Trump is taking a break from picking out his cabinet to say two words to America, ‘Thank you’. But he wants to say it to you in person. So he’s headed across the country to do just that.
He boasted about himself in the third person. He sneered at the opponents he had vanquished. He disparaged journalists and invited angry chants from the crowd, grinning broadly at calls of “lock her up” and “build the wall.” He ridiculed the government’s leaders as stupid and dishonest failures.
In his first major address since winning the presidency three weeks ago, Donald J. Trump soaked up the adulation of tens of thousands of his supporters at a campaign-style rally here, unabashedly gloating about the “great” victory he had secured. If there were any question about whether his evolution to president-in-waiting would temper his presentation or moderate his tone, the rally offered a forceful answer: Not a chance.
Kicking off what was billed as a “thank you” tour, Mr. Trump was incendiary and prideful, hopeful and indicting, vengeful and determined. His staff said the rally was the first of several he will hold before his inauguration next month. His tour is an unusual move for a president-elect, most of whom do not return so quickly to the campaign trail, especially while key cabinet positions remain unfilled.
Mr. Trump, who has been mostly cloistered in Trump Tower as he tries to assemble a government, was said to be eager to reconnect with voters. Connect he did, whipping the partially filled arena into a frenzy by reprising the red-meat rhetoric from his us-against-them campaign. He repeated pledges to suspend immigration from countries with a history of terrorism, repeal the Affordable Care Act, lower taxes, end unfair trade and “drain the swamp” of corruption.
But while he at times stuck to the script on his teleprompter, Mr. Trump came alive when he veered from it to talk about himself and demean those who had opposed him.
“We had a lot of fun fighting Hillary Clinton,” he said, smiling knowingly as the crowd chanted “Lock her up!” but offering no indication that he intended to do so. In the middle of a scripted part of the speech about lower taxes for businesses, he shifted abruptly to note the magnitude of his wins.
“How about North Carolina — how well did we do in North Carolina? Remember when they said he cannot win North Carolina?” Mr. Trump said, adding a moment later: “Donald Trump can’t break the blue wall, right? We didn’t break it, we shattered that sucker. We shattered it, man. That poor wall is busted up.”
And he reserved special bile for the “extremely dishonest press,” provoking boos as he lashed out — without naming her — at a network anchor who he said had cried on television on election night when she realized he was going to win the presidency.
“You know what she doesn’t understand, things are going to be much better now,” he said.
“I love this stuff,” he said after a nearly 10-minute discussion of his electoral prowess and his critique of the news media. “Should I go on with this for just a little bit longer? I love it.”
He did go on, shifting back and forth between his prepared remarks and his extemporaneous walk down the memory lane of victory.
During the prepared parts of the speech, Mr. Trump seemed eager to reach out to the people who had opposed his candidacy. He said the new government would “seek a truly inclusive society,” and he proclaimed that “we condemn bigotry and hatred in all of its forms.”
On the economy, he vowed to “reverse the stagnation and usher in a period of prosperity and growth,” even as he promised to overcome the partisan gridlock that has led to stalemate in Congress during much of the past eight years.