AS DONALD Trump observed during a visit to The Post on Monday, we have been critical of his candidacy, so give him credit for agreeing to sit down with us and answer questions for more than an hour. Unfortunately, the visit provided no reassurance regarding Mr. Trump’s fitness for the presidency. “I’m not a radical person,” he told us as he was leaving. But his answers left little doubt how radical a risk the nation would be taking in entrusting the White House to him.
There was, first, a breezy willingness to ignore facts and evidence. Are there racial disparities in law enforcement? “I’ve read where there are and I’ve read where there aren’t,” Mr. Trump said. “I mean, I’ve read both. And, you know, I have no opinion on that.” Global warming? “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change,” he said.
In that, Mr. Trump is not different from many Republican politicians these days. But no one can match the chasm between his expansive goals and the absence of proposals to achieve them. He would remake the nation’s libel laws, but how, given Supreme Court jurisprudence on the First Amendment? “I’d have to get my lawyers in to tell you,” he said. How could he implement a ban on noncitizen Muslims entering the country? “Well look, there’s many exceptions,” he said. “There’s many — everything, you’re going to go through a process.”
His answer to racial disparity and urban poverty is to create jobs. But how? “Economic zones,” “incentives” and improving the “spirit” of inner-city residents. “You have to start by giving them hope and giving them spirit, and that has not taken place,” Mr. Trump said. How would he push back against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea? “We have to be unpredictable,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re totally predictable. And predictable is bad.”
An empty policy basket makes almost impossible the kind of substantive debate on which democracies depend. And while it is true that ambiguity sometimes can be useful in diplomacy, a lack of clarity also can be dangerous, enticing rivals to be aggressive and allies to seek new friends.
The latter risk does not seem to worry Mr. Trump: He describes the fundamental U.S. alliances that have helped keep the peace for the past half-century as essentially obsolete. “NATO is costing us a fortune,” he said. “I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved.” He asked why Japan and South Korea, which already pay a substantial share of the costs of U.S. bases, don’t pay 100 percent. We asked: Does the United States gain nothing by a forward presence to help maintain the peace? “Personally, I don’t think so,” Mr. Trump said. It might have made sense when we were “a very powerful, very wealthy country,” but “we’re a poor country now.”
Given Mr. Trump’s belief that we don’t treat him fairly, we invite readers to read the full transcript or listen to the audio recording of our conversation, both of which we’ve posted online . He answered questions about violence at his rallies, voting rights for the District of Columbia (he would favor a voting representative in the House but not statehood), promoting democracy overseas and the seemliness of trading insults and threatening critics. His defense of the latter was telling: “I mean, actually I think it is presidential because it is winning.” Which suggests one more difference between us: our definition of what is presidential.