“When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones it just puts our students in more danger – well-trained gun-adept teachers and coaches should be able to carry concealed firearms,” Trump said, carrying NRA chief Wayne LaPierre’s water. LaPierre and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch had been Trump’s warm-up act at CPAC, Loesch making headlines claiming journalists love mass shootings at schools because grieving white mothers are ratings gold.
But that didn’t come up until about 45 minutes into her speech. Trump kicked off his CPAC at-bat snaking through his unlikely march from Celebrity Apprentice to the White House which, he said, was rocket-fueled by his first CPAC appearance in 2011.
“We’ve all come a long way together. I’m thrilled to be back at CPAC with so many of my amazing supporter and proud conservatives,” Trump told the adoring crowd. “Remember when I started running and people said, ‘Are you sure he’s a conservative?’ I think I’ve proved a conservative’,” he simpered.
Here’s another big headline from Friday’s speech: Trump admitted he has a bald spot.
Going completely off script, he stopped speaking early in his address to admire himself on the big screens for those in the back of the hall.
“What a nice picture that is! I’d love to listen to that guy speak,” he smiled, then gingerly touched the back of his head and showing it to the crowd.
“I try like hell to hide that bald spot! Doesn’t look bad. We’re hanging in there. Together we’re hanging in!” he boasted. Big applause for hair spray and comb-over signaled crowd approval of Trump’s bald-spot hiding policy.
Assuring his base he will not veer from any of the cultural positions that got him elected, Trump used CPAC to renew his attack on the NFL, saying, “We salute our great American flag, we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and we all proudly stand for the national anthem,” he said throwing his arms out wide.
But Trump got an even bigger reaction with his next line, “Above all else we know faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are at the center of American life. We know that. In America, we don’t worship government. We worship God.”
Reporters had been warned in advance that the big news of Trump’s speech would be an announcement he’d imposed even tougher sanctions on North Korea, after that country’s reps at the Olympics pulled out of secret talks with Veep Mike Pence at the last minute. Trump mentioned that development only in in passing as he was wrapping up his more than one-hour love-fest. Far more prominent in his speech, Trump treated attendees to another reading of “The Snake” – a routine that played extremely well at his campaign rallies.
Touting the NRA’s plan to arm teachers at public schools, Trump said, “I’d rather have somebody that loves the students and wants to protect them than somebody standing outside and doesn’t love the students and, for whatever reason decided not to go in, even though he heard lots of shots inside.”
On Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the armed deputy on duty at the time of the Parkland, FL school shooting on February 14 had taken up a position outside the building where the massacre was taking place, but had declined to enter the building, in violation of protocol. That officer, rather than be suspended without pay during a complete investigation, decided to “retire,” Israel said. Trump said the officer “turned out to be not good, not a credit to law enforcement.”
Concealing weapons on teachers is a better idea anyway, Trump said, making lemonade. Because “crazy men wouldn’t know who had them. That’s good. And the teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened,” Trump added, to wild applause in the hall.
He called vaguely for “strengthened background checks” to keep “mentally ill” people from getting weapons, veering ever so slightly from the NRA’s position, but very noticeably did not call to raise the age at which a semi-automatic rifle can be purchased.
Moments after Trump’s speech, however, Florida Gov. Rick Scott did make that call for his state, where last week’s 18-year-old shooter had legally purchased the AR-15 he used to kill 17.
Trump wrapped his speech telling CPAC attendees he loved them, and that they need to get out and vote Republican in 2018.
Then he added, “I do want to say, because people have asked” that he had just imposed the “heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before” against North Korea. “Hopefully something positive can happen,” Trump said, dubiously.
The White House had advanced the North Korea mention by also promising Trump would say: “The Treasury Department will soon be taking new action to further cut off sources of revenue and fuel that the regime uses to fund its nuclear program and sustain its military by targeting 56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses that are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions.”