Former Trump Spokesman Steve Cortes Shares Thoughts on J.D. Vance, Ukraine, and Roe v. Wade
Doug talks to Steve Cortes, former Trump spokesman and national commentator, about J.D. Vance, Ukraine, and Roe v. Wade.
Doug Truax: Welcome to the First Right podcast, weekly concerted new show brought to you by Restoration PAC. I'm Doug Truax, founder, and president of Restoration PAC. Today, we were blessed to have a first-time guest who most of you already know quite well. He, Steve CorteS, who was an effective spokesman for Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and former Newsmax TV show host more recently, he has been crisscrossing America supporting America First candidates. Well, welcome to the show, Steve. Thanks so much for coming on,
Steve Cortes: Doug. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Doug Truax: So a good deal. So really happy to have you here. Our audience knows you obviously, but we want to hear you didn't you weren't always this big national political figure. In fact, earlier in your career, you had kind of a, you had a different looking career in the beginning. So we want to hear all about that and bring us up to speed to where you are now.
Steve Cortes: No, that's very true, Doug. So listen, I had a, basically a midlife, a middle-aged career change, and one that I frankly didn't plan on. I wish I could tell you that, you know, I wish I had some brilliant strategy and I knew this was how things are going to unfold, but that wasn't the case, you know, through, through some skill and some luck. This is just where I ended up, but I was a finance guy. And so from out of college for 25 years, I traded bonds and stock indices for major institutional houses, mainly hedge funds, mostly over in Europe and had an interesting and good career. But that then led to television, which is what led to politics. So I started on CNBC back in 2007 first, I was just a very regular guest and they thought I had some skill as a guest.
So they asked me to come on as one of the broadcasters, as part of the team. And I did the fast money franchise for years. I did that for eight years. A lot of folks out there might know, it's, it's shown at noon Eastern time. And then again at 5:00 PM Eastern time, and it's essentially almost in a sense of sports show, but instead of talking about teams and sports stats, you talk about stocks and tickers and, and earnings releases and that sort of thing. So that's where I learned the craft of television, but we didn't get into policy a whole lot, but then fast forward to 2015, by that time, it was almost inescapable to address policy and politics when discussing the economy and financial markets. So I made the move over to Fox news. A lot of CNBC folks had recently at that time gone to Fox business people like Maria, Bartiromo, who I worked a lot with and, and collaborate with a whole bunch.
So they recruited me over to Fox. And part of the reason was I wanted the ability to talk politics and particularly from a conservative angle, which Fox promised to afford me. Well, I wasn't at Fox very long because this, this orange guy came down the escalator on fifth avenue and, and really won me over. I was a skeptic at first, quite honestly, but he won me over. I had been kind of a, a wall street Republican. I would describe myself, Doug, I, for example, I believe in, you know, quote free trade. And Donald Trump really changed my mind. I, I came to realize that he was right and that we did not have free trade. It was always managed and it was managed generally against the interest of American workers. And so he won me over and turned me from an established Republican of wall street, Republican into very much of a populist nationalist where I am now. So I ended up leaving Fox news, working for his campaign. He said, I need you on television. Didn't know him at all, but recruited me to be part of his 2016 campaign lo and behold, he pulled off the greatest upset in all of American history. And I've basically been doing all media and politics ever since. So that's my story of how I ended up being one of the spokesman. And I hope one of the effective spokesman for the America first movement.
Doug Truax: Oh, you were for sure that, and I think it's a really interesting how people with your background who had that business background, you know, you mentioned you were always Republican and you were conservative on some level, but that business background helps you see the world for what it really is. And then it gets into the policy. And I think that, that, you know, if you care to comment on this, like how that shaped you as you get, you go through all that, and then you see what Trump is talking about and like what you said about trade and everything else. You're like, Hey, wait a minute. There is a right way to do this in a wrong way to do it.
Steve Cortes: Yes. No. And I'll tell you, so w what I hope I bring to the political arena and tend to political media, particularly what I hope I bring is some of that analytical background of wall street. So I have a lot of problems with wall street, by the way. And I think that wall street has used its political power largely to abuse Americans, but wall street does some things very well, obviously. And a lot of that is number crunching and data analysis. This is really sort of the lifeblood of wall street. So if I were to make a proposal to these major hedge funds who were some of the biggest players in the world of capital markets, believe me, I couldn't go with just sloganeering or just, ah, it's my opinion. You know, that interest rates are going to hit here. No, I had to give a reasonable data driven evidence driven analysis.
It doesn't mean I'm always right, but it means there has to be evidence that it has to be a statistical foundation to it. Once I got into the political arena, Doug, I found out that sloganeering generally, unfortunately, is the default. That is the norm rather than approaching it from a data perspective. So I try to bring that and look, you can't dive too deeply in a data. If you get too far into the weeds, you lose regular people. But my point is what I try as much as I can to do in the political arena is to bring actual facks and numbers to the arguments. I'll give you a real world example of this one. That's very pertinent just this week. So I I've been very deeply involved in the JD vance campaign in Ohio. And one of the things that I, and I did a lot of in-person campaigning with JD Vance all over how as well as a lot of media appearances.
And one of the things I've tried to, to convince Ohio voters up to earn their support for JD Vance is that Ohio, all of America has suffered the ravages of globalism, but Ohio suffered them particularly and disproportionately. And I use data to back that up, for example, and I think this is a really important, and frankly, you know, depressing statistic, but something that needs to be addressed the state of Ohio from 2001 until 2015 before Donald Trump was elected on the, on the recent. And, and then going back in time, 2001 was when China was allowed into the world trade organization on incredibly generous terms to the Chinese communist party. The state of Ohio lost 120,000 manufacturing jobs to China alone. And that's according, not, not to Steve or some right-wing group, that's according to the economic policy Institute. And the epi is a left leaning think tank, but that's, you know, think of what that does, not just economically, but also culturally in society, when you lose 120,000 manufacturing jobs that are high pain family sustaining jobs, what it does to the livelihoods of communities, what it does to the dignity of those individuals who lost those jobs, all because of predatory trade practices that we willingly allowed the Chinese to inflict upon the great people of Ohio.
It's not that those Ohio workers couldn't compete instead. It was a rig game. So I like to use data to explain to people, this is what happened to you. And by the way, here's the solution. It's not enough to just curse the darkness. We have to also light that candle of here's the solution. Here's the way out. Here's what Donald Trump was doing. Here's what we can do again, if we elect the right Congress in 2022 and the right president in 2024.
Doug Truax: Yeah. Amen to that. And I think that that's exactly the basics. The basic foundation of all politics is how's this affecting your day-to-day life. And you know, all these people, whether you got laid off or somebody, you know, got laid off, or you just look around your community and all these factories are closing and everything else, all these people are saying, this isn't working for us anymore. And then the professional politicians are into sloganeering. And that wears thin obviously over time. And you end up with what we had with president Trump. And then obviously like I was going to bring up the JD Vance thing. I'm glad you already did that. So, you know, I think that w what would you think about this concept? I feel like I'm starting to see in Republican primaries, the statewide folks, like the governors or whatever, the state legislators, obviously it's a, they get a pass If they're professional politicians, if they're insiders, if they're establishment, but it starting to feel like if you're going to run for federal office and go to DC, you might need to be an outsider because a lot of people are starting to say, well, if you get to DC and you're kind of a little corrupted already by the establishment, you're going to get even more when you get out there. I mean, what do you, what do you think about that concept? Right?
Steve Cortes: No, listen, you're right, Doug. And I've seen this now that I spent a lot of time in Washington, DC. Thankfully, I've never had to live there and I hope I never do, because it truly is. I don't like to call it the Washington swamp, by the way, because I say swamps have nice things and I'm swapping at beautiful flowers. For example, there's nothing beautiful about the political scene in Washington, DC. So I call it the Washington sewer. So I hoped it never lived there, but I've spent a disordering amount of time there because of my career now. And I can tell you that it's, it's very enticing. It is to, to people who go there sometimes with the best of intentions to quickly sell out to the Washington establishment, to the permanent political class, to the administrative state that exists in this country, which is frankly, incredibly successful for its own. Self-aggrandizement again, let me give you some data on this to prove my point, the five richest counties in America by income are all in the Washington DC Metro area. I mean, think about that.
Doug Truax: And that's right
Steve Cortes: Wealthier than Silicon valley wealthier the New York suburbs outside of wall street, wealthier than the north shore, Chicago. They, all those places I mentioned are doing fine, but they're not doing nearly as well as the beltway area. Why it's not because Washington DC is curing cancer or is coming up with the next most amazing technology. It's because our United States Capitol acts too much like the Capitol in the hunger games, quite frankly. And it siphons off of the districts, our prosperity and our rights. So to your point about outsiders, and I think there's a lot of them running this year. Thankfully I mentioned JD Vance, but there's a lot of others. I love Joe Kent in Washington state. I love Jake bequette, down in Arkansas. I love Kerri lake, not running for federal office, but running for governor of Arizona. There are all of those people. I just named those for our newcomers to politics.
All of them brings significant experiences in the military and business and athletics. In the case of kerri lake and television, they bring those experiences and abilities to politics, but they're coming at it with the agenda and vision of an outsider, but you're right. These people also have to have the character then to stick to it because I have seen politicians go to Washington DC with pretty good intentions, you know, and then succumb to the allure of the establishment. And it's listen, let me be concrete on this one. One reason that it's, it's easy to give into the establishment is that leadership. And this is true of both the Democrats and the Republicans leadership largely controls the funding. So if you are a good foot soldier for leadership, in terms of funding for your campaigns, I mean, you will get the funding you need or your campaign. And it's hard to go out and work and earn the support that you need to get reelected. So we need to send people who have an outsider's perspective in my mind, we need a lot more versions of Donald Trump. And I don't mean stylistically. They have to be like Donald Trump. I mean, people who've been successful outside of politics. And then people who also have the character and principle to stick to it and to never effectively go native in Washington, DC.
Doug Truax: Yeah. That's very well put. And I think that that's where everybody's heart is whether they can, at least in the base wherever they can't fully express it sometimes. But that's what they're looking for. You know? And I, I, I love a lot of Trump's policies and everything, but it's like, what was that phenomenon? And it was, it was this concept right here. And it goes to, we're losing our country because of, you know, the sewer. I liked that. I maybe I need to start using that term too so well.
Steve Cortes: And Doug, you know, if I could, when you say we're losing our country, I think we are absolutely. But here's the paradox there is that we've been winning elections. Okay. We are the majority. And I know sometimes it doesn't feel like that because we're not the majority of the power structures of America, but at the voter level, we are the majority, the majority of America believes in the America first agenda believes in cultural conservatism combined with a populous economic nationalism. We're the majority. So we've been winning elections with regularity yet losing our country, right. We have to change that formula. We need to win elections. And when the country back, and that takes a very different kind of approach, a very different attitude, a different policy agenda. I think we're getting that. I refer to it as the new, right, but by whatever phrase you want to use, or however you want to describe it, there is an awakening. Thankfully, now that awakening is, is uprising of frankly how dire things are in the country as it relates to inflation right now, that is forcing a lot of people who weren't terribly political to become political and to become animated in politics and to become activists. But again, let's stop winning elections and losing the country. Let's win elections. And when the country back.
Doug Truax: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Another thing that I'm hearing relative to this winning elections piece is a lot of the folks I talked to, and this is how I feel about it too, is, you know, we can talk to we're blue in the face about immigration and economics and everything. But if we don't have confidence in the actual election itself, then we got there, we got bigger problems and we'll, we'll have you on some other time to talk all about election integrity. We do a lot of work on that around here, but that's, you know, we got to get to that place too. Cause that's, that's, you're roading over time. You know, it's, it's a, it's a crazy time we live in back to the JD Vance thing. And also this, this, this Washington establishment thing. So you wrote a piece on his stance, on the war in Ukraine and, you know, we're all, all of us what I would call true conservatives are thinking the same thing. Okay. Why, why would we want to get involved in that? And we all think we know the answer, but I'll let you talk about what you said in that piece and, and, and get everybody up to speed on that.
Steve Cortes: Sure. Well, you know, unfortunately when I mentioned Washington DC and the way the capital operates in our country, nothing, nothing empowers Washington DC and the permanent political class like war. And so the Washington war machine is really revving up again. And I really believe that they see in Ukraine a chance for another Iraq, a new Afghanistan. And I know that sounds crazy because our experiences were so terrible in both of those wars. But believe me, I would, I would try to persuade regular folks out there who aren't maybe involved full-time in politics, believe me, the Washington war machine. And what do I mean by that? I mean, K street lobbyists. I mean the giant defense contractors, I mean the think tank, suppose it foreign policy experts that supposedly experts at foggy bottom at the state department, all of them are pining for war. They are desperately trying to escalate us involvement in what I believe is clearly a regional struggle in Ukraine.
I think what's going on. There is an absolute human tragedy. I think Putin, his invasion is totally unjustifiable and he's inflicting pain upon regular Ukrainian civilians. I also think that as Americans, we need to take a dispassionate look in the world at the world and only intervene in instances where there is a significant vital us national security interests at stake, no more needless nation building war fighting and interventions all over the world to put a dollar figure on this. You know, again, I like data and evidence put a dollar figure on this, according to brown university. I'm not, again, I'm not citing a right wing organization, corner brown university study the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had cost the United States a total of $8 trillion. I mean, Doug, do you know what we could have done in this country with $8 trillion? And then by the way, even worse than the money also cost us almost 8,000 American lives, precious American souls who are gone.
And by the way, also thousands more American soldiers who were not killed, but who are grievously wounded either physically or mentally because of their experiences in the, in these wars. So we need to learn the lessons of what the Washington unit party, because Republicans were every bit as complicit as Democrats in promoting and inflicting these wars upon the American people. I think George W. Bush in some ways is actually more guilty than Obama is, but they're both guilty regarding these wars. Donald Trump came to office as a peace president. He insisted in an American foreign policy of realism and restraint, but with Trump out of office right now, the Washington establishment believes including a lot of Republicans believes here's their chance in Ukraine. Thankfully, JD Vance, who himself is a Marine veteran, somebody who was deployed to Iraq who saw war firsthand, and he had the guts to stand up in a very competitive primary.
Okay. He had some very high quality well-funded opponents in that primary, but he had the guts to stand up when he was the only one to do this and say, we do not want to escalate in Ukraine. He said no to a no fly zone. Some of his opponents tried to hide behind the caveat of, well, the no fly zone will be enforced by our European partners rather than by America. But if you think about that for more than a second, you realize that they will quickly our partners, Germany, Poland, whoever it is will quickly get into a shooting war with Russia, which then obliges the United States to directly intervene in a shooting war with Russia and incredibly reckless stance that the corporate media is trying to promote constantly right now. So we need, in my view, more voices like JD Vance, like president Trump, who put out thankfully a very strong statement on exactly this point. And he said, we need to beat it to force a deescalation. Let's get these two sides to negotiate. What's going on as a tragedy. But it is a regional struggle does not involve the national interest of United States. And by the way, Doug, I would stipulate that if there was a border for us to worry about it is not the Eastern border of your Ukraine, it is the Southern border of the United States.
Doug Truax: That's right. That's right. Lots of problems down there. And it's like, look over here at the shiny thing right now. And you're right, it's a total tragedy. And I always feel now, too, what happens is there's this complacency leading up to this? It's like all these things over the years, Putin has been talking about this for a long time. A lot of things we haven't done over the years in terms of just like fortifying Ukraine or frankly, Ukraine fortifying themselves more. And all those things that have, have gone on. And then he got Keystone Nord stream two, he's got all the money he needs and then suddenly there's this disaster. And then it's like, it's the next crisis that they don't want to let, to go to waste. And so, okay, now we're going to talk about getting involved. And I'm like, oh, it's like, okay, where were you guys? When this was all leading, we were leading up to this and it does feel like what you're talking about. So, okay, well we're here. We got to deal with it. So let's, let's spend a lot more money and a lot more treasurer and lives and everything else.
Steve Cortes: Yeah. And to that point by Doug of energy policy, because I think this is critical. Look, here's the reality right now, NATO is funding both sides of this war. I mean, which is, which is insanity, right? I mean, in my view, we are literally funding both sides. And what I mean by that the United States taxpayer, I was announced last week that Joe Biden wants to send $33 billion with a B over to Ukraine, by the way, no strings attached. One of the most corrupt governments on earth. And again, I'm not justifying the invasion far from it, but I'm saying this, this is not a fight, a pure goodness and pure light against pure evil. It just isn't okay. But we're going to send $33 billion of American taxpayer money over to Ukraine at the exact same time. And this was reported by Bloomberg. The Europeans, since the war began in late February, the Europeans have bought precisely double that amount in Russian energy.
They have bought $66 billion of Russian, Russian energy. They are continuing to buy it. Doug, as we speak masses and masses of oil and gas coming from Russia directly to Europe. So here's my answer is this has to matter more to the Europeans than it does to us, right? This is in their neighborhood. If this is truly a crisis beyond Ukraine. And I don't believe that it is, but let's say for the sake of argument, that truly Putin doesn't just want Ukraine. He wants Ukraine, plus he wants to March on Europe. Again, I don't agree with that, but that's what the warmongers are trying to tell us. Well then Doug, this is Europe's problem. These are wealthy advanced countries and they should be more than willing to number one, defend themselves. But number two, if they really fear Russia that much, then stop sending billions of dollars, right. Day two, the two, what they regard as the Russian beast.
Doug Truax: Yeah. How about it? Yeah, it's just common sense. And we just end up in this place where it's like, we've had all these years of not doing the common sense thing, and now we end up where we are. So yeah, I, I totally agree. All right. Shifting topics real quick. So crazy times here, Roe V. Wade is looking like it's going down, praise God. And then we got this leak and it turns everything upside down. So what do you think though, where we are relative to the midterms and how the impact in your view, how it's going to impact the midterms?
Steve Cortes: Sure. Well, you know, first, just let me say this. This is a amazing victory for life and amazing victory for mothers and babies in this country. And there are so many people who really toiled for 50 years to see this moment. And a lot of that toy, a lot of that work frankly, was in the political wilderness. It looked like it could never happen. So a lot of faithful people, a lot of prayer and a lot of hustle and all of them just deserve so much credit and, you know, deserves perhaps more credit than anyone right now is president Donald Trump, who was the most pro-life president in American history. And this is his legacy. And even if he never goes back in the, in the oval office, I hope he does. I hope to help get him there in 2024, but whether or not he does, this is, this is a legacy that he deserves.
And an honor, you know, that is largely his not only his, but largely he has, but regarding the midterms, then if I sort of, you know, switch tax and just put on my, you know, from being a thankful Patriot to put on my campaign hat and my strategist hat, I honestly don't think this is going have a massive effect upon 2022 elections. And here's why I think it will have a slight positive net effect for Republicans, for pro-life candidates, for people who were on the fence, who, for example, there's a lot of committed Christians out there who don't necessarily like the style and bombast of Donald Trump. I hope some of them will see the fruits of what Trump of what Trump did and, and, and recognize this massive victory for pro-life people. So I think it will bring a few more people into the America first fold, but regarding the people who are most upset about this, the people who are outraged, that this is going to go back to the states where it always belonged in the first place.
Those people who are outraged dug in my view, and the polling backs this up. Those are not people that we could win over. Anyway, that's just the reality. I do not believe those were persuadable voters. And given that again, corporate media wants us to accept the narrative that this was massively consequential for the elections and that it's going to embarrass and imperil Republican candidates around the country. I just don't see that could be wrong. But when I look at the polling, America is very, very divided on this issue. I think that's the knee. That's the honest answer. There's not a massive pro-life majority, nor is there a massive pro majority abortion majority. When, when the questions are asked in an honest way, there is a slight pro-life majority. That's what the numbers actually tell us. For example, a recent Gallup poll shows that 52% of Americans believe that abortion should be always, or most of the time illegal.
The other side is 45%. So the country's very divided, but also look, federalism works. There are a lot of states that are not divided. So states like Alabama and Tennessee are going to reach very different solutions than states like Illinois and California and New York. And you know that that's not okay from a moral perspective, of course, cause I don't want any baby harmed, but from a political perspective, that's okay. That's how the system is supposed to work. I suspect a lot of America will actually end up where Europe is, where abortion is technically legal, but very, very restricted and very difficult to get that's the, that is the democratic small D consensus that most advanced countries in the world reached because they were allowed to do it through a democratic process. We were disallowed from that. We were restrained from that illogically so and unconstitutionally. So for 50 years now, we're going to have that conversation and debate in this country. I think ultimately it's a healthy thing. And I frankly, Doug, I don't see big consequential fall off of the 2022.
Doug Truax: Yeah. Yeah. I'm with you. I think it's the extremes that will be involved in the, in any fallout if there is any, which will be small, but what a great day, what a great day moving in the right direction. For sure. For sure. Last question for you. So we get into this next election, you know, how do we avoid complacency? I ask everybody this, like where it's looking pretty good. How do we not be, you know, get into complacency and, and, and hurt ourselves here. And then how do we going on the other side of that lecture? How do we go on 20, 24? What do we need to maintain? What do we need to grow into in your opinion? That'll get us, keep us on this good path that we're on.
Steve Cortes: Well, listen, it's a fantastic point that, yeah, we sure can't get complacent. You know, cause to our earlier point we've been winning elections, but losing the country for a long time. Now, thankfully I think the Democrats in a way and Biden and the ruling class in this country, they've almost done us a favor. Not that they meant to, but their policies have been so disastrous so quickly. You know that again, a lot of people have been forced to care. And what I mean by that is people who may not be all that political people might not be that engaged in the end. You know, following the economy, they had been forced to care because every time they go to the gas pump or the grocery store or pay their rent, they are being crushed right now. Real wages are crashing in this country and that's not bad luck.
It's not because of the business cycle. It's a consequence of terrible policies. So thankfully I think our job is relatively easy in terms of getting people motivated. Because again, I think they're being forced to care, but, but we can't only rely on that, right? We can't be lackadaisical in terms of motivating people. I believe firmly that there are sort of so many things going wrong right now. So many created crises because of Joe Biden and because of what Pelosi and Schumer and I would argue Mitch McConnell and Republicans because of what they have inflicted upon this country, that we can lose focus. And as a messaging guy, which is my world, where I live in, in political messaging and in media, we need to, don't major in the minors. We need to focus on the things that matter most to real Americans. And I believe it's the two eyes it's inflation and immigration inflation immigration.
I think if we focus on those two issues, we not just when our base, I mean, we will get them and we will motivate our base to turn out and coalesce and unite behind real America, first candidates all over the country. But I think we also get them people who either weren't politically engaged or were leaning to the democratic side because no one, no reasonable person, unless you were a hardcore dogmatic, leftist, no reasonable person thinks that effectively open borders, which is what we have in this country right now is good for our country. And no reasonable person believes that surging prices 40 year highs by every single metric on inflation would crashing real wages is a good scenario for this country. So things are pretty dire right now, Doug. And I think it's important. I'd never sugar call it, code it for the American people.
They know it. And particularly the horribles are our people, our Mo most motivated people know it out there. So don't sugar coat. Things are bad. Unfortunately, I think they're likely to get worse in the near term, but politically the situation is becoming better and better for the America first movement. I firmly believe we're going to elect Republican majorities in the Congress this year in both the house and Senate, but not just Republican majority's America. First Republican majority is with the kinds of stalwarts and fighters and outsiders that I was talking about earlier. And that can transform politics in this country and prepare the way for a 2024 election where we either re-elect Donald Trump. I would argue for a third time, that would be his third victory or another great America personally.
Doug Truax: Yeah. We're on the edge of something. Great. I think, and that's really well put and we're all praying for that and hope it comes to be. And Steve, you've done great work over the years. Really appreciate you coming on and sharing your opinion. And I think you're dead on us. So many things and look forward to you continuing to contribute to the success we have ahead of us here.
Steve Cortes: You're back. Thank you so much for having me, Doug. Appreciate it.
Doug Truax: All right. That's our show for today. Thank you so much for tuning in and for supporting sort of media. Don't forget that by working together and staying diligent, we can serve as can bring our country back to true greatness until next week. Let's all keep praying that God will continue to bless America
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