By Philip Wegman for RealClearWire
Put them back in the White House, and Donald Trump promises global peace and domestic harmony. Deny him a second term, and the United States will become a “failed country,” a “nation no one recognizes — a lawless, open-borders, crime-ridden, dirty communist nightmare.”
That’s the choice the former president made to an adoring audience at a conservative political action conference a few miles outside the nation’s capital in suburban Maryland. As he spoke, many excited MAGA loyalists prepared to carry him across the Potomac and reinstate him in the Oval Office.
Trump is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and perhaps for the first time, he will have to defend his record from the right, not the left. He did not mention any of his GOP rivals by name, some of whom have served in his own cabinet and had taken the same podium earlier in the day. Instead, he called in the old guard and promised, “We will never go back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.”
The main difference between Trump and past Republican leaders? “I’m the only president in modern history who has had no new wars. No new wars,” he said of his presidency before qualifying, though, adding, he “finished some old ones.”
The land war in Europe provided Trump with an opportunity to talk foreign policy at length. In his remarks on Saturday night, he said the world was on the brink of World War III, a conflict he could have “very easily” prevented. Trump told the crowd that the war in Ukraine could be escalated “very quickly.”
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In an impromptu press conference before taking the stage, Trump told reporters he had a plan to end that war “within 24 hours.” He wouldn’t give any details, he explained, “because if I told you, I wouldn’t be able to do it.” Of course, Russian tanks wouldn’t be rolling across Ukraine if he had stayed in the White House.
“I’m the only president during my term that Russia didn’t take over. Russia didn’t take over because I got along well with Vladimir Putin,” he said of the Russian leader. “I say don’t do it, Vladimir. You know, you and I are friends, don’t take over any country because you know Moscow will get hit hard.
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Trump returned to his regular complaint that Europe is taking the United States for a ride. “If you look at Ukraine and we all feel so bad about it,” he said, “why isn’t NATO putting dollar for dollar with us?” He complained that Europe was contributing “a tiny fraction” of the critical war materiel needed to sustain Ukraine. Pointing to a map, he continued that while he wants to see Ukraine succeed, “it’s more important to them than to us because of the location.”
A few hours earlier Trump had won the CPAC straw poll with 62% of the vote, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a distant second with 20%. The result was expected. He won the previous five straw votes, and the popular convention served as more of an unofficial coronation than an actual cattle call. With the exception of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, most potential 2024 candidates have stayed away. That includes former Vice President Pence, who declined an invitation, and DeSantis, who traveled this weekend to a donor retreat hosted by the conservative Club for Growth.
Trump did not mention a rival, though he told reporters before the event that Pence had the right to overturn the presidential election and during the speech, “The Republican Party will never be controlled by people who want to destroy our great Social Security.” system.” Earlier in the week, Trump accused DeSantis of being a “wheelchair-on-the-rock kind of guy.” Understandably, Trump welcomes a larger constituency, telling reporters “much, much more.”
The Republican primary season promises to be a battle royale with multiple candidates vying for the nomination. If half as many candidates run in 2024 as they did in 2016, it could quickly devolve into the name-calling, substance-free chaos that defined the last contest. Former presidents can deliver their own mayhem.
Trump announced that even the impeachment would not end his candidacy, despite being investigated by prosecutors investigating his efforts to overturn the results of the last presidential election in Georgia and by the US Department of Justice. “I don’t think about leaving,” he told Newsmax’s James Rosen, “maybe, it will increase my numbers.”
Trump returned to his claim on stage that he had won the 2020 election and he denounced the investigations as politically motivated, telling the audience “they want to kill you for doing nothing wrong” but complaining that “Joe Biden is a criminal and nothing”. It seems as if it ever happened to him. He said the idea that Democrats want a rematch is “bullshit” because that’s why his opponents would launch those investigations.
He has many enemies and Trump told the crowd as much. “In 2016, I declared ‘I am your voice’,” he said. “Today, I add, I am your warrior, I am your justice, and for the wronged and betrayed, I am your revenge.”
Revenge does not stand in the way of setting things right at home. Trump promised to fix public education in the short term with “universal school choice and direct election of principals by parents.” “I want a baby boom!” Announcing that, he called for new child tax credits. Crime rates will fall, business will rebound and there will be “a quantum leap in America’s standard of living,” Trump claimed, “especially for our young people.”
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Trump took the opportunity to unveil two new policies. First, he said, “the federal government should take control and management of Washington, DC.” Second, he called for “new freedom cities to be built on the border to give countless Americans a new shot at home ownership and the American dream.”
The former president seemed to be enjoying being back in the limelight. His speech lasted for more than an hour and a half. He took the opportunity to take another victory lap, recalling how “wonderful” things once were when he was in power and how “great” things could be again if he won. But while competition exists, the dichotomy presented by Trump was stark.
“We have no choice. If we don’t do this, our country will be lost forever,” he said, echoing a similar statement he delivered three years ago. People are tired of RINOs and globalists. He wants to see America first. He continued, “This is the final battle. They know, and so do I. You know, everyone knows. This is this. Either they win or we win, and if they win, we no longer have a country.
Put him back in the White House and everything will be fine, Trump said. Loss, he insists, is the loss of everything forever.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.