Trump’s Rambling CPAC Speech Should Alarm All of Us
By Eugene Robinson
WASHINGTON -- The president of the United States gave a rambling and incoherent two-hour speech in which he raved like a lunatic and told crazy, self-serving lies from start to finish. If that no longer qualifies as alarming, we’re in serious trouble.
I realize the speed-of-light news cycle has moved on. I realize anything that happened last week has all but faded into the mists of time. But President Trump’s unhinged performance Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference is surely worth more than a passing shrug. If you had an uncle or a grandpa who sounded so divorced from reality, you’d be urgently concerned.
“You know I’m totally off script right now,” he said. “And this is how I got elected, by being off script. True. And if we don’t go off script, our country is in big trouble, folks. Because we have to get it back.”
There was nothing, anything like a script.
He tried to talk about the Democratic Party’s proposed Green New Deal: “When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric. Let’s hurry up. ‘Darling -- Darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.’ No, but it’s true.”
Not even remotely true, but he was just getting started.
He raged about the special counsel’s investigation: “Now, Robert Mueller never received a vote, and neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general says, ‘I’m going to recuse myself. I’m going to recuse.’ And I said, why the hell didn’t he tell me that before I put him in? How do you recuse yourself?”
Um, by following the rules. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself because he was potentially a witness in the investigation, or even a subject. He had no choice.
Trump imagined what the organizer of the CPAC conference, Matt Schlapp, might be thinking right then: ”‘This is a lot more than we paid for.’ You know, normally you read a few pages and you say, ‘Bye, folks.’ But you know what I like about this? Number one, I’m in love, and you’re in love. We’re all in love together.”
Love is indeed a wonderful thing.
Two full years into his term, the president talked obsessively about the crowds at his inauguration: “And they showed -- they showed from the White House all the way down. ... There were people. Nobody has ever seen it. The Capitol down to the Washington Monument -- people. But I saw pictures that there were no people. Those pictures were taken hours before.”
Trump’s crowd was big. President Obama’s was bigger. Someday, perhaps, he will get over it.
“They had to walk with high heels, in many cases. They had to walk all the way down to the Washington Monument and then back. And I looked, and I made a speech, and I said, before I got on -- I said to the people that were sitting next to me, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
Not over it yet.
Trump talked about an encounter with an old friend, New York developer Richard LeFrak: “Richard came up (to Melania); he said, ‘I’ve known your husband for 65 years.’ I said, ‘Don’t say that.’ I say, ‘Say 25, 30. Don’t say 65 years.’ But I said, ‘Richard -- Richard, call me Donald, like you always do. Call me Don.’ ‘OK. OK, Don. OK.’ He gets his breath. Uh-huh. Two minutes later -- ’Mr. President ... ’That’s called respect for the office, right? Maybe that’s a good thing, right? Many -- many of my friends. And that wasn’t in the script either.”
One hopes not.
He talked about the hardship of the government shutdown: “I spent my New Year’s all by myself. ... It was me and about 500 men and women outside with machine guns. I never saw so many beautiful-looking machine guns. I’d look at that equipment and I’d say, ’Man ... ’They sit in the trees. They sit on the lawn.”
He talked about his quick trip to Iraq: “General one, general two, general three. I mean, these generals -- there’s no person in Hollywood that could play the role. These guys are like perfect people. I said, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Sir, my name is Raisin.’ What the hell kind of a name? I said, ‘Raisin, like the fruit?’ He goes, ‘Yes, sir, Raisin.’ ‘What’s your last name?’ ‘Caine.’ Raisin Caine. I said, ‘You got to be kidding me.’”
That is what sticks with Trump from his visit to a war zone.
“I’m going to regret this speech,” he said. The rest of us certainly do.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .