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Trump Delivers a ‘Bizarro World’ Re-Election Speech

Trump Delivers a ‘Bizarro World’ Re-Election Speech

Evan Vucci/AP Photo 2020 Trump Delivers a 'Bizarro World' Re-Election Speech The president offered a weirdly unchanged reprise of his 2016 themes—except now Americans have a lot more information about the man making the promises. By JEFF GREENFIELD June 18, 2019 Jeff Greenfield is a five-time Emmy-winning network television analyst and author. Share on Facebook…


Donald Trump

Evan Vucci/AP Photo

2020

Trump Delivers a ‘Bizarro World’ Re-Election Speech

The president offered a weirdly unchanged reprise of his 2016 themes—except now Americans have a lot more information about the man making the promises.

Jeff Greenfield is a five-time Emmy-winning network television analyst and author.

It was possible to see a measured, thoughtful appeal for re-election Tuesday night from a Republican president—a man who talked of being “grateful and proud for what we have accomplished.” He never mentioned his political opponent, nor the Democratic Party, choosing instead to highlight Washington’s failures and the improving economy. “America is back,” he said. “and standing tall…we have made a new beginning.”

To see that speech, though, you’d have to have watched Ronald Reagan’s Oval Office speech from 1984. If you were watching President Donald Trump at his Orlando rally, held to “announce” a candidacy that had been official from the day he took office, you saw something very different—and utterly predictable.

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The President’s strongest case for re-election is the current state of the economy. And he stayed resolutely on message for perhaps a minute and a half, until he returned to a theme he far prefers—his 2016 election victory, which he called “a defining moment in American history”—and then pointed to the rear of the hall where the media were stationed, and said: “Ask them—right there! By the way, that’s alotof fake news right there.”

And we were off.

“CNN sucks!” the crowd chanted, as the President took any Americans willing to watch another Trump rally through the familiar themes of the Mueller Report, the Witch Hunt, “no collusion-no obstruction,” Hillary Clinton’s emails, the $40 million, the 2,800 subpoenas, Obama’s failure to stop the Russian interference with the election, and the Democrats who “want to destroy you and they want to destroy this country as we know it.”

This evening was billed as something new, the start of Trump’s 2020 campaign. So is there anything to take away from this latest rendition of Trump’s greatest hits? The answer is maybe: If you scrape away the paranoid rants, you can find a few shards of what the campaign operatives and speechwriters had in mind. And that is a doubling down on the populist-conspiratorial themes that were a key to his 2016 win. Wherever Steve Bannon is this week, his spirit is clearly animating the premises of Trump’s bid for four more years.

The speech was filled with claims that Trump had gone after the lobbyists, the elites: “They tried to take away your voice, your destiny, but we won’t let them do it. We’re draining the swamp, and that’s why the swamp is fitting back so viciously and so violently.” His political opponents, he said, “would strip Americans of their constitutional rights, while flooding the country with illegal immigrants.” This attempt to overturn his election, it turns out, is the sole motive behind the Mueller Report and the Fake Witch Hunt.

“The only collusion was committed by the Democrats and the fake news media and their operatives.” And they did this, Trump is arguing, because they want to stop him from ending their nefarious rule of privilege.

It barely serves a purpose any more, other than indulging in a quaint affection for reality, to note that this view of the Trump Administration is like those old Bizarro World line of Superman stories. The Trump Administration, as report after report makes clear, amounts to the takeover of much domestic policy by precisely those entrenched interests Trump rhetorically assails; everything from his health-care proposals to his tax policies to his tariffs are daggers aimed squarely at the least well-off?

For Trump’s campaign, the themes of his 2016 acceptance speech and his 2017 Inaugural will be the themes for the next year and a half:I came to Washington to fight “them”—the shadowy international bankers, the foreigners who play us for suckers with trade deals and pour over our borders with their drugs and diseases, and the corrupt, treasonous media who do their bidding.

And if you were looking for a single grace note, a single appeal to the better angels of our nature, a single note of humility, a single note of simple ordinary decency….well, just go to YouTube and spend a few minutes with Ronald Reagan.

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