President Trump’s speech to a packed, enthusiastic house at CPAC 2018 Friday morning touched on gun reform, immigration, domestic politics, foreign policy, and the bald spot on the back of his head.
The president spoke to the rapt crowd for well over an hour, and seemed to relish every minute of it. Two years ago, when he was a presidential candidate, Trump abruptly canceled a CPAC appearance amid rumors that anti-Trump conservatives were planning to stage a walkout in protest of his appearance. Today, he had the crowd eating out of his hands.
“I think now we’ve proved that I’m a conservative,” Trump said to much applause. “For the last year, with your help, we have put more great conservative ideas into use than perhaps ever before in American history.”
He drew laughs when he poked fun at his famous hairdo: “I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks, I work hard at it.”
The president listed his accomplishments in his first year: “We passed the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country,” he said. Trump, not known for his humility, also claimed: “My administration, I think, has had the most successful first year in the history of the presidency.” Liberal fact-checkers will, of course, challenge this subjective comment.
Trump also said: “In the history of presidents, no president, and I’m saying no president, has ever cut so many regulations in their entire term.”
The president also took credit for ending “the war on American energy.” “We’ve ended the war on beautiful clean coal, one of our great natural resources. And very important for our defense.”
His speech was briefly disrupted when a heckler shouted: “You’re a traitor!”
“How’d he get in here, Matt?”, Trump joked as the heckler, who had also reportedly unfurled a Russian flag, was led out. Matt Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes CPAC every year. The president cautioned the media to not make a big deal out of the heckler: “Just for the media, the fake news back there. They took very good care of him. They were very gentle. He was very obnoxious.”
“It was only one person,” said Trump. “One person, folks, doesn’t deserve a mention, doesn’t deserve a headline.” “We have thousands of people here. Tomorrow the headline will be ‘Protesters Disturb Trump.’ … The headline tomorrow: ‘Disrupters of CPAC’ … and he was very nice. We looked at him and he immediately left.”
The president later said, “we have a very, very crooked media.”
Trump encouraged Republicans to stay active. “People get complacent,” he said. “Don’t be complacent.” He warned that if Democrats get a majority in Congress, “they will repeal your tax cuts. They will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They’ll take away your Second Amendment, which we would never allow to happen.”
The president addressed the Parkland school shooting and called for arming teachers: “We want to hear ideas from Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs about how we can improve security at our schools, tackle the issue of mental health.” “When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger,” he added.
Trump talked about the need to strengthen background checks, but added: “We also need to create a culture in this country that cherishes life.”
“These teachers love their students and these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns,” he said. “I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside and doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students.”
The president had nothing good to say about the Parkland school resource deputy who remained outside rather than protect the students and teachers when the shooting started.
“There was one guard — he turned out to be not so good … Not a credit to law enforcement,” he said.
Trump’s speech was peppered with many big applause lines and Trumpisms, such as:
- “In America, we don’t worship government. We worship God.”
- “We knocked out the Paris Climate Accords.”
- “We’ve got seven years to go, folks. We’ve got a long time to go.”
- “We officially made Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
- “Kerry may be the worst negotiator I’ve ever seen.”
- “We have to treat people that treat us well, we treat them well. People that treat us badly, we treat them much worse than they can ever imagine.”
- “After years of rebuilding other nations … we’re finally rebuilding our nation.”
- “Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall.”
- “The last administration was a disaster.”
Toward the end of his speech, the president gave a dramatic reading of the poem “The Snake” to the appreciation of the crowd. Trump had first recited the poem in Iowa during the 2016 primaries to illustrate his concern over the huge influx of Middle Eastern refugees flooding Europe.