Live from Aiken, it’s Donald Trump

We’re going to be living with Donald Trump for the foreseeable future. I’ve commented on him here several times, most recently in “The Trump trend.”

Reader Hendrik Booraem describes himself as a long-time Power Line reader through two overseas deployments and at least four jobs. He also describes himself as more conservative than we are, though I doubt that. Mr. Booraem attended a Trump rally in South Carolina last week. I thought readers might be interested in his long but colorful account of the rally, including his assessment of Trump’s remarks (below). I have also posted video of the event at the bottom so readers can take a look and make up their own minds:

I noticed that Donald Trump would be in Aiken, South Caroline on December 12. I follow Trump on Facebook just to see what he’s up to, and I think that’s how I found out. Attendance was free, so I signed up.

I live about an hour away to the north, and my oldest daughter is attending the college at which Trump was speaking. She’s staying with my in-laws, who live less than two miles away, so my wife and I bundled up the kids, dropped them off at her parents house, and went to the event.

Amusingly enough, the campaign was charging $5 to park, although attendance was free. We decided to park on the university campus and walk to the field house. A lot of people decided to park on the shoulder of the highway rather than pay the parking fee. I like to think that Donald Trump would appreciate our frugality.

Doors opened at 10:00 a.m., we arrived at 11:45. Trump was to speak at noon. When we arrived there were no lines or problems. There was a small contingent of Trump protestors outside holding signs that said something about “Racism” and “You’re Fired!” They were glad to pose for a photo.

We went in through the security gate and they tried to confiscate my pocket knives (I have a thing about pocket knives – I left my firearm locked in the glove box of the vehicle, but I keep the knives on me) so I went back outside and asked the Trump protestors to hold my pocket knives for me. Their response was, “We can’t do that. Go put them in your car.” A vendor selling t-shirts was willing to hold onto them for me, so I left them with him.

We went into the main area, which was pretty much full. I’m not any good at this kind of thing, but I estimated 8,000-12,000 attendees. Most of the audience was white and middle-aged. There were college students there (it was on a college campus, after all) and some of them had really dressed up for the event, so I assume those students were supporters. Trump’s campaign team did not bother to try to make the group in the background look “diverse,” which I thought spoke either to their inexperience or the fact that they really don’t care about skin color (I hope the latter).

My wife and I sat next to a couple of young black women, and I struck up a conversation, asking why they were in attendance. One of them (she was carrying a “we don’t need xeNOphobia in SC” t-shirt) said she didn’t like the things he said about other races. I know she mentioned Hispanics and Muslims; I assume she said something about blacks as well. She said she wanted to see what the man himself had to say. I told her that was very open-minded of her.

There were a couple of people in the audience wearing ginormous Sombreros, which had to have been a political statement. I guess they were showing solidarity with the Mexicans whom they feel Trump has wronged. One of them was a guy wearing a US Army PT jacket, which annoyed me a lot. (I’m in the Army National Guard and have been deployed twice. You’re not supposed to wear parts of your uniform in conjunction with civilian clothes, and especially not to a political event.)

The set-up was a couple of armchairs on a stage and was supposed to be a townhall style event with questions presubmitted. The South Carolina Attorney General introduced Trump and was clearly politicking as hard as he could. He said things about how President Obama doesn’t “respect the rule of law” (clearly true) and how Donald Trump will. Trump came in, shook some hands, and sat down.

Here an interesting thing happened. The Attorney General and Trump were both wearing clip-on lapel mics that must have had the gain turned WAY up, because they were ringing like heck and still weren’t picking up what they said very well. This went on until people started complaining about the volume. Then a man brought out two hand-held mics and things improved a lot. The sound setup had been so poor, and the change with the hand-helds so dramatic that I was just thinking that the sound booth people had done a terrible job, when Trump said he would have fired the first contractor (presumably referring to the sound guys) and replaced him. If it wasn’t scripted, then Trump is the master of sensing what people are thinking and speaking to it.

Bear in mind that it was the Attorney General reading a question and then Trump “answering” the question, so when I say “Trump said this,” his statement was in response to some question, but I want to emphasize it was not necessarily in response to a related question. That was something my wife and I talked about a lot later – Trump, like all other politicians, would throw about 12 words at a question and then talk about whatever he wanted.

My first note is that he clearly referred to Iran as “a terror nation” to which we were giving $150 “Billion-with-a-B.” He spent a while talking about how the Iran negotiations were terribly badly handled and could have been done better, going so far as to explain how he would have handled them. It was moderately convincing. I don’t know what question led to this comment.

Next he was asked about Supreme Court appointments. He first emphasized how terribly important they were, then said that he would like to appoint conservatives who are lifelong scholars, people who “admire and respect the Constitution.” Then he said “People who are truly in love with the Constitution.” Which, I have to admit, sounded pretty good, as long as they love the Constitution that IS, not the Constitution they want it to be, amirite?

Next the Attorney General went on about Executive “Actions,” and talked about the taxes South Carolina residents pay to dispose of nuclear waste, even though Yucca Mountain has been taken offline for waste storage. This is not really a big deal to that many people in SC, as far as I know. I wouldn’t have put it on my top 10 list, maybe not even my top 25, and I’m as politically informed as anyone you’ll talk to in SC.

The Attorney General asked “which Executive Actions would you counter?” I was taken somewhat aback that they were referring to Executive Actions, but I guess they mean to include both Executive orders and administrative actions taken by the president. Trump went on about immigration for a while. He reiterated his desire to “build a wall” and have Mexico pay for it, but to have a great big beautiful door in it.

Some conservatives think that’s stupid, but I think it’s a good use of imagery. Metaphorically, this big wall is protection against the outside world, but that “big beautiful door” means anyone who wants to come in and be a part of US will be welcome, and could easily be interpreted to include some level of free trade, which would be good. I like the phrase if I’ve interpreted it correctly.

He was asked a good question about executive appointments – the people who get put in charge of running the bureaucracy, and here I got really interested. This, to my mind, is Donald Trump’s biggest strength – he could potentially get a bunch of people to take and hold offices at the federal level who are NOT interested in advancing their own careers. No other politician is likely to know, or be able to appoint, people who are not self-interested. He could sell me on that alone, but instead of talking about all the millionaires that he knows who would be willing to help run the country for a few years at little-to-no-salary, who could get the budgets and the insane regulation under control, he went off on Common Core. Which, don’t get me wrong, is abysmal, but it seemed to me like that was his chance at a grand slam, and instead he chose to bunt.

The Attorney General asked something about the EPA and environmental regulations. Trump went off on low-flow toilets and showerheads. Good stuff, freedom that affects people where they live, all that.

About this point, five younger audience members jumped up and started shouting something (I couldn’t tell what), and were escorted out by police. They didn’t resist and presumably weren’t arrested. I was talking to the black ladies next to us at this point and not paying much attention, but my wife says that Trump said something to the effect that “these guys are what makes our country great. And we should have been doing more of that over the last eight years.” Which comes across pretty well, I think. Kind of shows respect for people who disagree with you, but at the same time says the public at large should’ve been more active in disagreeing with the government over the last eight years.

I talked about why we were both attending with the young lady next to me. I already mentioned why she was there. I was attending (my first ever political event) because I’ve been keeping myself well read on political issues since about 1992 and I can’t remember another political event within an hour’s drive of my hometown that happened on a weekend when I could attend. So this was my chance to see what the things are really like.

I have to say, at this point, I hate them. I left early (40 minutes into Trumps speaking) and don’t intend ever to go to another one. I didn’t really learn anything that I couldn’t have learned from reading other people’s works on the Internet (thank you, Power Line). I also told the young lady next to me that Trump wasn’t really saying anything new – you could find everything that he had said on Power Line, National Review, DrudgeReport, or other conservative weblogs. She seemed bemused. I got the impression she didn’t know where to go to find political information. I probably should’ve written down the websites for her, but you know how it goes.

When Trump was asked “would you repeal Obamacare” he answered “Yes” before the question was even finished, then launched into a… well, almost a tirade (he didn’t sound agitated or anything, though) about how it was going to “fail in ’17” and I swear he said “we need to get rid of the insurance companies.” At this point my wife got up and said “let’s go,” so my notes from that point on weren’t that great. I wasn’t able to get the gist of his point about the insurance companies, whether he was advocating single-payer government plans or whether he was talking about something else entirely (although I can’t think what that would have been).

For some reason, while we were on the way out, Trump started talking about Clarence Thomas and what a responsible, stable, reliable jurist he has been. Which is true, but I don’t remember hearing a question about the issue. Maybe he was just doubling back to the Supreme Court question – a lot of his stuff is very off-the-cuff/stream-of-consciousness, from what I can tell.

The last thing I heard before we left was a question about Dodd-Frank, which Trump says should be repealed. Then we were out, and I picked up my pocketknives from the vendor (and didn’t buy anything, because I’m cheap), and walked a half-mile back to my car.

My wife and I agreed that we’re still not sold on Trump because we’re not sure he understands the proper role of the President in the constitutional system. He doesn’t seem to recognize what problems are for the President to fix, and which ones are just things that Congress or the people deal with. He definitely moves the Overton Window, though, and we can’t think of anyone else who can move it as easily or as far. So even though he’s not really a conservative, I’m glad he’s in the race. I’m glad I went to the event, although I probably won’t ever go to another one, and I’m not even a little bit sorry that I left early, even though it probably looked like I don’t support him.