Trump Turned in Another Rambling Performance at CPAC

Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images

From Esquire

On the final day of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, President Trump took the stage to address the crowd of right-wing loyalists. Before the friendly audience, the president gave a rambling, two hour-long speech in which he covered his most well-worn talking points, like the size of his inaugural crowd and his electoral victory against Hillary Clinton, as well as newer favorite like the Green New Deal. Along the way, he accused foreign born members of the House of Representatives of hating America and mocked Jeff Session's southern accent.

Trump entered CPAC’s main stage to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, pausing on his way to the lectern to wrap the American flag in a bear hug. He began his speech with a triumphant recapping of his now years-old victory against Hillary Clinton. "We got 306 to 225," said Trump, once again overstating his actual electoral victory of 306 to 232. "So I think we’re going to do even better in 2020; I think we’re going to see numbers that we haven’t seen in a long time."

"Right now we have people in Congress who hate our country," Trump said later in the speech, launching into an openly xenophobic rant about foreign-born legislators.

And find out, how did they do in their country? Just ask them, how did they do, did they do well? Were they succeeding? Just ask that question. Somebody would say, “Oh that’s terrible that he brings that up,” but that’s okay, I don’t mind. I’ll bring it up. How did they do in their country? Not so good.

The president also vented his pique concerning the investigations that have dogged his presidency. Trump adopted a mocking Southern accent when imitating former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose recusal from the Russia investigation infuriated him. In his 2018 book Fear, journalist Bob Woodward reported that Trump privately imitated the then-AG’s accent and referred to Sessions as a "dumb Southerner," a claim the president denied at the time.

"As you know, the Attorney General says, 'I’m gonna recuse mahself,’" said Trump Saturday, to audible gasps from the CPAC audience. "And I said, ‘Why the hell didn’t he tell me that before I put him in?’"

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proved a popular punching bag throughout the conference, and Trump eagerly joined in. "I think the New Green Deal or whatever the hell they call it-the Green New Deal-I encourage it," he joked. "I think it’s really something they should promote, they should work hard on.”

Trump suggested backlash towards the plan will aid his re-election prospects. "I want them to embrace this plan," he later said. "I just want to be the Republican who runs against them."

The president vacillated between reading prepared remarks and improvising, sometimes alerting the audience to occasions in which he abandoned the teleprompter. After indulging a tangent away from prepared comments on his tariff policy, Trump told the crowd, "You know I’m totally off script right now. And this is how I got elected, by being off-script."

In one such interlude, the president returned once again to the issue of crowd size at his 2016 inauguration, claiming that the photos showing a less-than-packed National Mall were taken long before the ceremony began. Trump admitted that he might discuss the inauguration even more that he already does if aides did not discourage him from doing so.

Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis - Getty Images

"Sarah [Sanders] and Mercedes [Schlapp] said, 'Sir, it doesn’t matter, nobody cares,'" said Trump. "But I care!"

Such digressions led Trump all over the map, and at one point he lingered on the topic of TV recorder TiVO, calling it "one of the greatest inventions in history."

"I think it is actually better than television," said the president, who reportedly watches up to eight hours of TV a day, "because television is practically useless without TiVo."

At the close of what NBC called longest speech of his presidency, Trump returned to the topic of crowds-this time, his audience at CPAC. He warned onlookers to beware any future "fake news" reports of weary audiences exiting before his speech's close. "I’ve been watching those doors-not one person’s left," said Trump. "And I’ve been up here a long time. "

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