OTR Interviews

Trump: Decisiveness is now the key in 2012 race, Santorum missed opportunity in debate

Trump sounds off the latest GOP presidential debate, the upcoming primaries in Michigan and Arizona and more

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 22, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: How did the candidates do? Governor Romney endorser Donald Trump joins us by phone. Good evening, Donald.

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (Via Telephone): Good evening.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I know you like Governor Romney, since you've endorsed him. So let me go to the other three first. Let me go first to Senator Rick Santorum. Did he say anything tonight that changed your view about him, whether or not he would be capable or a good president of the United States?

TRUMP: Well, I think he missed a great opportunity. He was sort of ready to go and he never got it off. And I have to say I really believe -- not because I endorsed him, but I really believe that Mitt Romney had a very, very good night. He was decisive. He was quick. He was sharp. He knew what he was talking about. And I really think he had a great night.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think we are at that point, though, in the debates that everyone has chosen his horse, basically, that there's almost nothing that any of the candidates can do to change anything, other than, of course, if there's a huge gaffe, that that might sink someone's ship?

TRUMP: Well, only the big gaffe. And of course, the big gaffe, as you've seen throughout the various debates, can be possible, but only the big gaffe. I mean, we've heard it all. They -- obviously, what they've said, they've said, and they're going to say it a hundred times again. And you wonder how many more times can we listen to this.

But nobody did poorly tonight, but I thought Mitt Romney did great. I thought Newt was very good. And you know, frankly, I really think that Rick missed a great opportunity. People were waiting to see something, and I don't believe they saw it.

VAN SUSTEREN: What were the -- what do you think people are waiting for? What is it that you didn't see?

TRUMP: Well, you didn't see the decisiveness. You didn't see the leadership. You didn't see somebody really getting to Romney, and you know, hurting Romney and hurting what Romney was saying. So I think that, you know, it was a great opportunity that he had. And he certainly didn't do poorly, but he didn't knock it out of the park, and I think he had to. I really think that Mitt actually did, in fact, knock it out of the park.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of being decisive, I mean, he was decisive about his view, whether you agree with it or not, on issues like fractured family, Iran, Syria. I mean, he was quite decisive. Is it that you think that he just didn't land a blow on Governor Romney? Is that it?

TRUMP: Not a blow. I mean, there wasn't a blow. It looked like there were some moments where he was about to, and it just never happened. So I would say he certainly did not land a blow.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you said that Speaker Gingrich did well. What was it about him that you thought did particularly well? And actually, did your opinion change of him at all in terms of his ability to be a qualified president of United States?

TRUMP: Well, I like him, to start off with. I've always liked him. He's a really good guy and a smart guy and he's a big thinker. And I thought he came across very well tonight.

VAN SUSTEREN: But why?

TRUMP: Well, I thought his thoughts were big. I think he thinks big. I also think he's a natural debater, always has been. He's been really good. I mean, he had the two debates which, frankly, were not like him, which were the ones that were very decisively won by Mitt Romney.

But generally speaking, I think he's a very, very good debater. But I think his thoughts were large and they were good. and I really -- for instance, his thoughts on immigration I think were interesting, good and well delivered.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think most people watch these debates looking to see who, quote, "won," in terms of almost like a sporting event, or do you think people are looking for particular ideas or positions at this point?

TRUMP: Well, I think a lot of people are watching to see if there's a train wreck, if you want to know the truth, like an auto race. They say that's not why they go, but that probably is down deep why they go. And there was no train wreck tonight. There wasn't a problem. But I think some did better than others, but I think Mitt Romney really did the best.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you agree with me on this, that the three -- like, Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are more alike to each other and that Representative Ron Paul is different from them?

TRUMP: Well, Ron Paul's view on Iran having a nuclear weapon I think you -- he lost me completely there, and I think he lost a lot of other people. In fact, you even hear the boos from the audience as he's saying it. Nobody can live with that. And it's just too much. It's too dangerous.

And you know, if we allow that to happen, it's going to be a very rough time when we have to negotiate with them in four years from now, believe me. So something has to be done. And his views on Iran, really, I think a lot of people get lost when he starts talking about Iran. I think it really, really hurts him and his credibility.

VAN SUSTEREN: No one wants to talk about war. We're a little bit war-wearing...

TRUMP: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... having spent years in Afghanistan...

TRUMP: I agree.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and Iraq. However, I -- you know, it's, like, no - - the three -- - the three men on the stage, with the exception of Congressman Ron Paul, did not think talking was the solution and they did not think that sanctions were working.

So do you think that those three will be taking a military action if they are president of United States against Iran?

TRUMP: Well, certainly, it would sound that way. And I'm not sure that that has to be done immediately because sanctions do have at least an impact, maybe not as major an impact as you'd like.

And you know, it's sort of interesting. If we had the right negotiator right now in office, which we don't, you don't have to go to war. We have all the cards. We have every single card there is, and the right person would get them to the table and get every single thing you'd want without the war.

And look, there's nobody more conservative and there's nobody more, let's say, militaristic than Donald Trump. I can tell you that right now. But you know, you can use that military -- they are in big trouble. You know, Saddam Hussein totally outplayed his hand. He overplayed his hand. Gadhafi overplayed his hand.

They see that in Iran, and you know what? It's going to happen to them unless they come to the table. And if you had the right leader, they would -- you would have them at the table right now without having to waste lives and billions and billions of dollars.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so assume that we did have them at the table. What in the world do you think it is that we could offer them to persuade them, to convince them, to scare them or whatever it is, for Iran to step down on a nuclear weapon development?

TRUMP: Survival. It's survival. That's what we offer them. It's pure and simple. A horrible thing to say, it's survival. They won't survive.

I mean, they are in deep trouble if they carry it -- and you know, I've said before I think Obama will go to war with Iran because I think he views it as good politically. And that's pretty sad and it's a pretty sad thing to have to say, but I think he will absolutely go to war with Iran. I think he views that as a positive from a political standpoint. And I think he's just waiting for the right moment.

And I think Iran better be damn careful because they're overplaying their hand, just like Gadhafi and just like Saddam Hussein.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Ronald Reagan won the cold war by, you know, basically scaring -- you know, scaring them and...

TRUMP: By toughness, right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why don't we -- why don't we -- why don't we win that?

TRUMP: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, and...

TRUMP: By the way, Greta, he won it by toughness, by strong military toughness without having to really use the military. And I'm afraid, you know, with the kind of leadership we have, we'll probably have to use the military. And we could make a much better situation and a better deal without having to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, when you talk about doing something military, this takes a little bit aside from the debate tonight, is that I had Ambassador Bolton on, and said that, you know, if there is military action -- if Israel takes military action against Iran, that they can essentially expect that they will try to incinerate Tel Aviv and that they can reach Tel Aviv. I mean, it is much more than just, Let's go to war. I mean, there are huge, significant strategic decisions to be made.

TRUMP: Well, that's why I really think that you can do it through toughness and through strength. We have all the strength. We have all the cards.

And I guarantee you they're sitting back in Iran -- whether they're crazy or sort of crazy or not crazy at all, they're sitting back there saying, Wow, this is going to be bad. And just tell them, Take a look at what happened to Saddam Hussein with his great rhetoric and Gadhafi with his rhetoric. They're -- you know, you fished them out of pipes. You fished them out of the sewer.

And you know, it's going to happen again in Iran. And unfortunately, it's going to happen probably that way. And there's no reason for it. They -- if we had the right leadership, if we had the right negotiators, believe me, we could win every single thing and much more without having to do it, and without having to waste lives.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, what's interesting is that, you know, the U.N. inspectors -- they have left Iran. They said that that was a failure in an effort to try to work out something ... nuclear weapons inspect their -- their sites. That's the first thing.

But secondly, in terms of war, President Obama has been quite aggressive with drones, going after Usama bin Laden. So I mean, I'm not so sure, you know -- you know, what you're expecting President Obama that would do differently from the four men on the stage. I guess three because president -- Congressman Ron Paul has...

TRUMP: Well, he wants to totally walk...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Right. But what -- I mean, how -- how different is it, what every single one of those men would be doing?

TRUMP: Well, no, what I'm saying is that I think that, you know, if we're listening and hearing correctly, they would not give long periods of time before they went in there. And I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm just saying that before that happened, when Iran knows that's going to happen, it is over.

You look at their obsolete ships. You know, they're talking about all the nonsense. And then you look at their ships, and I, knowing very little about it, can tell you those are old obsolete ships that they have. Everything they have is third rate compared to what we have, including numbers.

And they don't have a chance. And somebody...

VAN SUSTEREN: Speak ...

TRUMP: Somebody has to say, Folks, you're overplaying your hand. We're going to give you a little bit of time, but you're not going to have any nuclear weapons, et cetera, et cetera.

And of course, no matter how strong we are, when you go to war, there is risk. You talk about Israel, you talk about could they get lucky or could they hit -- I mean, bad things can happen with war, not always positive, some very negative things.

So I'd love to see through total strength and total toughness a negotiation where they don't produce the weapon, and I think you can do that if you have the right leadership, if you had the right negotiators, which we do not have right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we're less than a minute left. What is your explanation for why Governor Romney has -- is not soaring way ahead of the polls in Michigan? It's his home state, and he's now -- at least the polls show that he's a point or two or maybe even more behind Senator Santorum. Why isn't he moving the dial?

TRUMP: Well, actually, the polls are now showing that he's leading in Michigan, and you know, a few days ago, he was 10 and 15 points behind and now he's leading. And I will tell you, I've done a lot of radio shows out there and a lot of shows out there. And hopefully, it's made an impact.

Mitt Romney's a good man. He's a strong guy. He knows what's happening. He'll protect us against OPEC. He'll protect us against China. And he'll do a good job with Iran, whatever that job may be.

And I think he's going to win in Michigan. And the polls are actually showing that now, all of a sudden, he's winning in Michigan. And he's also winning in Arizona. And I think it's going to be very interesting to see what happens.

VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, thank you.

TRUMP: OK. Thank you very much, Greta.