In late September 2016, Donald Trump held a rally in Melbourne, Florida, where he railed against the media and bragged about the size of the crowd. Five months later, elected president of the United States and having arrived in Air Force One to the music of the film Air Force One, he did it again.
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“They have their own agenda. And their agenda is not your agenda.”
Speaking in an airplane hangar in front of a crowd of roughly 9,000 people, Trump returned time and time again to the speech lines of his campaign. “Life is a campaign,” he told reporters before taking the podium. “Making our country great again is a campaign. For me, it’s a campaign. To make America great again is absolutely a campaign. It’s not easy, especially when we’re also fighting the press.”
“When the media lies to people I will never ever let them get away with it,” he said.
With his speech, Trump continued driving on his attack of reporters, newspapers and news networks, generalizing them as “the dishonest media”.
“We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to live and what to believe,” he said. “We are free, independent people and we will make our own choices.” Trump cited the press criticisms of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln as precedents in his war on the media. All three had combative relationships with the press, though Lincoln cultivated reporters and Jefferson once declared he would prefer “without government” rather than the reverse.
As in his campaign speeches, Trump bemoaned the state of domestic and foreign affairs claiming, “I and we inherited one big mess” and “we don’t win in any capacity”. As in the campaign, he boasted about the size of the crowd and his victory over the Democratic party, which he said had suffered “the greatest defeat in the history of the country”.
The president was especially eager to deny a steady stream of reports of chaos, infighting and disarray in his first month in the White House, culminating last week when his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to step down amid scandal. “I promise you that the White House is running so smoothly,” Trump said. “So smoothly.”
Trump also once again continued his attacks on the ninth circuit court of appeals, which suspended the travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim nations. He claimed constitutional authority to make the ban – the courts have not ruled on its lawfulness – and said the judges were “picked by Obama”, though two of three were appointed by Jimmy Carter and George W Bush.
The president added, that the US knows “nothing” about refugees and visa-holders it has admitted into the country although approved people are extensively vetted through interviews and background checks. He said that he would roll out a new executive order in the coming days in order to address the court’s decision. “We don’t want people with bad, bad ideas coming into our country,” he said.
Trump also used his rally to repeat the claim that Intel was investing $7bn to build a factory in Arizona, creating about 3,000 jobs. However, the company had already announced the same factory back in 2011 when Barack Obama was in power.
Trump’s speech frequently echoed the nationalist rhetoric of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who has railed against globalization, wealthy “elites” and transnational trade deals. Trump yet again praised Britain’s vote to leave the EU and claimed to be part of a worldwide nationalist movement.
“Erasing borders does not make people safer or more prosperous, it undermines democracy,” he said. “Look at Brexit. Much smaller example but it’s still something you can look at.”
The president promised to bridge “chasms of distrust” with “bridges of opportunity”, claiming: “The nation state remains the best model for human happiness and the American nation remains the greatest symbol of liberty.”
Trump is spending the holiday weekend in south Florida but has continued to work, according to White House staffers. On Saturday he met with candidates to replace Flynn at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, but in Melbourne he explained his unorthodox decision to hold a rally two hours north of Palm Beach. “I’m here because I want to be among my friends and among the people.”
The rally ended like so many others during Trump’s campaign. A pledge to “make America great again”, the Rolling Stones song You Can’t Always Get What You Want blaring in the background.