President Donald Trump fired up the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday with a speech that echoed remarks from his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from the day prior.
Over two days, the pair hammered away at the news media, touted economic nationalism, and decried the forces they believe are in favour of a global world order.
Bannon, who was the head of Breitbart News — an unabashedly pro-Trump outlet — before joining the campaign in August, is widely viewed as being the strategic brain behind Trump’s populist message.
Taking aim specifically at the media, Trump repeated his attack from a tweet last week that “the fake news media” is “the enemy of the people.”
“And they are,” he said. “They are the enemy of the people.”
“They’re very dishonest people,” he added. “In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people. The fake news. They dropped off the word ‘fake.’ And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy. They take the word ‘fake’ out. And now I’m saying, ‘Oh no, this is no good.’ But that’s the way they are. So I’m not against the media, I’m not against the press. I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them. And I tell ya, I love good stories.”
He decried the use of anonymous sourcing, a stance on which his administration has doubled down as a tactic to sow doubt in reporting from major news organisations that has painted his White House in a negative light. Some of that reporting led to Trump asking Michael Flynn to resign as national security adviser last week. The White House also took issue with a Thursday report from CNN that relied on anonymous law-enforcement sources to paint a picture of a conversation between White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and a top FBI official.
“They should put the name of the person,” he said. “You will see stories dry up like you’ve never seen before. So you have no idea how bad it is, because if you are not part of the story — and I put myself in your position sometimes. Because many of you, you’re not part of the story. And if you’re not part of the story, you know, then you, sort of, know — if you are part of the story, you know what they’re saying is true or not.”
Bannon repeatedly referred to the news media as “the opposition party” during his appearance alongside White House chief of staff Reince Priebus at CPAC Thursday, claiming “it’s always wrong” while he was addressing some of the stories of discord in the administration.
“Just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the campaign and just like they were dead wrong in the chaos of the transition, they are absolutely dead wrong about what’s going on today because we have a team that’s just grinding it through on President Donald Trump promised the American people,” he said. “And the mainstream media better understand something, all of those promises are going to be implemented.”
Later in his interview with American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp, Bannon said the critical coverage “makes sense” because news outlets are “corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed — adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.”
Trump repeated a similar claim in his Friday address after saying he loves the First Amendment, which provides for freedom of the press.
“But the First Amendment gives all of us — it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans — the right to speak our minds freely,” he said. “It gives you the right and me the right to criticise fake news and criticise it strongly.”
“And many of these groups are part the large media corporations that have their own agenda and it’s not your agenda and it’s not the country’s agenda, it’s their own agenda,” he continued. “They have a professional obligation as members of the press to report honestly. But as you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn’t tell the truth. Doesn’t tell the truth. So just in finishing, I say it doesn’t represent the people, it doesn’t tell the never will represent the people, and we’re going to do something about it because we have to go out and have to speak our minds and we have to be honest.”
Bannon on Thursday said the Trump administration’s agenda can be broken up into “three buckets” — its economic nationalist and trade reform platform, a push for “national security and sovereignty,” and the goal of “deconstruction of the administrative state” — a targeting of the federal regulatory system.
All of that, he said, is the backbone of what he considers a “new political order” that is being formed.
“The center core of what we believe, that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, but we are a nation with a culture and a — and a reason for being,” he said. “And I think that is what unites us and I think that is what is going to unite this movement going forward.”
Trump touched on this point extensively in his Friday speech, touting his new immigration policies and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement as proof that his agenda — the one Bannon touted — was coming to fruition.
“I’m here today to tell you what this movement means for the future of the Republican party and for the future of America,” he said. “First we need to define what this great, great unprecedented movement is and what it actually represents. The core conviction of our movement is that we are a nation that put and will put its own citizens first.”
The crowd began chanting, “USA! USA! USA!”
“For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries,” he said. “So terrible. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while leaving ours wide open, anybody can come in. … We’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while allowing our own infrastructure to fall into total disrepair and decay. In the Middle East, we’ve spent as of four weeks ago, $US6 trillion. Think of it.”
“Global cooperation, dealing with other countries, getting along with other countries is good, it’s very important,” he continued. “But there is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency or a global flag. This is the United States of America that I’m representing. I’m not representing the globe, I’m representing your country.”
The chants continued: “USA! USA! USA!”
“There’s one allegiance that unites us all, and that is to America. America, it’s the allegiance to America,” Trump said. “No matter our background or income, or geography, we’re all citizens of this blessed land. And no matter our colour or the blood — the colour of the blood we bleed, it’s the same red blood of great, great patriots. Remember, great patriots. We all salute with pride, the same American flag, and we all are equal — totally equal in the eyes of almighty God, we’re equal.”
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