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President Trump was in his element speaking to crowds at a public rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night. Appearing at an airport hangar in the Pittsburgh suburbs, Trump endorsed Republican candidate Rick Saccone in a bid for Congress and appeared to enjoy every minute of it. He passed much of the time reminiscing about his presidential successes and lambasting his opponents, however, the speech wasn’t without controversy as he touched on immigration, drugs and the economy.
The unscripted speech was off-the-cuff, playing to the informal manner that has worked for him in the past. He poked fun at “presidential,” conduct that would “bore” the audience, saying “if I came like a stiff, you guys wouldn’t come here tonight.” Mission accomplished was declared in Making America Great Again, sharing his idea for a new slogan in 2020 of “Keep America Great!”
SUCCESSES AND INSULTS
Trump opened his speech by pointing out his foreign policy success in bringing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un to the table, with the possibility of denuclearization talks. He continued by relaying a series of economic success and promoting his trade strategies, including his 25% tariff on steel – a policy that speaks directly to the Pittsburgh audience, located in the heart of the floundering American steel industry.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a Trump speech without a few pointed barbs at his detractors. He called Maxine Waters “a low IQ individual”, and labeled NBC host Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bi***,” a quote that has caused a media stir in a clear case of much ado about nothing.
The president touched on Obamacare and tax cuts, but immigration was a core topic as he called on Congress to stop funding sanctuary cities and put a stop to chain migration and the visa lottery.
The most contentious part of Trump’s speech was undoubtedly his stance on drug crime. He advocated giving the death penalty or life imprisonment to convicted drug dealers, citing the examples of China and Singapore. “Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty,” he said. “And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do.”
He lamented current U.S. drug policy as too soft and ineffectual, claiming “the only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness” and calling for action:
“You kill 5,000 people with drugs because you’re smuggling them in and you are making a lot of money and people are dying. And they don’t even put you in jail…That’s why we have a problem, folks and I don’t think we should play games…And we have to do something, we can’t just keep setting up blue ribbon committees.”
Trump himself admitted that the suggestion was controversial, questioning whether “this country is ready” for such a policy and admitting that no polling had been done on the issue. Muted applause from the audience gave the impression that even Trump supporters weren’t convinced of this idea and it’s unlikely to become law anytime soon. Giving the death penalty to drug dealers would hardly solve all of America’s drug problems, given that the current opioid crisis is largely a result of doctors giving out prescriptions with impunity. Less theatrical but more significant was Trump’s brief mention that America needs to go after drug companies; “we have no choice,” he said, but didn’t elaborate further on any plans.
The President held an “opioid summit” earlier this month to discuss measures for combating the crisis, although critics have pointed to a lack of decisive action. Trump’s relationship with drug companies has been mixed, on the one hand pledging to bring down pharmaceutical prices and on the other working toward shorter testing times before bringing drugs to market. Taking on Big Pharma would be a huge mission for Trump, and would garner a more positive legacy than expanding the death penalty.
ENDORSING SACCONE FOR CONGRESS
The rally was meant to boost support for Rick Saccone, a Pennsylvania state representative who is now campaigning for a seat in Congress against Democrat candidate Conor Lamb. The pair are competing to replace Republican representative Tim Murphy who resigned due to a sex scandal.
Lamb has distanced himself from Nancy Pelosi during the campaign and expressed support for tariffs on steel and aluminum. Trump accused Lamb of “trying to act like a Republican,” to gain votes. Dubbing him “Lamb the sham” Trump warned that “As soon as he gets in, he’s not going to vote for us… He’s going to vote the party line.”
Saccone, who has identified himself “Trump before Trump was Trump,” has flagged in the polls and is evidently hoping that an appearance by the man himself will help things along. The president urged the crowd to vote for Saccone, as the result of this election will set the tone for the upcoming midterms.