how you see yourself putting these hats on.

One is the emblematic head of state—the man or woman who represents the United States. How comfortable are you, Donald Trump, becoming the symbol of American life?

TRUMP: Well, I think the problem that this country really has is there is a lack of spirit right now, and everything I've done in business and in my life I created spirit. I have a lot of good friends, a lot of good everything, but I have a lot of spirit in my business. My business does great. I'm the biggest developer by far in New York. And we can say, oh, he's a developer—he's a business guy, he's made a lot of money.

But you know, I look at other candidates and I say: What gives them the right? They haven't done a God damned thing. And I say: What gives them the right to really go out and run for office? In one case you're the son and in another case you're the son also, when you really think about it. Bradley would have been thrown out of office in New Jersey. He was going to run and he was going to lose, so he decided ...

MATTHEWS: Christie—I thought Whitman was going to beat him?

TRUMP: Well, Christie almost did beat him, and at that point nobody heard of her, and she based—you know, she built a great career on that almost-win there.

MATTHEWS: How about McCain? Do you like him?

TRUMP: I like him. I do like him. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens—whether or not Bush wilts. And there's some interesting things going on there. But I guess I'll really—I'd rather comment on him if he makes it, and at this moment he's not—I think Bush looks like he has it made, but we'll see what happens.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the commander-in-chief's job, which is to many people the most important job of the presidency when we're in a war. In our lifetime, we've had a lot of wars. I'm going to ask you—I know this is-oh, the people at National Public Radio will say this is unsophisticated, but I want to ask you the simple question: Did you support these military campaigns when you were thinking about them at the time and in retrospect? Or don't you? and in retrospect, or don't you?

MATTHEWS: Was the Bay of Pigs a good idea?

TRUMP: I think it was, but I think Kennedy let everybody down very seriously. I think that you wouldn't have had a Fidel Castro had Kennedy done the bombing.

MATTHEWS: Gone all the way with air cover?

TRUMP: Well, I would have done it. I mean, at the time, I would have done it. In retrospect, obviously...

MATTHEWS: With the flag flying?

TRUMP: He should even gone further than that.

MATTHEWS: You would have gone with the flag flying, supporting the Cubans?

TRUMP: I would have supported the Cubans. They would have had a free Cuba right now, and we wouldn't have gone through many, many years of Fidel Castro.

MATTHEWS: The Vietnam War build-up in 1965 that Johnson undertook, would you have done that?

TRUMP: I think that Vietnam was a disaster. It was too far away. It didn't affect us. I guess if you do it, you have to go to win. We didn't go to win. But I think Vietnam would have been a good place for us to stay out of.

MATTHEWS: OK, now for the bite-size wars of the last couple of administrations. Grenada. Would you have gone into Grenada, overruled that country, just taken out the leadership?

TRUMP: Well, I almost think it was not very significant. It was a war that was quick, easy, and I guess most people would say what—I mean, they went in, they took it over in about 12 seconds, and we said, oh, we had a great victory. So I'm not sure if that was a war or a publicity stunt.

MATTHEWS: But politically, should the United States be in the business of just gobbling up and saying we don't like your government, we're going to switch it?

TRUMP: I don't like it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's talk about Panama. Going down and arresting Noriega and bringing him back and throwing him into prison in Miami somewhere. Is that a smart U.S. policy?

TRUMP: Well, I tend—I tend to like it. I mean, he—what he's done with Panama was terrible. I mean, he— generally speaking, I want to stay away, but Panama is getting very close to home. A bad guy. Drug trade all over the place, killing people all over the place. And excuse me, Fidel Castro, how is he so different? He's worse.

MATTHEWS: Now let me ask you about some things that loom ahead. You're president of the United States. You get a call from the CIA chief. He says I've got to come over. The CIA chief comes on, he shows you all this paper that shows that the North Koreans are ready to move. They're going to use the tunnels they've got there. They're going to use perhaps the threat of military—nuclear. They're going to—their army's massed at the border, everything's mobilized, they're ready to move. What would you—how would you go about dealing with a situation like that?

TRUMP: Well, I'd have to think about it at the time. I'd have to see where they are. I have to see how the South is reacting, because obviously, the South is going to have something to say about it. I will tell you, though, that— and I alluded to it at the beginning—North Korea in my opinion is probably our single biggest problem right now.

MATTHEWS: But would you send them a threat of saying if you move, we move, you're gone?

TRUMP: I don't think I want to signal anything right now. I think it's unfair. I don't want to have it held against me at a later date, but to be honest, something is going to have to be done with North Korea. They're out of control. They're very unstable. They're very billeted, and something's going to have to be done.

MATTHEWS: Let's go to a foreign policy question on the right.

Go ahead, sir.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. I'm a Wharton senior and will receive a commission to the U.S. Marine Corps in May of 2000. My question to you is, what do you—what is your attitude towards current defense spending, and what do you see as the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century?

TRUMP: Well, I think that current defense spending is at a virtual all-time low. Our military is not ready. I believe in something that actually Ronald Reagan believed in, and that's missile defense. I really believe—they called it Star Wars.


TRUMP: The fact is right now...

MATTHEWS: Are you for it?

TRUMP: Right now I am totally for it. I think we have the technology now. And you know, it's interesting with Ronald Reagan. They were laughing at him when he came up with the concept of Star Wars, actually now many years ago, it was brilliant concept. And he knew something a lot of people didn't know. We really do have, now, the technology to do it.

MATTHEWS: Do you want the total shield, or do you want point defense?

TRUMP: I want a shield. A shield.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go to the...

TRUMP: You have some madman out there that's going to say, let's take out New York...

MATTHEWS: But what do you do about cruise missiles? They come in right under the shield. You could go— you can defend against ballistic. How do you defend against cruise missiles?

TRUMP: I believe that you can have a shield that—you know what? If it works 100 percent, if it works 90 percent, or if it works 80 percent, that's better than not having a shield at all, believe me.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go to the question in the middle.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm still vague about your entire tax plan. Would mind explaining it a bit more, and why it makes good economic sense?

MATTHEWS: ... tax plan. Explain.

TRUMP: I would tax people of wealth, of great wealth, people over $10 million, by 14.25 percent. And this tax would raise approximately $5.7 trillion, which happens to be our national debt. We would now save $200 billion a year in interest costs, which would go toward lowering taxes for everybody, and particularly the working middle class—particularly—getting rid of the estate tax and saving Social Security. The economy would boom. We'd have no debt.

Hey, I know about debt probably as much as anybody. I've had too much, and I've had too little. And you know what? Too little is much better, believe me.

MATTHEWS: Do you want to follow up on that?

QUESTION: Well, I—I mean, I still see problems where people would be shifting their money to other nations, or where the...

TRUMP: I don't see it. I don't see it, because this nation will boom, the economy will boom, and ultimately, they're going to shift their money anyway, if our economy isn't booming. Look what they did with Asia.

TRUMP: When Asia went down, money shifted into Asia because they thought they were buying things cheap. So money's going to shift where the economy is good.

QUESTION: But they only had to ship it out for a year. So I don't see where the...

TRUMP: Well, I just think that the booming economy that we create by my plan would keep the money here because it's incentive. They're going to want to be where the action is, they're going to want to be where the good economy is. And they move their money around—hey, including me—you move your money around where the action is, and now it's a real world economy. But this country would be booming. We'd have no debt. It would be unbelievable.

QUESTION: Beyond that, wouldn't the individual perhaps consume a lot that year, setting off who knows what?

TRUMP: They might consume—they might consume...

QUESTION: ... overwhelming amounts...

TRUMP: ... and maybe that's not so bad because that continues to make the economy boom.

MATTHEWS: What about bank runs? What about people just saying, "I'm getting my money out of sight, I'm going to put it under a pillow or do something to liquidate it?"

TRUMP: It's just traditionally not happened in this country.

Look, we've been at a pretty good point in the economy and we all understand that. But really, again, it's been targeted, it's been that upper, upper, upper.


TRUMP: I think that we can have an economy that's even better for a sustained period of time.

MATTHEWS: Let's take one more question and then commercial.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, I'm an avid outdoorsman from upstate New York where your new golf courses are going. I'm very proud of my Second Amendment right to bear arms. If you're elected, would you uphold this right, or do you see it as a societal ill?

TRUMP: Well, I think you have to have the right to have a gun. Now, I hate the concept of guns, I'm not in favor of it, except for one thing: the bad guys are going to have them. So...

MATTHEWS: Do you have a gun?

TRUMP: I do.

MATTHEWS: Do you keep it near you?

TRUMP: Depending on where I am, yes, I have it in different—I actually have a couple of guns. And I believe you need it.

You know what, if everybody would just give it up, the bad ones, the good ones and everybody in the middle, no guns, I love it—but it's not going to happen. The good ones, you go into a licensing—the good ones are going to are they going to do everything by the book? They get rid of the guns. So now the good folks are sitting out there with no protection, and the bad guys have the guns. I don't like that. So I am in favor of the ability to have a gun.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. We'll be back with Donald Trump in a minute on CNBC, and MSNBC, and HARDBALL.



MATTHEWS: Back at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for our largest college tour audience ever. As I said, four times what we had at that other place.

Let me ask you about this, Donald Trump, in your book—I love your books—they're so honest—one of them was, you said you believe in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the Old Testament thing. Will revenge be a big part of your presidential program?


TRUMP: Well, I really—you know, it's sort of interesting. You do deals. You do things. You do things in life. And you're good to certain people, and then they're bad to you.

MATTHEWS: And then?

TRUMP: And then you're supposed to stand away and say: Oh...

MATTHEWS: You like write nice two-word notes to some of your pals...

TRUMP: I did. I did.

MATTHEWS: Reminding them of their...

TRUMP: You don't want to hear what at least the first of the two words were.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you on the honest thing—"Time" magazine's going to get around to its man of the year, woman of the year—whatever—woman of the century, man of the century. Who would you say positively-who would be your hero for this whole century?

TRUMP: Well, I think Pat Buchanan would choose Adolf Hitler. I would choose Churchill or Roosevelt.

MATTHEWS: OK. Why Churchill?

TRUMP: And maybe Reagan. I mean, Reagan has done an amazing job. So one of those three.


MATTHEWS: Well, let's—why Reagan?

TRUMP: Well, if you look at Reagan—one of—something that Reagan truly did is he really uplifted this country in terms of spirit. We had a great spirit during those Reagan years. You didn't see what you've seen over the last number of years, and look, he did lots of good things.

MATTHEWS: What role do looks—good looks—play in success in America?

TRUMP: Are you saying I'm a great looking guy?



TRUMP: I had to do that. I had to do that.

MATTHEWS: You know, I have to be careful about those things.

TRUMP: That's true.

MATTHEWS: But that's a good question and I'd like an answer.

TRUMP: I think looks unfortunately play a big role. They say Abe Lincoln could have never been elected today.


TRUMP: That's pretty sad. But I think looks, because of that camera and that camera and every other camera you have all over the place, I think looks unfortunately play a very big role—a much bigger role than they should.

MATTHEWS: You said something really interesting in one of your books. I think it was "The Art of the Deal"— about the kind of people that wanted to move into Trump Tower. And I want to ask if they're the kind of people you expect would vote for you. You had a wonderful way of saying—it talked like—it sounded like we had talked in Philadelphia growing up. We weren't politically correct. And you said: Some rich Italian guy with a beautiful wife would be the kind of guy that would want to move into—I thought of Cherry Hill or something— you know, some really upscale kind of community—rich Italian guy, beautiful wife, would move into Trump Tower. Is that the kind of guy—the Sinatra fan, the regular guy who makes—not old money—would be the kind of person who would support you for president?

TRUMP: I actually said a very rich Italian guy with a red Ferrari and a beautiful girlfriend. So there's a fine difference.

MATTHEWS: Right. OK. All right.

TRUMP: Unfortunately, I think the kind of person, or the people that support me are the workers, the construction workers, the taxicab drivers. Rich people don't like me. And by the way after my new tax plan they like me a lot less, I can tell you that. The rich people ...

MATTHEWS: Right. Why do they like you? Why does the working stiff like you?

TRUMP: I build buildings. I build houses. I think I'm the largest employer in the state of New Jersey. We're not too far away from New Jersey. I just—I build things. I'm not a paper guy. I'm not shifting paper and making money that way. I build buildings. I build great buildings. You know, I take a little heat because it's 90 stories opposite the United—but it's a great building.

MATTHEWS: Did you set out, Donald, to be this incredible sort of—and I'm not going to shine you up here, because you know, you're pretty shined up already, OK? I'm not going to tell you...


MATTHEWS: But aren't you a character out of—like a comic strip hero? Gotham. Big time developer. It's a notion of this incredible personality that strides through New York putting up these incredible gold buildings wherever he wants to, even next to the UN, as I said before. Do you know when you get up in the morning—you first wake up—hey, I'm a comic book hero. Do you know that?


TRUMP: Is that a compliment or not?

MATTHEWS: It's a compliment. I'm not saying you're the Joker. I'm saying you're the good guy. You're like this Gotham, you know. Bruce Wayne.

TRUMP: I just really set out to do a terrific job. I build the most beautiful buildings in the world. I get the highest prices for my buildings. I'm in other businesses, but I love the real estate business. I truly do. I love it because it's creative. There's something you can see. There's something tangible.

MATTHEWS: Why is Regis Philbin doing so well with "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" What is that about? I've watched it. It's not great, exactly drama. He's—but he's always been a good guy, but what's going on with the ratings? People want to watch people win $30,000 -- they never win $1 million, by the way. They win about $30,000 and then they go out. But what's it about?

TRUMP: It's amazing how those questions just get really harder. But I think it's really—I was discussing that this morning—I think it's really a great tribute to Regis.

TRUMP: Regis has got something. Johnny Carson...


TRUMP: ... we all remember Johnny. He'd come in with a little golf swing, and he's the nicest guy in the world. Well, maybe he wasn't so nice in real life, but on the show he was. Regis has got some very unique quality, and I really think it's a great tribute to him.

MATTHEWS: We'll come back with Donald Trump. We're finishing up here in Pennsylvania.



MATTHEWS: We're back with the University of Pennsylvania, 1,200 people here at the school. Well, it's the great Wharton School, of course, that made you what you are, today.

TRUMP: Without it I couldn't have made it.

MATTHEWS: OK. We're back. And let's take some questions. Start with the lady in the middle.

QUESTION: Hi. In the wake of all the high school shootings, many people are very unhappy with the education system United States. What would you do to make schools safer and stronger?

TRUMP: Well, I think to make the schools—and it's a great question, because ultimately it's all about education.

TRUMP: And our well being is ultimately about education. And I'd do a number of things. Number one, more money has to be spent. And you need the right teachers. Teachers are all the time leaving the school systems, and I see it New York, I see it in New Jersey. They leave the school systems to take another job for money. You have to pay the teachers more money, and you have to make the classes smaller and more personal.

Some of my greatest experiences have been with teachers. I had some great teachers at the Wharton School and at other places. And boy, when you get a great teacher, and you have the right class, and you can get the kind of attention, it makes all the difference in the world.

MATTHEWS: A good dentist or doctor can make up—well, well beyond $200,000 a year, of course. What should a teacher make in a middle school, a senior high?

TRUMP: You know, a teacher is worth...

MATTHEWS: How much a year?

TRUMP: Well, look, it depends, because there's so many different locations. You can't really generalize.

MATTHEWS: I mean, I'm asking should it be jacked up to a new level of profession where it's a professional level like doctor, lawyer, something like—or is it still—should it be like policemen or firemen? The salaries are about the same among the service providers in our society. They're not high.

TRUMP: A great teacher is every bit more valuable than a lawyer, that I can tell you. There's no...



TRUMP: There's nothing worse than a lawyer.


TRUMP: But I really believe that teachers have to be jacked up a lot, because it just makes such a difference. You have to give incentives. And again, I've seen so many teachers that are incredible teachers, and they leave for much less important jobs, and much easier jobs for much more money, and that's the problem.

MATTHEWS: Let's go to the question over here, sir.

QUESTION: Hi. I have a couple of questions about casinos. Right now in the U.S. the number of casinos are only increasing, and it's not just in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. There's new casinos in Detroit. And in most cases, the permits for those casinos are just based on the arbitrary whim of the legislator. If you were president, how would that change? And also, last night there was a report on "20/20" about sort of violations of civil liberties; people getting assaulted within your casinos. If you can't maintain civil liberties within your own casinos, how would that change as...

TRUMP: Well, casinos are tough places. There's no question about it.


TRUMP: Casinos are tough places. They're not the panacea. It's always in bad times. If you look today, there's a lot less gaming going on—gambling legalization. It all took place in the early '90s when times were tough. Now the states are all doing well, much better, et cetera, et cetera, and there's much less in terms of casinos. It is not the panacea.

I'm one of the biggest casino owners in the world. It's not the panacea, believe me. There are a lot of problems with that. But you'll find that it's really not too easy. New York has been trying for years, and they failed. Between the "New York Times" and the Catholic Church, the other churches, the rabbis, everybody's against it. The fact is that casinos are really on the rise during bad times, and I think it's frankly another reason why we should keep times good.

MATTHEWS: You know, you said in one of your books you're not a gambler. How can you say that when every night a guy could walk in or a woman could walk in to Atlantic City to Caesar's, or I mean to—any one—the Taj Mahal, and clean out the place? How do you know that's not going to happen, or do you find a way to stop them? I mean, what happens if a guy comes in there, he's really hot...

TRUMP: It's a lot less of a gamble when you own the house.

MATTHEWS: How so? Suppose they're playing baccarat. Suppose they're playing a game where they've got a shot?

TRUMP: And I will say what you're saying isn't wrong, because some of these folks are so talented, they're so good that they do beat the house, and they beat the house consistently. It's amazing.

MATTHEWS: What do you do? How do you hold your house together?

TRUMP: What do you do? You know what you do? You write a check and you hand it to them.

MATTHEWS: You tell them to leave.

TRUMP: It's—well, you'd tell them to leave and maybe come back next week.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the old—of the older woman that goes in there with her Dixie cup with quarters in it, and the golf glove on, and she's just throwing away her quarters, because she'd never win at the slots. Eventually, your quarters are gone, I think. What do you think of that woman? And are you helping her life, or are you hurting her life?

TRUMP: Well, you know what? In many respects, if they have it under control, for the most part, 90 -- 95, 96 percent, they go their for recreation. They love it.

MATTHEWS: They know they're going to lose?

TRUMP: They've got friends. They go down with a limited amount of money. It's that four or five percent that is a problem, there's no question about it.

MATTHEWS: Let's take one more question here.

QUESTION: Hi. I'd like—I'd just like to hear your views on Governor Ventura's statement that religion is for weak minded—the weak minded?

TRUMP: Well, I'm a big fan of Jesse, and he's a friend of mine. He's a great guy. I don't know if he really said what "Playboy" said. We all get in trouble doing certain interviews, and he got in a little trouble doing that one— in particular "Playboy" interviews. I know him very well. He's one of the most moral guys you'll ever meet. He's a popular guy. He's done an incredible job in Minnesota. He had a little blip down with the poll in that, but it's gone back up. I think Jesse Ventura is terrific. I'm a believer in religion. I'm a believer in God. I don't think he said what they made him out to say.

MATTHEWS: OK. We'll be back for one final segment for Donald Trump here at Penn.






MATTHEWS: Well, we're back with Donald Trump. And we want to get some—you know, Regis Philbin likes to say: Is that your final answer? I've got to ask a couple, because we made some news here today. I hear the wires are already buzzing with what you said earlier in the program. One of the questions I asked you is if you're going to run for president, just one of several, and you said...

TRUMP: Well, I said perhaps.

MATTHEWS: You threw the "perhaps" in. Why the "perhaps"?

TRUMP: But the audience was clapping and nobody heard, so he just told me what Chris just said.

MATTHEWS: No, what is it—what is it—what is your thinking, what's the—what's going to be the cutting question? Is it your fear of losing big and getting humiliated? Is it the fear that you can't crack through the Perotistas and their control of the Reform Party? What is it about it that stops you from going for this baby?

TRUMP: It's not so much the Reform Party, it's really the fact that I'd want to make that if I ran and spent a lot of money I could actually win, I could beat that Democrat-Republican (inaudible) apparatus...

MATTHEWS: How could you possibly know that between now and February?

TRUMP: I don't think you can know it, but you can get a feeling. And right now, I'm doing polls, analysis, lots of different things. And, you know, we're getting amazing poll results.


TRUMP: We're doing inner (ph) polls that are amazing. A lot of people are looking for something different.

MATTHEWS: But you're willing to spend a hundred—hundred big ones?

TRUMP: If I thought I could win—number one, you get the nomination. Number two, if I think I can win—and I only want the nomination, if I think I could win...


TRUMP: ... I would spend $100 million.

MATTHEWS: Hundred million dollars...

TRUMP: Approximately that. I think you have to.

MATTHEWS: If you get past—all you've got to do is get past that "perhaps."

TRUMP: Well, no, I have to get past the "perhaps."


TRUMP: And the question is whether or not I'm going to run...

MATTHEWS: OK. Donald Trump, thanks for joining us on HARDBALL.

TRUMP: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: We'll be back tomorrow night with more HARDBALL on CNBC and MSNBC.



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