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Story highlights

Donald Trump's campaign slogan is "Make America Great Again"

He told the New York Times in an interview published Saturday when was the last time America was great

CNN will host the final three Republican candidates at a live town hall in Milwaukee from 8-11 p.m. ET Tuesday.

(CNN) —  

If Donald Trump wants to make America great again, as his oft-repeated slogan promises, then that leads to the question: When was the last time America was actually great?

Trump has an answer. In an interview with The New York Times published Saturday, the real estate mogul was asked when the country last reached the GOP front-runner’s lofty ideal – as a reporter asked, when do “you think the United States last had the right balance, either in terms of defense footprint or in terms of trade?”

The answer, Trump explained, was during periods of military and industrial expansion at the onset of the 20th century and again in the years after World War II.

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“If you look back, it really was, there was a period of time when we were developing at the turn of the century which was a pretty wild time for this country and pretty wild in terms of building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship,” he told the Times.

Trump also pointed to the “late ‘40s and ‘50s,” a time when, he said, “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do.”

Not on his list: The Reagan Era.

“As much as I liked Ronald Reagan, he started NAFTA,” Trump said. “Now Clinton really was the one that — NAFTA has been a disaster for our country, O.K., and Clinton is the one as you know that got it done, but it was conceived even before Clinton, but you could say that maybe those people didn’t want done what was ultimately signed because it was changed a lot by the time it got finalized. But NAFTA has been a disaster for our country.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by former President Bill Clinton in late 1993, opened up trade barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada.