MELBOURNE, FL – Despite the unprecedented negative media coverage, President Donald Trump’s supporters are as enthusiastic as ever.
Saturday’s rally at the Melbourne-Orlando International Airport was proof of that.
Trump returned to the site where he held one of many rallies in the Sunshine State — but this time as President of the United States. He was accompanied by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, before a crowd of at least 9,000 and another few hundred watching the rally on big screen televisions assembled outside the hangar on the airport grounds.
All attendees now in the AeroMod hangar for the @realDonaldTrump rally. Total attendees at event = 9,000.
— Melbourne Police (@MelbournePolice) February 18, 2017
At the rally were some of the familiar elements of Trump’s campaign rallies, including YouTube supporters Diamond and Silk, chants of “lock her up” and “CNN sucks,” and Lee Greenwood’s “Proud To Be An American” blaring on the loudspeakers as Trump made his appearance.
After being introduced by the first lady, who recited the Lord’s Prayer, Trump boasted about his administration’s early progress and reiterated what is motivating his policies.
“It’s now been one month since my inauguration,” Trump said. “And I am here to tell you about our incredible progress in making America great again. And I’m also here to tell you about our plans for the future. And they’re big, and they’re bold, and it’s what our country is all about. Believe me. I’m here because I want to be among my friends and among the people.”
Trump remarks included a bigger focus on the “dishonest press,” whom he said were part of the opposition to his efforts to “make America great again.” He said to raucous cheers:
I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news. The dishonest media, which has published one false story after another, with no sources, even though they pretend they have them. They make them up in many cases. They just don’t want to report the truth. And they’ve been calling us wrong now for two years. They don’t get it. But they’re starting to get it. I can tell you that. They’ve become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system.
The president maintained he wasn’t the first commander-in-chief to fight back against the media and vowed not to allow the media to get away with “their lies.” He went on to say:
Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln, and many of our greatest presidents fought with the media and called them out oftentimes on their lies. When the media lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it. I will do whatever I can that they don’t get away with it. They have their own agenda. And their agenda is not your agenda. In fact, when Thomas Jefferson said, ‘Nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself,’ he said, ‘becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.’ That was June 14 — my birthday — 1807.
“But despite all their lies, misrepresentations, and false stories, they could not defeat us in the primaries,” he added. “And they could not defeat us in the general election. And we will continue to expose them for what they are. And most importantly, we will continue to win, win, win. We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to live, or what to believe. We are free and independent people. And we will make our own choices.”
Trump’s remarks on immigration and trade were consistent with his “America first” campaign rhetoric, including the threat of a border tax on products built by companies that moved their manufacturing facilitiesfrom the United States to another country. He said:
You want us to enforce our immigration laws, and to defend our borders. You want fair trade deals and a level playing field. We don’t have a level playing field. Because you understand that when American workers win, America as a country wins and wins big. And every country over the last long period of time has been taking advantage of the stupidity of our politicians. It’s not going to happen any longer. You want lower taxes, less regulation, millions of new jobs and more products stamped with those beautiful, beautiful words, Made in the USA.
You want to make it easier for companies to do business in America, and harder for companies to leave. We don’t want companies saying ‘everybody’s fired, we’re moving to another country, we’re going to make the products, sell it across the border.’ And isn’t that wonderful? Not going to happen anymore. We’re going to have strong borders. And when they want to sell that product back across our border, they’re going to pay a 35 percent tax. And you know what? They’re never going to leave. They will never, ever leave.
On trade, Trump reminded attendees of fulfilling his campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and double-down on his pledge to have better trade deals and to take on nations that manipulate their currencies. He said:
I followed through on my promise to withdraw from the job-killing disaster known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP. We have just terminated our relationship to it. We’re going to have tremendous trade deals all over the world. But they’re going to be bilateral, or as we would say, one-on-one. None of these deals where we get caught in quicksand, where we get mired in, and we can’t do anything about it. Like, by the way, NAFTA and so many others. And my administration has begun plans to crack down on foreign cheating and currency manipulation, which is killing our companies and really, really hurting our workers. We’re going to end it.
Trump noted the progress he had made in the early days of his presidency regarding the Dakota and Keystone pipelines, which he said will be constructed with pipe made in the United States. He reported to cheers:
Within a few days of taking the oath of office, I’ve taken steps to begin the construction of Keystone and the Dakota Access pipeline. Anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 jobs. And very importantly, as I was about to sign it, I said who makes the pipe? Who makes the pipe? Something this audience understands very well, right? Simple question. The lawyers put this very complex document in front. I said who makes the pipe? They said, ‘Sir, it can be made anywhere.’ I said not anymore. So I put a little clause in the bottom. The pipe has to be made in the United States of America if we’re going to have pipelines.
In the middle of the rally, Trump invited Gene Huber onto the stage with him. Huber, of nearby Boynton Beach, FL, reportedly waited 13 hours and was first in line to get in the hangar for the rally.
“Mr. President, thank you, sir,” Huber said on stage. “We the people, our movement is the reason why our president of the United States is standing here in front of us today. When President Trump, during the election, promised all these things that he was going to do for us, I knew he was going to do this for us.”
“A star is born,” Trump declared after Huber’s remarks.
Trump’s remarks also included a vote of confidence for law enforcement. He said he had instructed his Justice Department to stand with police that were targets of violence.
“I directed the Department of Justice to take a firm, firm stance to protect our cops, sheriffs, and police from crimes of violence against them,” Trump said. “We will work with our police, not against our police. Our police do a great job. And they’ve never been troubled like they’re troubled now. It’s very unfair what’s happening. So we want to cherish our law enforcement. And we will always protect those who protect us.”
Also in the realm of public safety, Trump touted efforts by Defense Secretary James Mattis to defeat ISIS and his instructions to the Pentagon to rebuild the military.
“I’ve also directed the defense community, headed by a general and now — well you know, he said it. He said it,” he said. “… and now Secretary ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis to develop a plan to totally destroy ISIS. I have ordered the Department of Defense to begin plans for the great rebuilding of the United States military. We will pursue peace through strength.”
“Our military is badly depleted,” Trump continued. “You have planes in the military where the father flew them and now the son is flying it. It’s so old. We make the best equipment anywhere in the world. We’re going to start using our best and most modern equipment.”
Trump slammed his Democratic opponents in the U.S. Senate for their obstruction, especially with regard to his cabinet appointments.
“We have to tell the Democrats, because they’re doing the wrong thing for the American people, to stop their tactics of delay and obstruction and destruction,” he said. “They got to get on with it. My administration is also pushing ahead strongly with very historic tax reform. We are working to lower tax rates in the middle class, to reduce tax rates big league on businesses. And to make our tax code more fair and very simple for all Americans so it’s understandable by everyone. Senate Democrats should work with us to lower taxes and bring back our jobs. But the Democrats want to increase your taxes very, very substantially. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Watch — Rallygoers jeer media with chants of “tell the truth!”:
Before returning to Air Force One to depart on his trip back to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, FL 120 miles to the south, Trump touted the movement that led to his election win, which he described as a reaction to global elites that have “done very well for themselves at the expense of everyone else.”
“[They] have left working families with shrinking wages,” Trump said. “Really, I mean they are shrinking. Eighteen years ago many of you in this room made more money working one job than you’re making right now working two and three jobs.”
This is Trump’s third consecutive weekend in the Sunshine State, but the first appearance open to the public.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor