Trump Kicked Off His Presidential Aspirations at CPAC in 2011

Watching Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon at CPAC yesterday, I noticed that they referred several times to the speech Donald Trump gave to that gathering in 2011. So I decided to watch it for myself. In one sense these two White House staffers were right — way back then Trump was saying a lot of the things he says today.

It’s clear that Trump was considering a run for the presidency in 2012. It would be interesting to know why he delayed those plans until 2016. More about that later, but much like he has been saying over the course of the last year and a half, he talked a lot about “winning” and ended the speech with a promise that he’d make America great again.

A couple of other things stood out to me. Perhaps least important is the fact that in 2011 gas prices were around $4/gallon. At CPAC, Trump predicted they would go up to $7 because this country didn’t talk tough enough to OPEC. Obviously he was wrong about that.

I continue to wonder what is up with Trump and China. He was trash-talking them way back then. To me, this all sounds like a personal grudge he has with that country. And so I’m reminded that the Steele dossier said that in 2016 the Trump campaign wasn’t worried about rumors of his ties to Russia because “it deflected media and the Democrats’ attention away from Trump’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets.”

If Trump’s appearance at CPAC on February 10, 2011 was his initial trial balloon about entering the 2012 presidential race, it is important to know that a little over one month later he appeared on The View to talk about a possible entry into the race. It was on that show that he launched his foray into the whole birther movement. A little over a month later, on April 27th, President Obama released his long-form birth certificate and three days after that he roasted Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner. There have been those who speculated that perhaps it was that roasting that inspired Trump to run for president. Simply based on this timeline, I’m guessing that the opposite is true. Trump was planning to run in 2012, but decided not to challenge Obama — holding out for 2016.

There’s one other note to the timing of all this. As Trump was preparing to run for president in 2011, the Steele dossier points to that as the time that Russia began cultivating and supporting him. Perhaps Putin liked what he heard from Trump at CPAC.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.