January 05, 2018 09:48 AM
The timing was still more than 16 years off, but Donald Trump was already testing the presidential waters on a short trip to Minnesota back in January 2000.
The man who now sits in the White House, after capturing the Republican Party nomination and winning the 2016 presidential election, was in the state exploring a possible presidential run, as well as signing copies of his new book, "The America We Deserve."
Back then, though, it was not the Republican, but the Reform Party's nomination he was eyeing. And in Jesse Ventura, whose own third-party run had landed him in the governor's chair in 1998, he saw an example he might follow.
He and Ventura appeared alongside each other at a joint news conference after Trump had addressed a crowd of about 600 people at a chamber of commerce luncheon at the Northland Inn and Convention Center on Jan. 7, 2000.
Trump also attended a fundraiser for Ventura later in the day.
"Maybe, in fact, it is time for a businessman to be President," Trump told the crowd in his remarks at the luncheon. "Maybe somebody should be watching the bottom line of the real big company called the United States government the way they watch the bottom line of a business. Maybe that should be happening. Because it certainly hasn't been over the last long period of time."
Trump was already sounding certain themes that would be central to his successful presidential bid in 2016. He took aim at U.S. trade negotiations which, according to the story in the next day's Star Tribune, he said were too often handled "by a bunch of weak sisters," resulting in the U.S. being "ripped off."
And, the man who this week via Twitter warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" called North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons the biggest threat then facing America.
"They're a very militant group," said Trump, according to the Star Tribune story. "They're run by some very bad people."
But there was also a call for a one-time 14.25 percent tax on the "super-wealthy," which Trump said would eliminate the national debt and permit an across-the-board income tax cut.
Overall, the already long-time national celebrity seemed to take a more low-key approach compared to his manner on the campaign trail in 2016, and since arriving in the White House.
"I don't remember the brashness," recalled then-Brooklyn Park mayor Grace (Arbogast) Powelson, who met Trump during his visit and was in attendance for his remarks. "He seemed more like a successful man who wanted to present what his thoughts were on the issues."
Dean Barkley, one of Ventura's closest advisors and the man he would eventually appoint to the U.S. Senate in 2002, was also at the Brooklyn Park event.
While some dismissed the idea of Trump as a presidential candidate in 2000 as a publicity stunt, Barkley believes he was already serious about running for the office, wondering about the intentions of Texas businessman Ross Perot, who had mounted third-party presidential bids in both 1992 and '96.
Perot did not run in 2000, and the Reform Party nomination eventually went to former presidential advisor and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan.
Trump himself would eventually decide not to further pursue the nomination, and was critical of the party's ability to support a candidacy. Ventura too left the party not long after Trump's Minnesota visit.
"I think (Trump) looked at the tea leaves and thought now isn't the time," Barkley told KSTP's Tom Hauser recently.
That time would not come until the 2016 campaign when Trump did run, and won, as a candidate who generated (and continues to generate) intense reaction among both his supporters and critics alike.
"I was definitely surprised to see what ended up happening (in 2016)," Powelson said. "I don't really remember anything that controversial about his visit back then.
She added, "He certainly was very courteous to me. I remember meeting him at the hotel before he spoke. He had his bodyguard and his son with him, and he was going over the agenda. He seemed very friendly."
Updated: January 05, 2018 09:48 AM
Created: January 04, 2018 11:27 AM
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