In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump elected to skip the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) when his campaign team learned that some Republicans attending the largest annual gathering of conservatives were actively protesting his candidacy.
What a difference a year makes!
On Friday, February 24, Mr. Trump returned to CPAC as President Trump. His presence was met with tremendous enthusiasm by the event’s attendees and its organizers with audience members shouting “We love you!” to the billionaire real estate magnate and former reality television star who is now for all intents and purposes “the leader of the free world.”
2017 was Trump’s second trip to CPAC. He made his first appearance in 2011 which his chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, described as the place where Trump started planting the seeds for the garden which would be his presidency.
As someone who has been a Donald Trump supporter since shortly after he announced his candidacy for president, I was extremely happy to be present at CPAC 2017 to witness firsthand this sea change in reception for the 45th president, whose election win defied all odds and left naysayers from both the left and the right dumbfounded and shell-shocked. (Please note, the photo to the right was taken by yours truly.)
As for his CPAC speech, it was largely a reinforcement of his key messages and his commitment to keep his promise to the American people. Trump also talked about the current role of the conservative party and the incredible movement which his candidacy has ignited. “The core conviction of our movement is that we are a nation that put and will put its own citizens first,” Trump remarked. “I’m not representing the globe, I’m representing your country,” President Trump told the at-capacity Potomac Ballroom at The Gaylord.
President Trump reiterated his plans to build a wall on the southern border, defeat radical Islamic terrorism, repeal and replace Obamacare, extract America from the TPP and NAFTA and other “bad trade deals” and put America back to work. As strategic adviser Steve Bannon aptly remarked in an earlier CPAC panel discussion, “All of those promises are going to be implemented.”
Trump also called out his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton’s referring to Trump supporters as “deplorable” and “irredeemable,” saying, “The GOP will be, from now on, the party also of the American worker.” And, of course, no Trump speech would be complete without a battle cry for the total evisceration of the “fake news.”
Trump electrified the room with his one-hour speech, which ended with his signature sign off, the Rolling Stones’ classic song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” I am sure that I was not the only person in the ballroom thinking that he is “what we need.” As his counselor Kellyanne Conway so succinctly put it “by tomorrow this (CPAC) will be TPAC.” Well said, Kellyanne, well said.
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