GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump believes education is one the most essential functions of the U.S. government. It's right up there with security and providing health care for the nation, he told a crowd in Wisconsin Tuesday night.
Yet Trump has called for the elimination of the Department of Education, meaning he would destroy the agency responsible for doing what he claims is so important for the country.
On Tuesday, Trump appeared at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, a week before the state's primary election.
An attendee asked what he views as the "top three functions of the United States government."
"The greatest function of all by far is security for our nation. I would also say health care, I would also say education," Trump replied. "There are many many things. But I would say the top three are security, security, security."
Most people on both sides of the aisle would agree that security is a key federal government function. But education and health care are priorities more likely to come from a liberal Democrat than a Republican.
Trump has actually been all over the map on the role of the federal government. In October, he said he would cut federal spending by eliminating the Department of Education (and the Environmental Protection Agency), arguing that education is a local issue.
"I may cut Department of Education," he told "Fox News Sunday." "I believe Common Core is a very bad thing. I believe that we should be -- you know, educating our children from Iowa, from New Hampshire, from South Carolina, from California, from New York. I think that it should be local education."
States certainly have a role in providing education. But without the Department of Education, the "United States government" would be at a significant disadvantage in doing what Trump said it should Tuesday.
CNN host Anderson Cooper tried to point out the discrepancy during the Wisconsin town hall.
"I want it to go to states, yeah. Absolutely," Trump replied, contradicting his earlier comment that education was a key issue of the U.S. government.
"So that's not part of what the federal government's role should be?" Cooper asked.
"Well, the federal government -- But the concept of the country is the concept that we have to have education within the country," Trump said. "We have to get rid of Common Core, and it should be brought to the state level."
Common Core has become a popular conservative target, lambasted as a symbol of federal government intrusion in state policy. In reality, it was developed at the state level, as former George W. Bush aide Tony Fratto pointed out Tuesday night.