With the day’s first cup of coffee in my hand, and about to take a swim, I passed by a big-screen television at the Hilton in Rohnert Park in Sonoma County, a hotel chosen simply because we were on a road trip and the end of the day was approaching.
The hotel balanced its politics with one screen on FOX and another of equal of size on the other side of the lobby tuned to CNN, both on silent with subtitles.
I happened to walk by the FOX screen and saw our ever-present president delivering his two-hour CPAC stemwinder. I paused.
And then I was hooked. I stood there for almost an hour, coffee in hand and towel over shoulder, reading the subtitles and watching the bob and weave of the speaker.
The address was pure entertainment, with Trump frequently riffing to a story, a cut, or a defense. Based on his trade policies, he called his party the party of “the working man.”
He drew a picture that was on the one hand fantastical and on the other comforting. He explained his tariff policy in simple terms saying India put a 100 percent tariff on motorcycles from the U.S. and we imposed none on motorcycles from India.
Regardless of whether the statement was true or exaggerated, it was simply and clearly conveyed. The idea was that it was about time someone righted the imbalance.
He defended the failure of talks with North Korea, saying that the deal simply was not acceptable, but at the same time going on about his friendship with his opposite number.
The speech capped a week that had been characterized in the general news commentary as a nadir for Trump, perhaps the lowest point in his presidency, damaged by the twin disasters of congressional testimony from his former lawyer and the collapse of negotiations in Vietnam.
That was all gone. It was like water off the proverbial duck’s back. He attacked his old lawyer, defended the walk-away in Vietnam and moved on to favorite topics, such as the danger from immigrants, the perfidy of the press, the socialistic trend in the Democrats.
He bragged on his appointments of federal judges, drew a fairy tale picture of private health care for all, and welcomed the Green New Deal as a tailor-made-for-Trump proposal, that he could attack from here to kingdom come.
But the most memorable riff for me, that I retold to the editors here at Courthouse News, was his attack on the senator from Hawaii. It was vintage Trump, unreformed, never to be reformed Trump. He said if I remember right, “She’s not too smart.”
Because she was in favor of the green deal and the green deal is against airplanes, as he told it. “So how’s she gonna get home?”
I even chuckled, despite the fact that I think the Democratic leadership’s reluctance to engage on environmental issues is a kind of cowardice. By then I had stood in the lobby for nearly an hour and it was time to take my swim in the hotel’s huge, outdoor pool.
But that night, in the room, I found CPAC’s site online, put in my earphones and listened to the second hour, with a glass of wine. The man is a gifted entertainer, in my view, and I was well entertained throughout the rest of the speech.
I thought the press reaction was noteworthy – because there wasn’t any. I found virtually no coverage of the speech which clearly mapped his strategy for the 2020 race. However, references to it kept dribbling out in the following week’s news, in papers and on TV.
I came away from the two-hour tour de force thinking that Trump is the clear Republican candidate for 2020, and just like last time, he is being underestimated. The Democrats who are madly rushing to get into the race, it seems, think he will be easy to knock off.
But they got another thing comin’.