In Cincinnati on Thursday, it was almost like the presidential campaign never ended, with President-Elect Donald Trump hitting familiar themes from the last 18 months as a large and boisterous crowd roared its approval.
Trump the showman also broke a little news, confirming reports that had leaked earlier in the day that his choice to run the Pentagon is retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense. But we’re not announcing it until Monday, so don’t tell anybody,” he said. “They say he’s the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have, and it’s about time. It’s about time.”
Billed as a “thank you tour,” the speech resembled the many large campaign rallies that energized Trump’s successful campaign. He bragged about his polls — except in this case, it was not pre-election surveys but actual returns, including his 8-point victory in Ohio.
He lambasted the “extremely dishonest press,” eliciting a round of boos against the media. He even tweaked his vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton, prompting a smattering of “Lock her up!” chants. He ridiculed election forecasters who had claimed he had no “path to 270” electoral votes.
And he took a veiled shot at an old foe, Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“We didn’t have much help at the top, you know that,” he said. “And it turned out, it didn’t really matter.”
Later, when Trump mentioned Kasich by name — recalling the governor’s post-election congratulations — the fired-up crowd booed again.
There even was an obligatory protester attempting to interrupt the speech, prompting Trump to suggest that some Clinton supporters do not realize she lost the election.
Trump also ran down a greatest-hits list of policy proposals — tax cuts, energy independence, regulatory reform, border security, ethics reform, and more.
For all its bluster, though, Trump sounded some themes that did not always take center stage on the campaign trail. One was that he needed help, something his critics have accused him of not often acknowledging.
“Change is not going to be easy. I am going to need you to fight as hard for these proposals as you fought for this great campaign of ours,” he said. “We are going to need our government and this movement to be more engaged and more vigilant than ever before to help us accomplish the reforms and overcome decades of stalemate and gridlock.”
Trump lamented that America has thought small for too long.
“I’m asking you to dream big again, and bold and daring things for your country will happen once again,” he said.
Trump touted his deal to save 1,110 jobs at Carrier plants in Indiana, boasting that, “We’re going to do that all over the country.”
Trump also confronted critics who repeatedly accuse him of appealing to racists and playing the politics of division. But in Cincinnati, he flatly rejected bigotry and hatred “in all of its forms.” He also pledged to serve all Americans, regardless of race, age, income, geography, or place of birth.
Trump vowed that decaying inner cities and stagnant rural communities are not “permanent features of American life.” They can and will be fixed, he said.
“We’re a very divided nation, but we’re not going to be divided for long,” he said, later adding, “America will start winning again — big league … Now is the time to focus on the one thing that truly unites us. You know what that is? America. Because when America is unified, nothing is beyond our reach.”
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