During his 2000 consideration of a presidential run, Donald Trump once took a reportedly pretty surreal visit to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
Dana Milbank, then a reporter for the New Republic, followed Trump as he was exploring entering the 2000 presidential race on the Reform Party ticket. As part of a trip to California, Trump toured the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Holocaust remembrance museum named after the famed Nazi hunter.
As Trump visited exhibits dedicated to Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust, he "seemed detached, focusing his attention on the presentation rather than the content," Milbank wrote:
As part of his California trip, Trump toured the Simon Wiesenthal Center, where he was led from one disturbing display to another: hate speech, Bosnia, Rwanda, the civil rights struggle, the Holocaust. But Trump seemed detached, focusing his attention on the presentation rather than the content. Shown a video of a racial confrontation, he remarked: "Good actors." He spent an hour or so wandering around the exhibits, muttering "fabulous" and "unbelievable" and "brilliant execution" and "extraordinary" and "outstanding." The mood was occasionally broken by Roger Stone's telephone, which played the "Grande Valse" whenever there was a call.
After a guide asked the TV cameras to leave, Trump quickened his pace, galloping through the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust in about three minutes. Rejoined by the cameras, Trump slowed down and was handed a guest book to sign. He paused thoughtfully, as if searching for the perfect sentiment, then scribbled two words in the book: "great work!" He underlined "great" three times and dotted his exclamation point with a loop.
At the end of the stop, Trump compared the "racist" views of his Reform Party rival Pat Buchanan to Hitler. "But even here Trump sounded like a developer," Milbank commented. "He marveled that Hitler came to power 'so brilliantly.'"
Following the publication of this post, CNN pulled the clip of Trump's 2000 visit, in which Trump said what he had seen "this morning was nothing less than brilliant," which though ambiguous, could be read to be more a reference to the center itself:
Nathaniel Meyersohn is a political reporting intern and is based in New York.
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