Watch: Coulter and Cooke Spar Over Trump

Columnist and author of “Adios, America,” Ann Coulter and National Review writer and author of “The Conservatarian Manifesto,” Charles C. W. Cooke, debated the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump on Thursday’s “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel.

Coulter said, “He’s [Trump] clearly right about the Mexican wall thing. And this is part of what is appealing about him. Not only is he the only one seriously talking about immigration, and the only one I think, who is believably saying he’ll build a wall, while the rest of them are coming up with nonsense excuses. Oh, there can be tunnels under walls, and I’ll secure the border, but we’ll use high technology. Okay, these are just different ways of lying to us. You’re not going to build the wall. But look, we send Mexico 14 billion in foreign aid every year. Of course they’ll pay for the wall.”

Cooke stated, “I’m just astonished by the collective insanity that seems to have marked the conservative movement over the last month.” After host Sean Hannity jumped in to ask, “What’s astonishing about it? Haven’t they been saying secure the border for years and years and years?” Cooke answered, “I don’t mean secure the border. I mean that Donald Trump, who has put forth no plan whatsoever, except to pretend that Mexico’s going to pay for a wall is being taken seriously.” Hannity objected that Cooke’s characterization wasn’t true, “He said he would build a wall. He said that he would build it expeditiously. He said that he would help get Mexico to pay for it. He would either force them through not giving them aid, or through tariffs. That’s a specific plan. He talked about healthcare savings accounts for Obamacare as an alternative.”

Cooke then argued, “I think the objections are, that you have a man in a Republican debate who praised single-payer. You have a man still talking about planning — funding Planned Parenthood. You have a man who has flip-flopped perhaps, on the wealth tax, on gun control. A man who in any other circumstances, would have been laughed out of the primary. If you look back to when Mitt Romney was running, flip-flops that were not remotely as substantive as Donald Trump’s –.”

Coulter cut in to say, “maybe I’m the wrong person to be appalled by this, because there was one thing Mitt Romney flip-flopped on, one thing, abortion, and I don’t think that’s a big deal. We’re supposed to be trying to win converts over. It isn’t really true the things you listed off just now there, Charles. I mean, it’s an exaggeration of his earlier positions. He seems very clear to me. And consistency, I mean, I don’t think voters go out and think, ‘Well, he’s been consistent for 20 years on this.’ He has certainly been consistent on caring about illegal immigration. He has, long before now. It isn’t a flip-flop on Planned Parenthood. He’s not a politician. He’s not familiar with all of the deceptive ways Planned Parenthood will sneak through funding for abortion. And so, when he said, [paraphrasing], ‘Look, I’ll the other healthcare things Planned Parenthood does, but I wouldn’t fund the abortion part.’ People pointed out, well, they just segregate the funds, you really are funding the abortion. He said, [paraphrasing], ‘Okay, fine. If they do any abortions, no funding for Planned Parenthood.’ That isn’t inconsistent. That is a slight change to a position because he hasn’t spent his life being a policy wonk. But he’s coming up with more specific answers on things than, I think, the other guys are.”

Cooke countered, “firstly, it’s not a slight change when you go from being pro-choice to pro-life when you run in the primary. But he actually changed his mind this week. I mean, he said on this show…I think yesterday, maybe the day before, that he was fine with a progressive income tax, when you reach a certain point, you should pay more, he said. The day before, he’d suggested he was in favor of a flat tax, literally 24 hours before. He’s making it up as he goes along, and we’re all falling for it for some reason.”

Coulter disagreed that Trump is making things up as he goes along, stating, “the wealth tax, as he explained to Hannity, he said, [paraphrasing], ‘Look, I’m a rich man. If you look at what the national debt was back then, why shouldn’t we? I can pay it off personally. Now, the national debt is so huge, I couldn’t pay it off personally.’ This isn’t some huge shocking flip-flop. I think it’s a far more appalling flip-flop, except it isn’t a flip-flop, it’s a lie, that every — almost every one of the other Republicans running keeps insisting that yes, they want to do something about illegal immigration, and oh, boy, we are going on secure the border first. And Rubio promised for three years that he would not vote for an amnesty bill until that border was secure. And ah-ha, we read the bill, first step, everyone’s amnestied. Second step, they all get to bring their relatives. When do we get to the wall? Well, never, because you can build a tunnel under the wall. These are flip-flops that aren’t flip-flops, they are direct lies to the American people. What you’re illustrating, or pointing out, are just someone whose life has not been consumed with politics, but no one cares about that. He does have serious ideas.”

Cooke cut in to respond, “That’s certainly one way of putting it, Ann. That is certainly one way of putting it. What I’m talking about is a man who decided a few moments ago that he wanted to be a Republican, picked up a whole new –.” Coulter cut in to object, “That isn’t true, he’s been a Republican since 1988. He was at the Republican National Convention talking like a conservative. He likes guns.” Cooke responded by arguing, “Well, he hasn’t done very well as a Republican, given he had no Republican positions. He cozied up to Hillary Clinton, and he gave the Democrats a bunch of money. This is performance art.”

Coulter argued back, “Of course he does. He’s a businessman. That’s the silliest complaint, of course he does. He’s at least been a Republican since 1988. He’s pro-gun. As far as I know, he’s never been anti-gun. What I’m talking about — you’re catching him on these teeny-tiny little developments of a position.”

Cooke cut in with, “Is pro-assault weapons ban now pro-gun? I think we’re moving our positions around what Donald Trump says. He was in favor, on the record, of an assault weapons ban. Is that now pro-gun?”

Coulter answered, “No. But a lot of people — so was — so were Republicans in Congress. So does John Kasich. Why aren’t you all denouncing John Kasich? John Kasich actually voted for it. And he knew something.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett