President Donald Trump was enthusiastically welcomed to CPAC by a capacity crowd Friday morning. Trump’s appearance marks the fourth time a sitting president has addressed the conference. Like Ronald Reagan, President Trump has a long history of CPAC appearances.
Trump famously dropped out of the high-profile gathering last year due to a format dispute, opting to campaign instead. The conservative crowd, who has had a lukewarm relationship with Trump in the past, seemingly made amends with the former reality star turned politician. A standing-room only crowd cheered and celebrated as President Trump took the stage. The electrified crowd roared as Trump delivered a wide-ranging speech in which he took aim at the media, illegal immigration, ISIS, and Obamacare.
Trump began by asking the large crowd to sit. When they refused, opting to continue cheering the President, he joked that the “dishonest media” would probably report that he didn’t receive a standing ovation because of their refusal to take a seat. President Trump continued to berate the “very fake news” media while giving compliments to most of the media that correctly reports the facts. "They're very dishonest people," he added. "In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people. The fake news. They dropped off the word 'fake.' And all of a sudden, the story became the media is the enemy. They take the word 'fake' out. And now I'm saying, 'Oh, no, this is no good.' But that's the way they are. So I'm not against the media, I'm not against the press. I don't mind bad stories if I deserve them. And I tell ya, I love good stories."
Just as Vice President Pence did the evening before, Trump took a victory lap dedicating his win to the American people and “conservative values.” He declared, “our victory was a win for everybody who believes it’s time to stand up for America, the American worker, and the American flag.” Trump continued, “You finally have a president. It took you a long time. It’s Patriots like you that made it happen.” The populist message was well-received by the thousands in attendance. Trump referred to his supporters as “the forgotten men and women of America.” He continued, “That is the heart of this new movement and the future of the Republican Party. These are hardworking, great, great Americans. These are unbelievable people who have not been treated fairly. Hillary called them deplorable. They’re not deplorable.”
Trump has pushed the envelope of the conservative movement as they embraced his “America first” nationalism and dissident views on trade. Characteristically out of step with the GOP establishment wing, Trump promised fair trade deals in the future and reminded that he kept his promise by pulling the plug on the notorious TPP deal.
Trump then turned his focus on to the hot topic of immigration. He pledged “bad people” are leaving the country and “they are never coming back in.” “All I’ve done is keep my promise,” the President stated in regards to deporting criminal illegals. The raucous crowd was elated when Trump declared, “the wall is going to begin way ahead of schedule.” Trump guaranteed, “the security of our people is number one. We are going to save countless American lives.”
Trump declared the Affordable Care Act an “absolute and total catastrophe” and “not the right thing” for the American people. “We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare,” exclaimed President Trump, “We are going to give Americans the health care they deserve.”
The President continued to tick off a list of promises including pledges to rebuild the military, “totally obliterate Isis,” and to stimulate the economy by creating jobs and implementing sweeping tax reform to a boisterous crowd. “I am cautiously optimistic,” stated Ted Cruz supporter, Joanna Francis, “I was a “Never Trumper,” but, now I have a bit of hope. He may convert me.”
Trump’s speech marked the fifth time he has spoken at CPAC. His first appearance, in 2011, which was viewed as a curiosity at the time, offered clues to his political aspirations. Last year, Donald Trump was largely unsupported in his bid for President, where conservative icon, Ted Cruz handily won the annual “Straw Poll.” What a difference one year makes!
Watch President Trump’s speech here and join Lantern’s tomorrow for the final day of CPAC.