Trump Delivers Bizarre, Incoherent, Red Meat Speech At CPAC
In a two-hour rant before an adoring crowd of CPAC sycophants. President Trump displayed everything wrong with him and his Presidency.
President Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday, delivering one of the more bizarre speeches of his Presidency to an adoring crowd:
President Trump capped a tumultuous week by reveling in the embrace of conservative activists on Saturday, deriding investigations of him as ”bullshit,” repeatedly complaining about coverage of his crowd sizes and abruptly announcing an executive order to mandate protection of free speech on college campuses.
In his remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which stretched beyond two hours, Trump also mocked the ”Green New Deal” promoted by liberals to address climate change, disparaged his former attorney general Jeff Sessions with a faux Southern accent and defended his move to declare a national emergency to secure money for his U.S.-Mexico border wall that was denied by Congress.
“You know, I don’t know, maybe you know. You know, I’m totally off script right?” Trump said at the outset of his speech. ”This is how I got elected, by being off script . . . and if we don’t go off script, our country is in big trouble, folks.”
But the Russia probe and those leading it drew the biggest ire and even profanity from the president, as investigations ramp up in Congress and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III continues his probe into potential collusion between Trump associates and Moscow.
“So now they go and morph into, let’s inspect every deal he’s ever done,” Trump complained. Nicknaming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) as “Little Shifty Schiff,” Trump continued: “These people are sick. They’re sick.”
Noting that ”you put the wrong people in a couple of positions,” Trump added: ”And they leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there and all of a sudden they are trying to take you out with bullshit, okay?” Trump said.
“Now Robert Mueller never received a vote and neither did the person who appointed him,” the president said, referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May 2017 after Sessions recused himself.
Trump’s speech zigzagging from trade to immigration and from the 2016 campaign to last fall’s midterm elections, came against the backdrop of the collapse of his summit with North Korea and the extraordinary congressional testimony this week from his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
Cohen alleged that Trump manipulated financial records and that the president knew in advance of WikiLeaks’ efforts to dump damaging information on his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“>Trump mentioned his call during the 2016 campaign for Russia to hack into Clinton’s emails, although he has since suggested that he was being sarcastic at the time and criticized the news media for coverage of those remarks.
Few targets were spared in Trump’s wide-ranging speech, which included jabs at unnamed Republican senators — “Where do these people come from?” — his potential Democratic challengers in 2020 and a swipe at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell.
“We have a gentleman who likes raising interest rates, a gentleman who likes quantitative tightening,” said Trump. “Can you imagine if we left interest rates where they were? If we didn’t do quantitative tightening, taking money out of the market?”
Trump has repeatedly slammed Powell for raising interest rates too quickly. Powell has said the rate hikes were necessary in light of economic evidence, but in January acknowledged the case for raising rates “has weakened” somewhat.
He also dismissed one prominent argument from Republicans on his recent decision to declare a national emergency to redirect federal funds for his border wall. While GOP lawmakers have argued that his move could set a precedent for future Democratic presidents, Trump argued that the answer to that is for him to be reelected instead.
“They’re gonna do that anyway, folks,” Trump said. “The best way to stop that is for us to win the election.”
Trump criticized his political opponents on Capitol Hill following a riff on immigrants, whom he said needed to “love our country.”
“We have people in Congress right now — we have people in Congress that hate our country,” Trump said. “And you know that, and we can name every one of them if you want. They hate our country.”
Trump also announced that he would sign a new executive order to make federal research funding for colleges and universities contingent on their support for “free speech.” The move appeared to be a response to complaints by some university critics that institutions of higher education stifle right-wing viewpoints.
“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many great young people, and old people, to speak,” Trump said, bringing onstage a young conservative, Hayden Williams, who was physically attacked last month while lobbying for a conservative organization at the University of California at Berkeley.
More from Politico:
President Donald Trump delivered a scorched-earth speech to conservative activists on Saturday, calling the Russia investigation “bullshit,” adopting a southern accent to mock his former attorney general, and asserting that some members of Congress “hate our country.”
The rollicking two-hour-plus appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland offered the president a brief respite from an otherwise miserable week in which his much-touted summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ended in failure and his former personal lawyer delivered explosive testimony to Congress.
Trump, basking in the adoration of the crowd, largely glossed over the North Korea summit’s collapse, instead reviving several of his greatest hits, from rehashing the 2016 election to obsessing over the crowd size at his inauguration.
The speech amounted to a boatload of red meat for conservatives, with Trump promising he’ll protect them from undocumented immigrants, socialism and liberal Democrats he claims are dead set on bankrupting the country with proposals like the Green New Deal.
“You know I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. As his meandering remarks continued, it became clear that his assessment was an understatement.
At one point, Trump regaled the crowd with a story about a general he said was named “Raisin Caine” (it wasn’t immediately clear who he was referring to). He said he always sits with the pilots when airplanes are landing: “They know what we’re doing.” He boasted about his good eyesight and later added, “I don’t have white hair.” He derided a Hawaii senator as a “crazy person.” And he accused Hollywood of discriminating against conservatives.
He even revisited his campaign kickoff speech from June 2015. “From day one, I mentioned the word rape. If you look at that first speech, that was very innocent compared to what’s happening,” Trump said. Trump came under fire for his 2015 comments, which appeared to broadly assert that Mexicans were rapists.
Throughout, Trump again revealed himself to be a president deeply scorned by what he views as unfair media coverage and a lack of recognition from many in Washington. “I get no credit,” he said multiple times throughout the lengthy speech.
He also insisted that nobody had left the speech early, but journalists present reported that in fact, some attendees were seen departing before the close of his remarks.
Later, the president sounded off on the 2020 election, expressing regret that he attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren so early. “I should have saved the Pocahontas thing for another year,” he said. “I’ve destroyed her political career and I won’t get a chance to run against her and I would have loved that.”
Trump clearly delighted in the passion of the conservative audience, pointing to onlookers and applauding as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” blared on the speakers. At one point, the president wrapped his arms around an American flag on the stage, holding the hug for a moment as he mugged for the cameras.
“I’m in love, you’re in love and we’re all in love together,” the president declared.
Though Trump didn’t linger long on his North Korea summit, he suggested at the end of his remarks that he publicly took Kim at his word about Otto Warmbier’s death in order to salvage a possible denuclearization deal. Trump said he was in “such a horrible position because in one way I have to negotiate, and in another way I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier and I love Otto and it’s a very delicate balance.”
The president repeatedly took aim at Democrats in Congress. “We have people in Congress that hate our country,” he said. “You know that, we can name every one of them. They hate our country.” He then bashed the Green New Deal, jokingly encouraging liberals to keep pushing it because it would benefit him politically. “They should stay with that argument,” he said. “Never change.”
Trump revived his divisive immigration rhetoric. “They don’t like it when I say it, but we are being invaded,” he said. He disputed government statistics showing that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born American citizens, calling the data false propaganda” and citing no evidence to support his claim.
The speech, which was originally supposed to start at 11:30 didn’t actually begin until nearly an hour before its scheduled start time, and it quickly became clear that Trump, who was not sticking to any prepared text or using a teleprompter, was reveling in the adulation that he was getting from the unquestioning CPAC mob that had gathered to watch him. Once speech went past its scheduled length of roughly 45-50 minutes, it was clear that the guy was on a roll and there was going to be no stopping him. By the time it was all over, the speech had lasted some two hours and even Fox News Channel, the only one of the three cable news networks that carried anything other than excerpts of the speech live, had stopped its live simulcast before the speech ended. It was, in other words, vintage Trump in a forum where he was sure to get not just cheers but mindless adulation at the conclusion of a conference that, based on the reports I’ve seen, has become little more than a Trumpidian fan club dominated by pro-Trump Republican officials and C-List pundits who make the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity seem talented and coherent by comparison.
A speech like this, and the crowd’s reaction to it, is also a reflection of what “conservatism” in general and CPAC specifically have turned into in the era of Donald Trump. While it used to be a somewhat sedate affair that featured Republican officeholders and leading conservatives such as Buckley, Reagan, Goldwater, CPAC has become a reflection of the pathetic joke that conservatism has become. Among those who spoke this year are people such as Charlie Kirk, founder of the pro-Trump PAC Turning Point USA, two African-American women who call themselves Diamond and Silk, Laura Ingraham. and Congressional leaders such as House “Freedom” Caucus members Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, both of whom made national news last week for their efforts to defend the President during the Michael Cohen hearing on Wednesday. While I didn’t attend the conference, something I haven’t done since 2012, and kept up with what was going on mostly through news reports and Twitter posts from people who were there, it’s clear that CPAC has turned into nothing less than a pro-Trump political rally in which dissenting opinion is not only unwelcome, but openly attacked, mocked, and derided. It is, as I have called it in the past, the closing of the conservative mind, and it’s yet another sign of just how far gone so-called conservatism and the GOP are at this point.
Given the week that he had, it’s not surprising that Trump chose to go off the way he did yesterday. Between the failure of the Hanoi summit, the reaction to his excuse making for Kim Jong Un in the death of Otto Warmbier, and the testimony of Michael Cohen, it was yet another bad week for the Trump Administration with all indications being that things are going to get much worse before they start to get better, if they ever do, delivering a red meat speech like this to an adoring crowd is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Trump since it follows what he’s done in the past. That being said, this speech was perhaps one of the worst displays of all of the President’s bad tendencies spread out over a two-hour rant before an adoring crowd. It hit time and again on the anti-immigrant, xenophobic themes that have framed Trump as a politician since he entered the Presidential race in 2015, and which he has returned to time and again during his time as President, starting with what was perhaps the most dreadful Inaugural Address in American history and continuing throughout the past two years at campaign rallies, press appearances, and, of course, on Twitter. We’ve heard this from Trump, and we’ll hear it again and again as long as he’s President. On some level, it’s gone beyond being shocking because it has become so commonplace, and that’s a problem in and of itself. We’re dangerously close to the point of normalizing Trump’s behavior, his illegal and unconstitutional actions, and the extent to which he has ignored political norms on a regular basis. If that happens, then I’m afraid there will be no turning back.
In any case, if you’re at all inclined, you can watch the full video of Trump’s speech below, or you can read the coverage that Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, provided on Twitter. It’s a long thread, but highly entertaining.