In Trump’s new world order one weeks news is mind-boggling. The first Congressional address which he held on Tuesday, February 28th, opened with him condemning recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s Kansas City shooting. Kudos to him for spotlighting this alarming issue at the top of his most important speech to date. During his speech he “reaffirmed his unbreakable alliance” with the State of Israel and maintained his commitment to impose new sanctions against those who support Iran’s ballistic missile program. Finally, Israel has a President who is willing to prioritize her safety. The rest of his speech struck a more conciliatory tone with him continually using the word “we” and talking about unity and joining forces.
The New York Times reported that he would even be open to allowing a legal pathway for undocumented immigrants. However, he did say construction would begin on the southern border wall imminently and stressed that we must take strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism-which he will do by improving vetting procedures to keep out those who do harm. Moreover, he was working on a plan to demolish ISIS with the Department of Defense. Trump stuck to many of his campaign promises during the speech; reiterating his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, reduce the tax rate on companies, and add $1 trillion to infrastructure spending. Much of his speech called upon “members of both parties” revealing a more sober Trump-willing to work with Democrats to ensure his agenda gets passed.
The last two weeks in the Trump presidency has been dizzying with breaking news stories. The propitious February 15th visit between Trump and Netanyahu where Netanyahu appeared giddy at the prospect of a new U.S.-Israel relationship was the beginning of a whirlwind two weeks. Yet it was Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) the following Friday, February 24th, where he lambasted the press that would become the main focus. The President continued his attacks on the press with new vigor. Then Trump announced on Sunday, February 26th, to the surprise of many, via a tweet (what else) that he would not be attending the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Trump’s relationship with the press has become increasingly contentious since he became president.
His Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, held a meeting with a gaggle of reporters, on the same day Trump addressed CPAC, and excluded CNN and The New York Times among others. After rumors circulated that CNN, and Bloomberg were considering boycotting the Correspondent’s dinner Trump beat them to the punch by declaring he would be a no-show. Trump will be the first President in 36 years to skip the Correspondents dinner-Ronald Reagan missed it in 1981 because he was recovering from a gunshot wound and Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon were both absent twice. Nixon had a famously cantankerous relationship with the media and even coined the “press is the enemy” phrase in privately taped conversations with Henry Kissinger.
Trump seems to be following in his footsteps yet doing so overtly. Trump has unsuccessfully tried to fight the barrage of negative news from the media who continually run stories from critics that call for his impeachment and print unverified claims of him cavorting with Russian hookers. The open hinting at a conspiratorial relationship between Trump and Russia casts aspersions on his legitimate claim to the Presidency further frustrating his administration.
It seems there is an all out war versus the press and this was reiterated by his administration at this past week’s CPAC conference which I had the privilege of attending. Held at The Gaylord Resort in Maryland the gathering commanded appearances by conservative heavyweights: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, Ted Cruz, VP Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Mark Levin, Lou Dobbs, Betsy DeVos, Jeanine Pirro and the President himself. In 2011 Trump announced he was pondering a 2012 run at this very conference. The event started in 1974 and has grown to include four days of speeches, breakout sessions, networking breakfasts and after-hour parties. In 1974, 400 attended, now it is over 10,000. The last time a President came to CPAC in his first year of his presidency (1981) was Ronald Reagan. Reagan found it a useful forum and made speeches again in 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1988.
The most noteworthy portion of the entire four-day-event was the appearance of the normally reclusive Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist. Curious as to Trump’s agenda for the next four years? Replay Bannon’s talk. It conveys the obvious-Steve Bannon is the architect of the Trump agenda and the most powerful man in the world excluding the President. Forget claims of Jared or Ivanka Kushner holding the reigns of power. It is Bannon who has the President’s ear, soul and sentiments.
Another pivotal Trump player, Kellyanne Conway, started the conference on Thursday morning with her characteristic candor by stating she shuns the term “feminism” due its connotations. Conway told college students to get off social media and have face-to-face chats with people. “Don’t live online, live in real time.” An odd piece of advice given her boss’s habit of tweeting throughout the day and night.
Betsy DeVos, our new Secretary of Education and female powerhouse also addressed the conservative faithful saying the federal government should “have as light a touch as possible” when it comes to its role in education. She criticized the education establishment for telling students what to do, say, and “more ominously what to think.” Her speech was short on policy yet gave a broad outline as to where her sympathies are. She sees her job as being “to make education work for students not to win a popularity contest.”
As for popularity, there was a palpable buzz in the massive auditorium when waiting for the arrival of Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus-the mythological masters of the Trump cabinet. Before they arrived, Conservative Union President, Matt Schlapp, said their appearance was truly momentous and effusively thanked them for their service. Priebus said that despite press portrayals of animosity between Priebus and Bannon the two of them share an office suite together from 6:30 in the morning until 11:00 at night. Their animosity towards the press was emphasized by Bannon who continually referred to the media as the “opposition party.” While Bannon stated that Trump was “maniacally focused” on keeping his campaign agenda, to this observer, it seems that Bannon is singularly determined to bring these promises to fruition.
Bannon reminded everyone that the press got it all wrong when they predicted Trump would lose. He and the Trump team never had a doubt they would win. He called Trump the greatest public speaker since William Jennings Bryan leading him to his win. “Remember we didn’t have money…Hillary Clinton and those guys had over $2 billion. We had a couple hundred million dollars. It was those rallies and those speeches… for the promises he made. And our job every day is just to execute on that.”
Bannon was pessimistic on the prospects of a future relationship with the press explaining, “it’s going to get worse every day… And here’s why. By the way, the internal logic makes sense. They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economist nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has… And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”
In that observation, Bannon summed up the essence of the entire convention. These men, along with CPAC, have an agenda to undo the leftist policies of Obama and no “opposition party” is going to stop them. Matt Schlapp ended the conversation by saying the Bannon-Priebus team had to get back to work. They hurried off the stage without granting any post interviews in order to continue toiling for the cause.
After this riveting exchange, I arrived back at the Convention Center at 7:00 pm to hear Judge Jeanine Pirro. She spoke out against “sanctuary cities” and called the president’s new tougher immigration stance, a fight for “law and order.” She then introduced Vice President Mike Pence whose kind countenance and overwhelming dignity filled the room. The crowd went wild, with thousands standing and screaming, when Pence declared “I am proud to stand with our president who stands with our most important ally, the Jewish state. Israel’s fight is our fight, its cause is our cause and her values are our values.” Pence, the most prominent Vice President I can remember, urged the American people to pray for him and his administration. He exited the stage holding his wife Karen’s hand after what I thought was a too brief speech of 20 minutes.
The convention finale took place on Friday morning with President Trump. He regaled his audience with a lengthy fifty minute speech. Six blocks of attendees were turned away-something Trump accurately said the press would never report. Security was tight and police opened up my camera to ensure I wasn’t hiding anything dangerous. When Trump entered, the electrified crowd chanted Trump’s name. Trump delivered a rousing speech decrying the “fake news” for using anonymous sources while praising the First Amendment when used correctly. He also said he would be ridding the country of “bad dudes” through his immigration policies. He wryly called CNN the “Clinton News Network” to which the crowd chanted about Hillary “lock her up.” While Trump appeared tired he couldn’t resist speaking to the adoring crowd who rewarded him with a seemingly endless ovation.
Trump emphasized at CPAC and his Congressional address that his priorities were America’s well being as opposed to global interests. Judging by the last 35 days: where Trump denounced anti-Semitism and reaffirmed his commitment to Israel and her safety; and Netanyahu was finally accorded the respect he deserves-it appears this administration’s backing of Israel will be unprecedented in American history.
By: Lieba Nesis