ORLANDO, Florida – President Donald J. Trump was in full-fighting form, less than two years before the 2024 Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary as he whipped up a packed-out crowd into a frenzy at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference.
“The socialists, globalists, Marxists, and communists who are attacking our civilization have no idea of the sleeping giant they have awoken,” said the 45th president to the more than 5,000 conservatives at 95,000-square foot Gatlin Ballroom in Orlando’s Rosen Shingle Creek resort.
“They cannot even begin to imagine the brave and righteous spirit they have unleashed in men and women like all of you, but they are going to find out the hard way, starting on Nov. 8 — and then again, even more so, in November 2024, they’ll find out like never before,” he said. “We did it twice, and we’ll do it a third time!”
In fact, the president of the American Conservative Union and host of the CPAC, Matthew A. “Matt” Schlapp told radio host John “The Godzilla of Truth” Fredericks on Friday that Trump demanded a larger venue than last year’s conference.
In addition to the conservatives, more than two dozen television crews fixated on Trump and another 100 accredited journalists on site to cover a man who seems very far from retirement.
Barely a year after leaving the White House, Trump has a hold on the conservative wing of the Republican Party that would have been inconceivable for other one-term presidents such as Gerald R. Ford or George H.W. Bush during their return to private life.
Moments before the president spoke, Representative Matthew L. Gaetz II (R.-Fla.) told The Star News Network: “I told President Trump, the only way I was running for reelection was if he promised that he was running again, too, and I’m running, and I’m running to win.”
Before Trump walked out, there were familiar songs from his jukebox: Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” The Village People’s “Macho Man,” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” With each song, the anticipation in the room built until he was finally announced, walking out to Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be an American.”
When the song ended, the president took the microphone but waited for the chants of “USA! USA! USA!” to subside.
“It’s great to be back where it all started, with the great patriots of CPAC,” the 45th president said.
Then, channeling the State of the Union speech he would have been giving as he entered the sixth year of his presidency, he pronounced the state of the America First movement strong.
“Standing before you, today, I am thrilled to report that our incredible movement — a movement that nobody’s ever seen anything quite like … there has never been anything like it before — is stronger and growing,” he said. “Growing stronger every single day.”
Then, he took a shot at the Leftists now in power.
“The radical Left is exposed,” said the man clearly the frontrunner of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination.
“They’re weak, and their pathetic policies have been out there long enough now that we don’t want ’em, we’ll never take ’em,” Trump said. “We’re bringing our country back, and we’re bringing back our freedom.”
Trump did not shy away from naming his 2020 opponent, President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and ranking him among his predecessors.
“You could take the five worst presidents in American history and put them together, and they would not have done the damage that Joe Biden and his administration has done,” he said.
The president said he wanted Biden to succeed for the good of the country.
“Now, Joe Biden is seen as weak — and I hate to say it because I really want him to do a great job,” he said. “I really want it — politically, I don’t care, I would much rather have him do a great job, but nobody could ever believe how bad and weak and grossly incompetent it has been.”
Trump: ‘We are all praying for the proud people of Ukraine’
Trump said Biden’s weakness led to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which he described as a terrible tragedy. “This is an assault on humanity. We are all praying for the proud people of Ukraine. God bless them all.”
When Putin saw how Biden handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he knew he could play Biden.
Trump said he had a relationship with Putin that would have worked to stop the invasion. “With respect to what’s going on now, it would have been so easy to stop this travesty from happening. He understood me, and he understood I didn’t play games.”
Although he was hit by the media when he said it first, the president repeated that he thought Putin was smart. “The problem is not that Putin’s smart because, of course, he’s smart, but the problem is that our leaders are dumb.”
When Biden warned Putin he would be hit with sanctions; the Russian president laughed it off because he has been hit with sanctions for the last 25 years, he said.
Trump stands with Canadian truckers
Trump also weighed in to support the truckers in Canada, whose protest in Ottawa was brutally put down by the Royal Canadian Mounties and local law enforcement.
“We stand with the truckers and with the Canadian people,” he said.
“The tyranny we have witnessed in Canada in recent weeks should shock and dismay people all over the world,” he said.
Truckers, workers and their families and supporters were peacefully protesting, and their basic rights and liberties were put down, he said.
In his defense of the truckers, you also heard the echo of how Democrats and their allies in the media and federal law enforcement treat the Jan. 6 protesters.
“They have been slandered as Nazis, racists and terrorists … they’ve been arrested and charged with phony crimes. They’ve been falsely accused of loyalty to foreign powers,” he said.
“They are being hunted down like enemies of their own government and treated worse than drug dealers and murderers or rapists,” he said.
“A line has been crossed,” Trump said. “You’re either with the peaceful trucker, or you are with the left-wing fascists.”
Trump praises GOP governors’ COVID-19 policies, does not mention no-show DeSantis
Trump denounced the tyranny behind the continuation of the COVID-19 mitigation regime, especially the harm the regime has inflicted on children.
“The people who are masking our children may plan to lift those mandates right before the election – but we will never forget what they did to our children, and we will hold them accountable at the ballot box this November,” he said.
“Right here in our own nation, it is also far past time to declare independence from every last COVID mandate. With one voice, Americans must insist that the emergency is over, and we will submit to this left-wing tyranny no longer.”
Trump also touted his own exercise in federalism when he decentralized command and control of COVID-19 policies to the governors.
By far and away, the Republican governors surpassed the Democratic governors in their handling of the pandemic, he said.
What he did not say is the name of the most prominent Republican governor, the man who bucked the recommendations of the federal agencies by opening up his state and banning mask and vaccine mandates: Florida Governor Ronald D. DeSantis.
While DeSantis has steadfastly refused to rule out his own 2024 run for president, whether Trump is in the race or not, members of his camp consistently back-brief reporters about the governor’s independence from the president and where their interests diverge.
This rift began in September 2019, after DeSantis cut ties with Susan Wiles, the consultant who led Trump’s 2016 and 2020 Florida wins, and who took over DeSantis’ stumbling 2018 campaign for governor at Trump’s insistence. Despite her successful 2018 campaign, Wiles clashed with members of the governor’s inner circle by no longer standing with him, and was shown the door.
When DeSantis spoke to CPAC Thursday, he called Florida a citadel of freedom. “We refused to let this state descend into some kind of Faucian dystopia where people’s freedoms are curtailed, and their livelihoods are destroyed.”
DeSantis did not namecheck Trump, nor did the Florida governor attend the president’s speech, as did Senator Richard L. Scott (R.-Fla.), the man DeSantis succeeded but with whom he does not enjoy a warm relationship.
Case in point, when DeSantis was inaugurated governor, Scott stayed for the swearing-in but left before the new governor gave his speech.
Trump: We cannot get our country back until we have an honest media
The president’s speech began at 7:10 p.m., and he spoke for 90 minutes, often interrupted with chants of “Let’s go, Brandon!” or “Four more years!”
Trump also touched on election integrity both in 202o and in the future, the need to break up the social media giants, and why it is important to have a fair media.
As he began his speech, he gestured to the bleacher stand in the back of the ballroom stacked with TV cameras and the rows and rows of reporters at tables, also standing and sitting against the walls. “There’s a lot of fake news – look at all the cameras.”
Later, the president lamented that the mainstream media failed to cover the Biden family’s overseas business dealings in Ukraine and China, and that even in the Sept. 30 presidential debate, the moderator Chris Wallace turned the discussion away from those scandals.
“There’s plenty of conflicts there, and the fake news did not want to cover it,” Trump said.
The fake news media downplayed the $1.5 million R. Hunter Biden received from the Chinese to manage for them, and they would not cover the contents of the president’s son’s laptop, because they knew their coverage would help him and hurt Biden, Trump said.
In a functioning democracy, the press holds everyone accountable fairly and evenly, he said.
“We can never really get out country back until we get an honest media, because they’re like the policing agent.”
Watch the full speech here:
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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network based in Washington. He is an Army Reserve public affairs NCO and an Iraq War veteran. Send him news tips: [email protected] Follow him on TruthSocial & GETTR: @ReporterMcCabe.