President Donald Trump spoke at the 2020 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this afternoon. The sold-out crowd was on their feet, many times louder than they have been during the long conference.
It bears noting that, in the beginning, Trump was less ebullient than what one sees during a rally. I'm not sure if that came across on TV, but in person he was slightly subdued in the beginning. The obvious reason for this is that he came straight from a press conference in the White House discussing the first American death from coronavirus COVID-19.
That makes sense. No president should be unaffected by loss. And no one in the room better understands the ramifications of a global disease that breaks supply lines, slows the economies of our trading partners, and ultimately hurts Americans, be it in 401Ks, transactional jobs affected by travel bans (cabbies, Uber, skycap), or actual illness.
Finally, what's more frustrating than an illness? Especially when it appears that it was engineered by our greatest foe, communist China. Trump understand optics - it isn't the time for rattling the left's cages.
But as his speech went on, Trump's voice grew deeper and stronger. He discussed better medical care for our veterans and the fight against terrorists in the Middle East. He moved on to our military and the work of rebuilding American infrastructure. From there he pivoted to the border and "keeping radical Islamic terrorists the hell out."
Next was the coronavirus. Trump noted that he restricted travel from an early point in the outbreak. "I took a lot of heat...the extreme fringe called it 'racist'...nothing will keep us from protecting Americans." He detailed new travel restrictions in Iran and travel advisories. "Everything's under control, but when they put a mic in front of a Democrat...sadly, I'd probably say the same about them," he quipped to laughter.
A discussion of the economy was inevitable, and then quickly on to poking fun at Democrat presidential candidates. In other words, Trump isn't at CPAC to talk about the worst week in the stock market since 2008. That's not what conventions are for. His most ardent supporters didn't come from all corners of the country to hear a dirge. Especially if you believe, as I do, that many Americans are overreacting to the virus (domestically, that is).
By this point in the speech, Trump had shaken off any trace of a bad mood, and he went after "Mini Mike" Bloomberg and his disappearing-behind-the-podium act (see tweet below).
After that, he started to joke more about his rivals like Joe Biden and his verbal errors. On Biden's "150 million gun deaths" quote from the last Democratic debate, he joked about how he refers to Melania Trump as "First Lady" at home: "I gotta check that, First Lady! You know what? If there were 150 million deaths from guns, I gotta check that out!"
On Biden? "Joe's not going to be running the government. He's going to be sitting in a home somewhere."
Trump was loose, relaxed, even happy. He called Pete Buttigieg "Alfred E. Newman." Mike Bloomberg? "He writes checks like a drunken sailor...I know some of his contractors, they are ripping him off like crazy. Keep running, Mike!"
"No more estate tax on small farms" was next. From there, on to farm policy overall, and how Trump used Chinese tariffs to repay farmers for what they had lost--with funds left over. "Nobody wanted tariffs until I taught them what tariffs are," Trump boasted.
A litany of reasons for why we need to sue sanctuary cities. "Our country must be a sanctuary for law abiding citizens, not criminal aliens." The crowd erupted. And on and on he went. Ending catch-and-release, seizure of drugs and arrests of gang members, 128 miles of border wall.
The mood of the nation may be pensive, but in National Harbor, Maryland, the clouds had passed. Order had slowly returned.
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