This past Saturday, President Trump made yet another visit to the Values Voters’ Summit, an annual conservative (Christian) convention help in DC by Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council (Perkins is the Christian leader who said Donald Trump deserved a “mulligan” over his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels and general loutish behavior. The FRC, meanwhile, is pretty staunchly against homosexuality, abortion and most of the stuff you assume they’d be against).
As is often the case around a friendly crowd, Trump gave a speech that was, well, it was something to listen to. The sheer breadth of topics, boasts, and asides that Donald Trump can fit into one address is impressive, if sometimes hard to follow. But if you’ve been following this website from the beginning, you know that I like to annotate transcripts of interesting (read: ridiculous) remarks, especially those made by or about President Trump.
This time, it’s not Kanye talking about the President, but President Trump himself. I’m not masochistic enough to try to annotate the whole thing (though I was tempted to), so instead I’ll highlight the five most important things Trump said, and what they mean for him, the country, and the world (and then, just for fun, the five most ridiculous, over the top moments). Thank you C-SPAN for posting the transcript of the event. Here we go:
“You are the warriors on the frontiers defending American freedom. We meet tonight at a crucial moment in our nation’s history. Our shared values are under assault like never before. Extreme left-wing radicals, both inside and outside government are determined to shred our constitution and eradicate the beliefs we all cherish. Far-left socialists are trying to tear down the traditions and customs that made America the greatest nation on earth. They reject the principles of our founding fathers, principles enshrined into the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that our rights come from our Creator.”
This is the thesis of Trump’s argument to his Evangelical supporters: a radical, “socialist” left is looking to attack Christians in defiance of the constitution. Trump clearly has in mind politicians ranging from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders (the “socialists”) to Beto O’Rourke, who has boldly (but perhaps unwisely) pledged both “hell, yes, we’re going to take away your AR-15, your AK-47” and to revoke the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. Trump is framing these ideas as not only attacks on the First and Second Amendments (Trump has a point about the First Amendment, less about the Second), but as persecution against conservative Christians and their values.
- “And when you hear Schiff – ‘We won’t give you that money unless you do this.’ It had nothing to do – it wasn’t even discussed. It was a terrible, terrible fraudulent thing. And then Nancy Pelosi went on television. She was very angry when she read the actual call, because this was an exact – I guess stenographers, they took it down. And she was very angry because she got led – she was a day early when she started talking about impeachment. But that did not matter to her. “Let’s do it anyway.” ….Not a good person. I think she hates our country. Because if she didn’t hate our country, she wouldn’t be doing this to our country. ”
Trump continues to paint the impeachment proceedings as an unfair “witch-hunt” while personally attacking the characters of key Democrats like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi. Trump has particularly honed in on Schiff’s paraphrase of the phone call with Ukrainian President (and former president on TV) Volodymyr Zelensky. According to Trump, Schiff was trying to mislead the American people into thinking his mocking rendition of the Trump phone call was an actual recounting of the text. In making his case about Schiff, Trump has, in CNN’s excellent phrasing, to “rewrite reality on his Ukraine controversy” by misrepresenting the timing of key events and making up reactions from people like Pelosi that never happened. He later threatens to sue Pelosi and Schiff even while acknowledging that his lawyers have already told him that he can’t.
“We had a general come to my office, respected general…he said ‘sir, we have no ammunition.’ I said, you know what? We are going to have ammunition, a lot of it, and hopefully we are never going to have to use it, but we have a lot of it.”
Trump has been telling this story for the past week or so, with the details getting more extreme over time. One small detail that he leave out about this tale: it never happened. The US did not run out of ammunition, or get close to doing so. Which means that either some general completely lied to Trump or, much more likely, this conversation is simply made up.
Also, the “we are going to have…a lot of it, and hopefully we are never have to use it” is not just a general aversion to using military force (which would be a good thing) but, intentionally or not, a pretty accurate depiction of Trump’s approach to flexing the military but being extremely hesitant to use force anywhere.
“And the hardest thing I have to do as President, the single hardest thing by far is sending letters to the families of our fallen heroes. It is the worst – they come in with letters, three, four, five – and sometimes, I will call the parents. Hardest thing I have to do.”
This was the most somber portion of the speech. What follows is an extended anecdote about greeting families of fallen soldiers as their coffins arrive home. The story is all set up for his justification for pulling American troops out of northern Syria and leaving our erstwhile allies, the Syrian Kurds, to be attacked by Turkey:
5.” And I said, “Well, wait a minute. We just spent $4 trillion on Iraq. Now, we’re going to fight with the Kurds against Iraq? I’m not going to do it.” This was in a different part of Syria – totally different. They said, “Well, the Kurds are going to fight, and they’re going to fight. It’s going to be a horrible war.” “Well,” I said, “so we just spent $4 trillion fighting with Iraq,” which, by the way, was the single worst mistake this country has ever made, going into the Middle East. Okay?”
“But I said, “We’re going to stand by. We’re not going to choose sides. They’ll have to go at it. Let’s see what happens.” The Kurds left. They left. And there was very little combat. And it was a great decision. We could have stayed and fought – fight the people that we’d been fighting for, whether right or wrong. And we left, and we watched, and nothing happened.”
“So let’s see what happens. And it’s a long ways away. We killed ISIS. We defeated – we did our job. We have to go home. We did our job.”
“We’ve paid a lot of money to the Kurds over the years. And don’t forget, they’re fighting for their land. They haven’t helped us fighting for our land. They’re fighting for their land and that’s good, but we’ve helped them.”
“This week, I directed $50 million to support Christians and other religious minorities in Syria.”
And here, scattershot, is the President attempting to defend the rather heinous decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies to be mowed down by the Turkish military as a favor to Turkey’s autocratic president. Trump paints a picture of the US being stuck in “never ending wars” in the Middle East, spending trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.
He also tries to give a “mission accomplished” style message that the US has done enough, including defeating ISIS (a defeat that, he doesn’t say, is being completely undone as a result of the withdrawal) and arming the Kurds. He distances himself from our Kurdish allies (he likes to drop allies when they’re inconvenient) by arguing that their fighting for their own land, not for US interests (in reality, it’s been both – the Kurds have been able to establish their own autonomous region, which is now being overrun by Turkey and ceded to Syria, but they have also sacrificed immensely to defeat and detain ISIS), but painting it Trump’s way significantly dismisses their help to the US and its interests, including protecting Christian minorities (the people that the Values Voters Summit attendees are most concerned with in the Middle East). That latter part is why he threw in a line about allocating aid to the Christians in Syria – those are the people he can’t afford to throw under the bus (or at least has to pretend that he hasn’t done that by destroying their best protection).
As you can tell, I am not a fan of the Syria decision, but I’ll save the rest of that for another day. Meanwhile, to lighten the mood a bit, here, without context, are five six (there were just so many to choose from) of the most ridiculous lines from last Saturday:
“I said a couple of them looked better than Tom Cruise. They are just tougher and taller. Better than Tom Cruise.”
“The “Beatles” – you know the Beatles? They’re the ones with the chopped off heads?”
“Crooked Hillary……wants to rip the babies out of the womb”
“Man, he did good with the women. He did good with the women.”
“It’s like the electric chair, ok? Bring back the electric chair, they say.”
“We’re building the Rolls Royce of Walls….who know about anti-climb provision?”