NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – President Donald Trump visited Boeing’s massive passenger aircraft production facility on Friday, delivering a pro-business and pro-worker message that was long on patriotism and steered clear of the many controversies dogging his administration.
Trump, en route to Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach, Florida, home he calls the winter White House, stopped at the Boeing North Charleston to help celebrate the debut of the aerospace giant’s 787-10 Dreamliner. His brief, tightly scheduled visit lasted just about two hours and public comments, a brief 10-15 minutes. It included a private tour of the North Charleston facility conducted by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The president was accompanied aboard Air Force One on his flight to Charleston International Airport by his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, and White House Chief of State Reince Priebus.
The airport is directly adjacent to the Boeing plant.
He was greeted in North Charleston by Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife, Peggy, Rep. Mark Sanford, and Rep. Joe Wilson.
As Trump toured the facility, an estimated crowd of 5,000 waited patiently in a huge aircraft assembly room, periodically cheering the self-congratulatory Boeing videos showing on big screens at either side of the expanse and waving signs that read “South Carolina Loves President Trump.”
And then it was showtime. As Trump waited just offstage, the massive doors of the assembly building were rolled aside, with the crowd first catching a glimpse of Air Force One, and then, in the foreground, the new 787-10.
Although almost everyone in the crowd had a hand in building the aircraft, the assembled workers broke into sustained applause as the new plane came fully into view. Then, just as their cheers began to subside, Muilenburg welcomed the president and a recording of “Hail to The Chief” played.
As Trump took the stage with a wave to the crowd and a smile, a number of the reporters on hand readied themselves who what they imagined would be a repeated of the White House press conference that had occurred 24 hours earlier, when the president bounded from topic to topic and frequently crossed swords with members of the press.
But fiery Donald Trump was nowhere in evidence Friday, and his only parenthetical thought came early, when he recalled how well he did in the South Carolina primary last year.
“We came down here and they said it was going to be tough, and we won in a landslide,” he said.
In fact, Trump did enjoy a commanding victory in South Carolina, garnering 32 percent of the vote, but besting his nearest opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, by some 10 percentage points.
He also triumphed in South Carolina in the fall, taking 54.9 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 40.7 percent and Independent Gary Johnson’s 2.3 percent.
However, Trump didn’t linger on the past, quickly turning his attention to the 787-10.
“It’s an amazing piece of art,” he said. “An amazing piece of work.”
With that, he was onto to his main theme, which he described as a celebration of engineering and manufacturing and jobs.
“As president, I will do everything I can to unleash the power of the American spirit and put our great people back to work,” he said, describing his driving philosophy as “buy American and hire American.”
“We want products made in America by American hands,” Trump said. “My focus is all about jobs. We’re going to fight or every last American job.”
Throughout his speech, the president was noticeably more relaxed that he’s appeared since his inauguration, and even all the way back to the primary campaign.
“We want to make it much easier to manufacture in America and much harder to leave America,” he said.
“It’s going to be a lot different,” he added, touting tax cuts for businesses and the middle class, a rolling back of “job-crushing” regulations, and a tougher line on trade..
“We are going to enforce very strongly our trade rules and stop foreign cheating,” Trump said. “And believe me, there’s a lot of cheating.”
“We going to create a level playing field for our workers because when we have a level playing field, our workers always win,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have a level playing field, but we will. Because when American workers win, America as a country wins.”
“To me it’s all about those four magnificent words, ‘Made in the USA,” the president said.
With that, Trump moved away from the microphone and “Stars and Stripes Forever” blared from a bank of speakers.
Trump the walked with Boeing officials and Gov. McMaster to the new Dreamliner and made his way up the stars for a closer look at the passenger jet. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner followed shortly thereafter, and moments later the president could be seen in the cockpit, sitting in the pilot seat.
Ten minutes later he appeared at the top of the steps of the plane and waved one last time to those still in attendance, eliciting another loud cheer. Ivanka Trump blew kisses to the crowd.
Trump took no questions from reporters as he departed for Air Force One, but did speak to one employee who asked about Boeing’s supplying him with the next generation Air Force One.
In December, Trump blasted Boeing in a Tweet, saying the coast of the new plane was too high.
Despite the obvious show of affection between Trump and company officials Friday, he was heard to say, “the price is too high, but we’re negotiating.”