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Trump gives longest speech as president during CPAC convention

Updated March 2, 2019 - 11:07 pm

OXON HILL, Md. — President Donald Trump spoke for more than two hours at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference during an off-script talk on Saturday in which he mocked former Cabinet members, threw in a little profanity and signaled what his 2020 campaign will look like.

The president hit the media, Democrats including Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and progressives’ Green New Deal. Trump also aimed his barbs in-house as he mocked the economic theory of his chosen Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, lobbed criticism at his former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — “a general I had to fire”— and impersonated his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I’m in love and you’re in love. We’re all in love together,” Trump told the packed room that returned his bravado with chants of “Lock her up,” “Build the wall” and “USA, USA, USA” in the first hour.

Trump reprised his frequent criticism of the news media and engaged in full-throated challenges to socialism and political correctness.

To the glee of the conservative base, Trump skewered the Green New Deal resolutions sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

“It should be part of the dialogue of the next election,” Trump deadpanned after ridiculing the proposal as an attempt to “completely take over American energy” by taking gas-powered cars off the road and ending air travel.

Ahead of CPAC, Factcheck.org rated that claim false as the “actual resolution introduced in Congress does not include any language suggesting an ‘end to air travel’ or about building trains ‘over the oceans.’”

Roller-coaster week

As his remarks exceeded the 100-minute mark, some attendees began to drift from the room, and those who remained behind appeared more subdued than raucously enthusiastic.

Toward the end of his speech, Trump crowed, “Not one person has left” during the long stemwinder, although he anticipated the “fake news” media would report to the contrary. The Review-Journal saw some attendees leave and empty seats toward the end of Trump’s talk.

CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller — who has become a one-man keeper of presidential statistics — clocked the speech in at two hours and two minutes and noted it was Trump’s longest speech since taking office.

Trump is a skilled reader of crowds, with an uncanny ability to react to the crowd’s response, noted speech coach and public communications specialist Ruth Sherman said. But, she noted, “A two-hour speech? Come on.”

It was Trump’s third speech as president to CPAC, and it came at the end of a roller-coaster week.

On Monday morning Trump addressed the National Governors Association. Air Force One later carried Trump to Hanoi, Vietnam, for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On Tuesday, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen began the first of three days testifying before Congress. In the only open hearing Wednesday, Cohen branded Trump a “con man,” a “cheat” and a “racist.”

In Hanoi on Wednesday night, Trump and Kim held a grip-and-grin event for the cameras.

Then Thursday, a schedule that was to feature a signing ceremony for a joint agreement on denuclearization effectively was torn up. Trump instead held a news conference where he made it clear there would be no agreement.

Familiar ring

Back in the United States before the friendly CPAC crowd, Trump described his meetings with Kim as “very good” and argued that North Korea will not have a bright economic future if Kim chooses not to denuclearize.

Trump also delivered a note of profanity as he turned his ire toward special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, calling it a “witch hunt,” a concoction of “people that have lost” and “all of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with b——-.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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