During a televised town hall in Newton, Iowa, on Thursday night, Donald Trump was asked a question about a local industry: wind energy.
Patricia Scalabrini, whose husband works for a local wind turbine manufacturer, wanted to know if Trump supports subsidies for the industry. The company that employs her husband, TPI, moved into a factory that was abandoned when Maytag moved its operations to Mexico. TPI employs about 800 people in Newton.
It is helped by subsidies, in the form of the "production tax credit," which gives energy producers tax breaks based on how many kilowatt-hours of electricity they generate using renewable methods. The PTC has been continually renewed for short periods, meaning that it often becomes a political bargaining chip. It is important to continued rapid expansion of the wind industry, and therefore to the woman's husband's job.
Trump began by saying, "Well, I'm okay with it." (He then said that he "know[s] a lot about wind," prompting some tittering in the audience.) He noted that it can be hard for wind to be competitive in energy production particularly when prices for fossil fuels are so low, so "you need subsidies." (He paused to marvel: "It's an amazing thing when you think -- you know, where they can, out of nowhere, out of the wind, they make energy.")
The moderator pressed him, you're okay with the subsidies? Trump replied, "I'm okay with subsidies, to an extent. I don't like subsidies when you have $19 trillion in debt." That said, he was clearly supportive: "If oil goes up [in price], it's great. But if oil stays low, it's a very tough business."
Fine. Trump supports subsidies for the wind industry. For anyone familiar with Trump's history, though, even that is a stunning bit of pandering.
Trump, in fact, does know a lot about wind. A few years ago, Donald Trump wanted to build a golf course in Scotland. There was just one problem: The Scottish government had licensed an off-shore wind farm near the course, which Trump worried would ruin the views.
He went to war, using all of the tools at his disposal: money, lawyers, and Twitter. He sued to block the wind farm, pushing legal challenges all the way to the Scottish Supreme Court. He attacked then-Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, saying that Salmond was "a man whose obsession with obsolete wind technology will destroy the magnificence and beauty of Scotland." He insisted that the project was doomed because given "the current political movement to end wind farm subsidies, it's impossible to envision how this ill-conceived proposal will ever get built."
But, as always, Twitter provides the clearest insight into Trump's thinking.
That's just the first part of 2012. Trump has tweeted about wind farms well over 100 times over the past three years, most recently in May, when he praised the decision to not build a wind farm near his Scottish course.
We will, however, note this tweet ...
... and this one.
What changed? Donald Trump wasn't in the room with an Iowa voter who was apparently worried about the loss of subsidies harming her husband's job.
Donald Trump, straight shooter.