UNION LEADER: Trump takes on opioid crisis, eminent domain at ‘Politics & Eggs’ in Manchester As originally appearing in Union Leader
By DAVID SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — Landing in New Hampshire on a few hours sleep after Tuesday night’s debate, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was greeted on Wednesday morning by a packed auditorium at the downtown Radisson in the largest turnout ever for a “Politics & Eggs” event.
The billionaire businessman and reality TV personality took questions from the crowd for most of his hour-long appearance, opening with reference to the state’s opioid epidemic, and connecting the issue to his promise of a massive wall along the border with Mexico.
“The biggest hand last night was when I said, ‘We’re going to build a wall,’ and the place went crazy,” Trump said of his debate performance. “The problem of heroin in New Hampshire in unbelievable, and you know where that stuff comes from.”
Later in the program, Jim Flanagan, a senior administrator at St. Anselm College, raised the issue again. Trump said New Hampshire is not unique in experiencing an opioid epidemic, but added, “I think you have it bigger and tougher than anyone else.”
If elected, Trump said he would battle the addiction crisis on two fronts. “First, we have to support locally based and locally run clinics, and we gotta close up the border. That’s where the drugs are coming in.”
He sounded a sympathetic tone toward the addicted. “In the meantime, people are getting hooked, and we’re going to take care of those people,” he said. “Many of them got hooked unknowingly.”
The Politics & Eggs series, celebrating its 20th year, is a joint project of the St. Anselm Institute of Politics and the New England Council, a regional business organization.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat the previous two-decade record for attendance when she spoke at a “Politics & Eggs” event that drew more than 400 people on Oct. 28. More than 600 were on hand for the Trump event, according to a St. Anselm spokesperson.
Common Core concern
Ann Marie Banfield, education specialist with the conservative policy group N.H. Cornerstone Action, took advantage of the opportunity to thank Trump for his opposition to the Common Core education standards, as New Hampshire prepares to release statewide test results linked to the controversial program on Thursday.
Banfield asked Trump what steps he would take to protect student privacy, which Common Core critics say is at risk through the national collection of test score data. As with several of the questions, Trump’s answer was light on details.
“You have to have privacy,” he said. “But most importantly, I’d get it out of Washington.”
Some of the loudest applause came when Trump answered a question about recent shootings of unarmed blacks by white police officers.
“I think that police are not being treated properly in this country,” he said. “No matter what business you are in, you are going to have people who do something stupid and cause a problem. That’s what you see, but you don’t see all the good acts.
“We need to cherish our police, respect our police, and let them do what they need to do. We have to love our police forces and what they stand for.”
Questioners hoping for detailed policy statements were mostly disappointed, as Trump stuck to his tried and true themes, with repeated references to the Trump Wall, how America never wins anymore, and how America can be great again.
Asked about the looming deadline for the EPA to rule on ethanol content in gasoline, Trump said, “We’re doing a report on that over the next three to four weeks. People in different parts of the country feel differently about this.”
On Social Security and Medicare, Trump said he would neither raise taxes nor cut benefits to keep the programs solvent. “My plan is to leave Social Security alone,” he said. “What we’re going to do is get rid of the fraud, abuse and waste.”
Supports eminent domain
Responding to other questions, Trump tore into the Dodd-Frank financial regulations passed in the wake of the financial crisis, saying they’ve hamstrung the banking industry; criticized the use of executive orders by President Obama (“That’s not the way the country is supposed to be run.”); and said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but would demand 25 percent of the revenue for the United States.
He took advantage of the Keystone pipeline question to address the issue of eminent domain, a hot-button topic in New Hampshire with major energy projects on the drawing board that may require forced property sales at court-ordered prices.
“I have to tell you I feel a little differently than most,” he said. “I want the (Keystone XL) pipeline and without eminent domain you don’t have a pipeline. I don’t love eminent domain, but you won’t have highways without eminent domain; you won’t have roads; you won’t have sewage systems; you won’t have anything.”
If someone asked a question on which he had obviously not been briefed, Trump had a common refrain:
“That’s going to be taken care of. You’ll be very happy.”
He was mobbed on his way off the stage, with autograph-seekers bearing his newly released book, “Crippled America,” along with a crush of media and selfie-seekers. With crowds lining his path through the hotel lobby to a waiting limousine, Trump took a half hour to get from the stage to the hotel exit.
On her way out, undecided voter Banfield said she was somewhat satisfied with Trump’s answer to her Common Core concerns, but had hoped for more substance.
“I think he speaks in general terms, and I would have liked a more detailed answer,” she said. “Was it a decent answer? Yes. But I would have liked a little more out of it.”
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