At an event aimed at bridging the partisan divide, skeptical questioners pressed Donald Trump over his polarizing tone and positions.
The Republican presidential candidate’s appearance at the event – the “Problem Solver Convention” hosted by the bipartisan group No Labels – was a diversion from the usual rah-rah rallies filled with die-hard fans the candidate is usually seen at. Trump spoke dismissively to a handful of young critics, correcting or questioning their facts and cutting off questions.
When attendee Micaela Connery asked the Republican presidential candidate whether his divisive tone hurt efforts for the kind of bipartisan cooperation and progress the host group promotes, Trump said he “went to Ivy League schools, I know what’s divisive I know what’s not,” adding that he’d be less divisive later in the campaign.
Another young woman pressed Trump on women’s issues, suggesting that he wasn’t a “friend of women” and asking him to “prove me wrong.”
“If you become president, will a woman make the same as a man and do I get to choose what I do with my body?” she said, her hands defiantly thrown in the air.
“You’re going to make the same if you do as good a job,” Trump said. “I happen to be pro-life, OK? I’m pro-life.”
He moved on to another question.
When a young man pushed back against Trump’s frequent assertion that the U.S. defends the South Korean border for free, Trump interjected, asking if the man – who appeared to be of Asian heritage – was from South Korea.
“I’m not, I was born in Texas, raised in Colorado,” the man said. “No matter where I’m from, I like to get my facts straight and that’s not true – South Korea paid $861 million,” he began before being cut off again.
“Which is peanuts compared to what it’s costing us,” Trump fired back, before stressing his view at length that the U.S. is being ripped off by other nations at length.
Trump used his usual stump speech at the event, touting his speedy and under-budget overhaul of a botched renovation of the Wollman ice skating rink in New York City’s Central Park as proof of his ability to get things done.
In an interview by phone, Connery told MSNBC she thought Trump’s answer was “dismissive.”
“I’m pretty disappointed, because I think the tone of today, with Martin O’Malley and Lindsey Graham … was actually really thoughtful and collaborative,” she said. “It’s funny, all the examples he chose to use – he spoke about Wollman Rink in New York City – all those were examples were of when he was the ultimate and only decision maker. I really question his ability to make compromise …if he’s not the only one in power.”
Democratic presidential candidates O’Malley and Graham spoke earlier in the day at the New Hampshire event, speaking about bipartisanship and how the next president should combat the gridlock that’s gripped in recent years.
“The bottom line is here’s what the next president needs to do, whoever he or she may be. They need to get us in a room in Washington, come to the White House, have a drink, maybe more than one. Get everybody liquored up and solve problems,” Graham said.
O’Malley pitched himself as a younger, different kind of reformer. “I don’t ask if an idea is from the left or from the right or whether it’s Democratic or Republican. I ask whether it works and if it works, we do it,” he said. The former Maryland governor who was once thought to be the alternative to the expected nominee Hillary Clinton is trailing far behind both Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, also spoke about tomorrow’s Democratic debate.
“I’m looking forward to the Democratic Party finally joining this game and having a debate about how we solve our nation’s problems,” he said.