President Donald Trump promised new equipment for the military, praised himself and touted his political endorsements, and criticized the media during a rambling speech Monday before American troops at the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Trump opened his remarks by thanking those present for their “tremendous spirit.”
“We had a wonderful election, didn’t we?” he said. “I saw those numbers, and you like me, and I like you. That’s the way it works.”
He thanked members of the military serving at MacDill and promised to “load it up” with new equipment.
The President then touted his endorsement by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).
“Let me recognize our great governor and a very good friend of mine, and somebody who endorsed me, that makes him a better friend of mine,” Trump said. “You know, if they don’t endorse, believe me, if you’re ever in this position, it’s never quite the same, OK? You can talk, but it never means the same.”
He recognized members of the military and their families, and promised to “never, ever” let them down. (During his campaign for the presidency, Trump sparked bipartisan backlash for his attacks on the bereaved parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain, and later said he did not regret “anything” about doing so.)
Before Trump’s remarks, the president had lunch with servicemembers at the base. According to a White House pool report, Trump kept the room waiting: Troops stood behind their chairs in the dining room for 45 minutes while they awaited the President.
During his speech, Trump claimed that the media is not reporting on terrorist attacks, though he did not explain why.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he said. “They have their reasons and you understand that.”
Trump went on to brag about his “great, great” Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
“I said it the other night. Great, great Supreme Court nominee. You all saw that,” he said. “But I said to myself, perhaps the only thing more important to me definitely is the defense of our nation. Supreme Court’s so important, but we have to defend our nation.”
He reiterated his campaign trail promise to build up the “depleted” military.
“Our Navy is at a point almost as low as World War I. That’s a long time ago. That’s a long time ago,” Trump said. “It’s not going to happen anymore, folks.”
Trump calls on NATO members to “make their full and proper financial contributions to the NATO alliance” https://t.co/EBXdou82US
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 6, 2017
Trump also doubled down on his promise to lean on NATO members to “pay their fair share.”
He painted a picture of “an enemy that celebrates death and totally worships destruction,” from the Islamic State to “radical Islamic terrorists” who Trump claimed are “determined” to launch an attack on the United States.
He wrapped up his remarks by comparing his campaign slogan—”Make America Great Again”—to phrases employed by President George Washington and President Ronald Reagan.
“I’ve said it many times during the campaign, speaking in front of tens of thousands of people at one sitting. And I’d always mention ‘America first.’ A phrase that you probably never heard,” Trump said, to applause. “Make America great again. Anybody ever hear that?”
He compared it to the phrase “peace through strength,” a mainstay of Reagan’s foreign and military policy, as well as an excerpt of Washington’s first State of the Union address: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
“We are loyal to our people. We respect our flag. We celebrate our traditions. We honor our heroes. You are our heroes,” Trump concluded. “And we are prepared to fight, and we pray for peace.”