NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — President Trump delivered a marathon speech last Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference to applause and acclaim from attendees at the annual confab.
The speech clocked in at one hour, 15 minutes, which means Trump gave CPAC just a few minutes short of the same time he gave in his lengthy State of the Union address last month.
Despite the long speech, in which Trump at one point asked his audience for permission to go off-script, there wasn’t much news made.
It was largely more of the same: He announced new sanctions against North Korea, belittled the media in the audience, recited an allegorical poem about a “snake” that tricks an unwitting girl into helping him before he bites her, and renewed his commitment to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“My administration, I think, has had the most successful first year in the history of the presidency,” Trump said.
But with calls for gun control building after the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, Trump’s stated approach to combating gun violence was perhaps the most significant moment of his remarks.
Trump recalled meeting the family of the Parkland shooting victim Meadow Pollock, whom he said had a “beautiful, beautiful smile and a beautiful life” before her life was taken.
“There are not enough tears in the world to express our sadness and anguish for her family, and for every family that has lost a precious loved one,” Trump said. “No family should ever save — and ever have to go in and suffer the way these families have suffered. They’ve suffered beyond anything that I’ve ever witnessed.”
Among Trump’s policy solutions to gun violence were improving security at schools, tackling the issue of mental health and strengthening background checks — but Trump also fleshed out his idea of arming teachers to prevent gun violence.
“I don’t want a person that’s never handled a gun that wouldn’t know what a gun looks like to be armed,” Trump said. “But out of your teaching population — out of your teaching population, you have 10 percent, 20 percent of very gun-adept people. Military people, law enforcement people, they teach. They teach.”
Echoing comments he made earlier in the day, Trump said the armed guard at the Parkland high school who heard gun shots, but didn’t act to act to stop the violence, was “not good, I will tell you that.”
Trump may be largely unpopular throughout the country, but the audience at CPAC relished his remarks. Lines in favor of the Second Amendment and recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel garnered strong applause.
Consistent with a general new rule among conservatives to keep anti-LGBT views quiet, Trump made no mention of his administration’s anti-LGBT policies, nor did he make any veiled reference to anti-LGBT discrimination by praising “religious freedom.”
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, was present during the remarks and said the lack of anti-LGBT comments contributed to the warm reception Trump enjoyed.
“Absolutely no mention of divisive social issues — and the crowd ate it up,” Angelo said.
The main stage for Trump’s speech was filled with attendees. Many donning “Make America Great Again” hats stood, although they appeared to be not CPAC attendees but Trump supporters who were bussed in to make the audience look bigger.
One protester managed to get near the main stage and sought to interrupt Trump’s speech, but was quickly escorted out. Any remarks the protester may have shouted were drowned out by the audience cries of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Trump interrupted his own remarks to praise security and disparage the protester, saying, “They were very gentle, he was very obnoxious.”
Clinging to the results of the 2016 election, Trump said he was able to win thanks to his focus on the Electoral College, but also attributed his win to having a “crooked” candidate, a reference to Hillary Clinton.
That prompted the CPAC audience to chant a few rounds of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Many have seen that chant as evidence of misogyny during the 2016 election, but Trump didn’t seek to quiet those chants.
“I will say this, folks: Everything that’s turning out, now it’s amazing that’s come full circle,” Trump responded. “Boy, have they committed a lot of atrocities when you look. Right? When you look. Have they done things that are wrong.”