President Trump wrapped up the Conservative Political Action Conference with a speech of Castroite proportions, lasting just over two hours. The man’s energy is remarkable. In addition to being long, the speech was hilarious. At least half of it was unscripted, and Trump’s digressions and asides are, I think, increasingly funny and effective.
Trump covered his usual themes, as you would expect in this venue. He mocked the Green New Deal and encouraged Democrats to run on it. He ripped James Comey and others in the top echelon of the FBI, while praising rank and file agents. Probably the most newsworthy moment was when he invited Hayden Williams on to the stage.
Williams is the young man who was assaulted by 28-year-old Zachary Greenberg at Berkeley. Trump praised Williams’ ability to take a punch; Williams said a few words; and Trump announced that he will soon sign an executive order denying federal aid and research dollars to universities that fail to protect free speech. As you can imagine, that got an enthusiastic reaction from the predominantly youthful audience.
Trump got a wildly enthusiastic response from the CPAC audience, despite his speech’s length. Watching him again today, I was again struck by how much Trump has improved on the stump since he entered politics. His humor is a powerful weapon, and his unscripted riffs are often endearingly self-deprecating. Watching the president, I tried to imagine one of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls sharing a stage with him–Beto O’Rourke, say, or Cory Booker. Lots of luck! More than ever, the president is a whirlwind, and an increasingly effective one.