5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - August 23, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Tuesday, August 22, 2017. 441 days until Election Day 2018. 1,169 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Just covering one story today, to give you time to read over some of the excerpts I've highlighted from President Trump's speech in Phoenix last night, a fascinating look at his innermost thoughts and emotions:

Trump Attacks Media, Rallies Supporters At Phoenix Rally

President Donald Trump addressed supporters at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, delivering a free-wheeling speech that re-hashed last week's Charlottesville controversy and placed the blame squarely on his longtime target: the media.

Trump re-read his three statements on the violence in Charlottesville, accusing the "fake media" of refusing to air them and unfairly criticizing him for being too slow and not specific. "I said everything," Trump complained. "I hit them with neo-Nazis. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis.I got them all in here...KKK, we have KKK. I got them all." Trump went on to read his final remarks on Charlottesville from his press conference last Tuesday, skipping over the comment blaming "both sides" for the conflict, which last week caused a firestorm of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Here are some of the key lines from Trump's Phoenix speech:

  • Dropping in a mention of his Charlottesville winery: "I have a home in Charlottesville, a lot of people don't know...Can't believe they haven't figured that one out yet. Now they know. Now they finally know."
  • Criticizing specific news organizations: "The failing New York Times, which is like so bad. It's so bad. Or the Washington Post, which I call a lobbying tool for Amazon...Or CNN, which is so bad and so pathetic, and their ratings are going down." [Audience chants "CNN sucks!"]
  • Mentioning anti-fascist protestors, as he discussed those protesting his own rally: "You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they've got clubs and they've got everything -- Antifa!"
  • Commenting on CNN pro-Trump contributor Jeffrey Lord, who was fired for tweeting a Nazi salute: "And they fired Jeffrey Lord, poor Jeffrey."
  • On the "elites": "Now, you know, I was a good student. I always hear about the elite...I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great."
  • Claiming that the media doesn't like America: "But for the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people, and they're bad people. And I really think they don't like our country. I really believe that...You would think -- you would think they'd want to make our country great again, and I honestly believe they don't. I honestly believe it."
  • Blaming the media for division: "If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media which would rather get ratings and clicks than the truth...The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself, and the fake news."
  • Praising Fox News amid criticism of other news outlets: "Fox treated me fairly...And Hannity? How good is Hannity?...And he's a great guy, and he's an honest guy. And 'Fox and Friends' in the morning is the best show, and it's the absolute, most honest show, and it's the show I watch."
  • On pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted for ignoring a court order to halt practices discriminatory to Latinos: "I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK? But -- but I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good."
  • Threatening a government shutdown over his proposed border wall: "Build that wall. Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."
  • Calling for an end to the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate on bills before the Senate: "You got to get rid of the filibuster rule. You've got to go to a majority. You've got to go to 51 votes, and if they don't do that they're -- they're just wasting time."
  • On the Democratic Party: "So the Democrats have no ideas, no policy, no vision for the country other than total socialism and maybe, frankly, a step beyond socialism from what I'm seeing."
  • Making implicit references to Arizona GOP Sens. John McCain, whose vote on health care defeated the GOP repeal bill, and Jeff Flake, a leading Trump critic: "One vote away, I will not mention any names...And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won't talk about him...Nobody knows who the hell he is."
  • On North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un: "But Kim Jong-Un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us."
  • On his accomplishments: "I don't believe that any president -- I don't believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months. I really don't believe it."
  • On Confederate monuments: "They're trying to take away our culture. They are trying to take away our history. And our weak leaders, they do it overnight. These things have been there for 150 years, for 100 years. You go back to a university, and it's gone. Weak, weak people."
  • On NAFTA, which representatives of the U.S. and other countries are currently re-negotiating: "I personally don't think you can make a deal without a termination, but we're going to see what happens, OK? You're in -- you're in good hands, I can tell you."
  • On the CEOs who resigned from his now-disbanded business councils: "Not all of them, but some of them did. But I remember the ones that did...But people are now calling me, people that have been, like, we'll take a pass -- Don, can we get together for lunch? Let's do it privately, instead of through a council."

In the 76-minute speech, Trump unloaded on a wide range of targets, from the media to Republican senators to business leaders, making numerous factual inaccuracies. Aides had written a full speech for the President to read, which he read parts of, frequently switching to ad-libbing as he went. Clearly wounded from the torrent of criticism he received last week, Trump portrayed himself as a victim in a way few Presidents have, blaming the news media, his predecessor Barack Obama, and congressional institutions for many of his problems, while still declaring that his Administration had achieved more than any other in history.

Early in the speech, while reading from his prepared remarks, Trump used sweeping rhetoric to describe the violence that took place in Virginia. "What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America," he declared, continuing in the unifying tone of his Monday night primetime address. Within minutes, he was sewing new division, insisting that he had done enough in his comments on Charlottesville last week, invoking "Antifa," and bringing the debate on Confederate monuments to the forefront once again.

Later, while riffing on the failure of the Republican health care bill, Trump seemed to reveal what his staff had told him after Monday night's address -- "But you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night" -- and that they had begged him not to name the Republican senators who rejected the health care bill -- "please, please, Mr. President don't mention any names." Although he listened to their advice in his Tuesday speech, despite describing the senators he opposed in language clearly distinguishing them, by this morning, his true feelings once again came out. "Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!" he tweeted.

In short, Trump's advisers failed to rein him last night in as he contradicted the message of his unifying address the night before and this morning as he tweeted about a GOP senator, against their wishes. The Unpredictable President had flipped the script once again.