The president rambled for more than two hours from the stage at the annual gathering of conservatives. One topic he avoided: Michael Cohen’s explosive testimony against him.
President Donald Trump has had a fiasco of a week. His former lawyer called him “a racist,” “a conman,” and “a cheat” in explosive testimony before Congress. Trump walked away empty-handed from a bizarre summit with Kim Jong-Un. And then it got weirder. He went to CPAC.
Trump took the stage for nearly two hours at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative politicians, celebrities, and pundits in Washington, D.C. He never once mentioned Cohen during his marathon remarks—and he only brought up the failed denuclearization talks in Hanoi as he approached the two-hour mark of a speech that made last fall’s campaign rallies seem highly scripted.
Instead, he returned to his list of greatest hits: the Russia “witch hunt,” the worst trade deal ever, criminal immigrants, Crooked Hillary, socialist Democrats, even the crowd size at his inauguration. Compared to his freewheeling rally speeches or his rambling remarks last month in the White House Rose Garden, the president’s CPAC speech was a wild ride.
These were his people, and he said he could feel the love. And he returned the love by delivering his longest-ever speech, exceeding his own previous and impressive record by 39 minutes. His time at the podium may have even been the longest presidential oration in American history, according to the political writer David Rothkopf, eclipsing William Henry Harrison’s 8,445-word inaugural address in 1845—the outdoor speech in cold weather that famously gave Harrison pneumonia and caused his death within a month.
In remarks that quickly departed from script, Trump scolded the conservative free-traders who question his tariffs. He reframed the 2018 midterm elections as a victory for Republicans lucky enough to get his support. He aimed to unify his party against the radical left Democrats, and he claimed that their Green New Deal would take away Americans’ cars and prohibit air travel. This was not a policy address; this was a rallying cry all about making it very clear to conservatives that their political success—and their survival—depends on him. Here are seven moments of possibly record-breaking presidential oratory:
- About 10 minutes in, President Trump threw out his script
You know, I don’t know, maybe you know. You know, I’m totally off script, right. … You know, I’m totally off script right now. 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. ‘Cause we have to get it back
- He lampooned Democratic proposals for a “Green New Deal”:
No planes. No energy. When the wind stops blowing, that is the end of your electric. Let’s hurry up. ‘Darling, darling, is the wind blowing today? I would like to watch television, darling.’… Their plan would remove every gas-powered car from American roads. Oh, that’s not so bad. They want you to have one car instead of two. And it should be electric. Okay. So tell people, no more cars, no more cars. … It would end air travel. But you’ll get on a train, don’t worry about it. You just have to cross off about 95 percent of the world. And it would force the destruction or renovation of virtually every existing structure in the United States. New York City would have to rip down buildings and rebuild ’em again. I don’t think so. This is the craziest plan. And yet I see senators that are there for 20 years, white hair. See, I don’t have white hair. I don’t have white hair. I see these white hairs, longtime senators, standing behind this young woman, and she’s ranting and raving like a lunatic, and these senators: ‘Yes, I agree with this. Yes I agree.’ The crazy female senator from the state of Ohio. [Both of Ohio’s senators are men; it appears he was instead referring to Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii.] The state of Hawaii. She’s like a crazy person. What she said about men is so bad.
- He mounted a ferocious attack on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation:
Robert Mueller put 13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country on the commission. How do you do that? These are angry, angry people. You take a look at them. One of them was involved with the Hillary Clinton Foundation, running it. Another one has perhaps the worst reputation of any human being I’ve ever seen. All killers. In fact it would have been actually better for them if they put half and half, and Mueller can do whatever he wants anyway, which he’ll probably. But we have conflicts. I had a nasty business transaction with Robert Mueller a number of years ago. I said, why wasn’t that mentioned? He wanted the job as FBI director. I did not give it to him. Why isn’t that mentioned? Jim Comey, Lyin’ James Comey, is his best friend. James Comey is his best friend. And those are a few of the conflicts. Other than that it’s wonderful.
- He decried immigrants and members of Congress who “hate our country”:
We need workers to come in. But they need to come in legally, and they’ve got to come in through merit, merit, merit. They’ve got to come in through merit, they have to be people who can help us, they have to be people who can love our country, not hate our country. We have people in Congress right now, we have people in Congress that hate our country. And you know that. And we can name everyone of them if they want. They hate our country. Sad. It’s very sad. When I see some of the things being made, the statements being made, it’s very, very sad. And find out: How did they do in their country? Just ask ’em. How did they do? Did they do well? Were they succeeding? Just ask that question. Someone would say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible that he brings that up,’ but that’s okay, I don’t mind, I’ll bring it up. How did they do in their country? Not so good. Not so good.
- He returned to the size of the crowd that attended his 2017 inauguration and criticized the media for misreporting how many people had come:
It was raining. And it was wet, and the grass was wet. And women and men, and I consider them totally equal so I’m not going to say it’s harder—in fact it’s probably, with the men I know, it’s actually easier for the women to make the walk. But they had to walk all the way down. They had to walk in 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. Look at that crowd.’ And it was wide! Wide! We had a crowd—I’ve never seen a thing like it. And I have to live—I have to live with ‘crowd size.’ It is all a phony deal, folks. But I saw a picture just the other night of practically no people. It was taken hours before our great day. That was a great day for us. That was a great, great day. People came from all over. People came from all over. So, ‘Sir, it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares.’ I said, ‘But I care. And people care. People care.’
- He criticized political correctness on college campuses and asked Hayden Williams, a conservative activist from the Leadership Institute who was recently assaulted at the University of California at Berkeley, to come up on stage with him. [UC-Berkeley police have arrested a suspect in the assault]:
Do me a favor, sue him. But he’s probably got nothing, but sue him forever. But sue the college, the university. And maybe sue the state. Ladies and gentlemen, he took a hard punch in the face, for all of us. Remember that. He took a punch for all of us. (But) here is the good news: He is going to be a very wealthy young man. … I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars. If they want our dollars, and we give it to ’em by the billions, they have got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak. Free speech. If they don’t, it will be very costly. That will be signed very soon.
- After speaking for two hours, Trump finally addressed his failed summit, responding to criticism that he’d failed to hold North Korea’s dictator accountable for the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student imprisoned there and sent home unresponsive:
And just in finishing up, as you know, I just returned from Vietnam, where I had very productive meetings with Charman Kim Jong Un. We get along. We’ve developed a good relationship, very good, and made great historic progress. … One administration gave billions of dollars to him and got nothing. We haven’t given him anything yet. I look forward to maybe doing something at some point. But I know one thing, I am going to get other countries to give. Maybe not us, but I’m going to get other countries to give, if it all works out, if it all works out. But I had to walk, because every once in a while, you have to walk. Because the deal wasn’t a deal that was acceptable to me. I don’t like these deals that politicians make. They make a deal just for the sake of doing it. I don’t want to do that. I want to make a deal that either works, or let’s not make it. But the one thing we have done is we have no testing, no missiles going up, no rockets going up. No nuclear testing. … We got our great people back. We got our great, great people. And that includes our beautiful, beautiful Otto. Otto Warmbier, whose parents I’ve gotten to know, who’s incredible. And I am in such a horrible position because, in one way, I have to negotiate. In the other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier, and I love Otto. It is a very, very delicate balance. He was a special young man, and to see what happened was so bad, was so bad. … And a lot of what I do with respect to North Korea, and any success that we hopefully have, and we’ve had a lot, we’re given no credit.