NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — It’s nearing lunchtime at CPAC, and thousands of attendees crammed into the main hall are hungry. They’ve been waiting since morning for a juicy, Trump-branded steak worthy of conservative talking points. The President didn’t disappoint them.
Through a meandering, hour-plus-long speech. Trump played his greatest hits to a fawning crowd on Saturday. He talked trade deals and tariffs. He promised that he’d finish building the wall. He lauded his tax cuts and mocked the Green New Deal. The CPAC crowd lapped it up with aplomb.
For his endless laundry list of faults, accusations and lies it’s impossible to deny that Trump is an extremely effective public speaker. He sprinkles his speech with enough Joe six-pack speech and tongue-in-cheek humor to keep the audience wrapped around his finger, as if they were at one of Trump’s WWE shows and not at a serious conference on conservative values.
“You know I’m totally off script right now, and this is how I got elected — by being off script,” Trump declared. “If we don’t go off script our country’s in big trouble and when I look at what’s happening on other side, I encourage it.
“The Green New Deal — I encourage it I think it’s really something that they should promote and work hard on,” Trump said, trying his best to accentuate his New York wiseguy tone. “No planes, no energy. When the wind stops blowing that’s the end of your electricity — ‘Darling is the wind blowing today? That’s the end of your television.'”
In response to the latest developments about alleged Russian collusion — and the soon-to-be finalized report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — Trump was aggrieved at the prospect of waiting for a report by unelected officials.
“We had greatest election, this was greater then election of Andrew Jackson, this was equivalent of Ronald Reagan,” Trump said. “Now we have people who lost you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and all of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit.”
Trump went on to criticize former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, describing him as “weak and ineffective” in a mock southern accent. Former FBI director James Comey was criticized for doing a “horrible job” for the FBI and John Podesta was sarcastically described as “the great genius of campaigns.”
The speech meandered on and on, including a digression about how trees were causing forest fires, a tangent about a general named “Raisin Kane” in Iraq, a promise to continue building the wall, and a compliment to the CPAC audience for its real estate acumen.
There was no over-riding point to the speech. No particular policy the President wanted to highlight, apart from the standard anti-socialist fear-mongering that literally every other speaker at CPAC had already gone over.
That didn’t matter to the crowd, however. The audience was there for political entertainment, and Trump delivered, judging by the endless whoops and constant chants of “USA! USA! USA!”