Former President Donald Trump has called his 2024 opponent Ron DeSantis a “wheelchair over the cliff kind of guy” for supporting then-Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2012 plans to partially privatize Medicare but a review of Trump’s comments by CNN’s KFile show that he supported the same plan at the same time.
Trump’s comment gives a nod to the infamous ad against Ryan from a progressive group where a Paul Ryan look-alike actor literally threw a grandma in a wheelchair over a cliff while a narrator in the ad attacked his record on entitlements.
DeSantis’ past congressional votes and support for the privatization of Medicare and Social Security are one of Trump’s most common attacks on the Florida governor, who has since distanced himself from his past support for privatization.
However, the former president enthusiastically supported the same plan, which would have partially privatized the program and critics argued turned it into a voucher system.
At the time, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had selected Ryan as his running mate, putting Ryan’s controversial plans for entitlements front and center in the campaign. Trump argued the plan would actually strengthen the program in the end.
“In fact, it’s probably going to be better. And you’re gonna have a stronger system,” Trump said in August 2012 during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
In a review of dozens of appearances from Trump on Fox News and CNBC after the pick of Ryan in 2012 – Trump did not criticize Ryan’s plan and only spoke positively about the congressman.
Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesperson emphasized in an email to CNN that Trump wasn’t a candidate at that time.
“President Trump wasn’t a candidate or an elected official then,” he told CNN. “When President Trump was elected and went to Washington, DC, he saw just how weak and incompetent Paul Ryan was, and prevented his disastrous ideas like cutting social security and Medicare from coming to fruition.”
Democrats argued in 2012 that Ryan’s budget plans would turn Medicare into a “voucher” system, whereas Republicans called it “premium support.” Under the proposals, the government would subsidize seniors by partially paying for private plans or a traditional Medicare plan.
CNN’s KFile previously reported that more than 20 years ago Trump backed raising the retirement age to 70 and privatizing Social Security – two positions he has since come out against.
Speaking on CNBC, where he made weekly appearances at the time, Trump said Republicans would need to market the details of the plan to win over voters.
“You’re going to have to really market what that plan is,” Trump added. “And that plan is a positive thing for the country. But it’s a hard one to market. You’ret going to have to say that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, all of this is going to be much stronger at the end. It doesn’t affect people over 55. And even if you’re 23 years old, you have the right to stay on Medicare, right?”
“He wants to save Medicare,” Trump added a week later on Fox and Friends.
And despite his recent very similar attacks on DeSantis, Trump argued in 2012 on CNBC that Democrats were engaging in demagoguery.
“These things are gonna have to come out. And you know, unfortunately, you talk about demagogue, they’re demagoguing to a point where it’s almost like Medicare – everything’s gonna be taken away from you,” said Trump. “You’re gonna be destroyed, you’re gonna live in the streets. That’s hard to counter, but the Republicans are gonna have to counter it.”
“I would have maybe done some of the things they did, but I would’ve done it after the election,” Trump said. “Not before the election. I thought the timing was inappropriate.”