When Donald Trump hated Ronald Reagan

In the text, which was addressed “To the American people,” Donald Trump declared, “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.” The problem was America’s leading role in defending democracy, which had been fulfilled by Republicans and Democrats all the way back to FDR. Foreshadowing his 2015 argument that would have Mexico pay for an American built border wall, Trump then said that the United States should present its allies with a bill for defense services rendered.

The ads, which cost more than $90,000, came after Trump had visited the Soviet Union and met with Mikhail Gorbachev. (A few years earlier, Trump had offered himself as a replacement for Reagan’s nuclear arms control negotiators, whom he considered too soft.) Trump followed his letter to America with a trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where voters were eyeing the candidates in the 1988 primary. There he spoke to the Rotary Club, which met Yoken’s restaurant where the sign out front featured a spouting whale and the slogan, “Thar she blows!” In his talk Trump sounded some of the same themes he offers today, except for the fact that the bad guys who were laughing at the United States were the Japanese and not the Mexicans or Chinese.

“We’re being ripped off and decimated by many foreign nations who are supposedly our allies,” said Trump. “Why can’t we have a share of their money? I don’t mean you demand it. But I tell you what, folks, we can ask in such a way that they’re going to give it to us—if the right person’s asking. … The Japanese, when they negotiate with us, they have long faces. But when the negotiations are over, it is my belief—I’ve never seen this—they laugh like hell.”