Donald Trump has a lively sense of humor about the concept of “pandering” to an audience. At the beginning of his remarks to the Faith and Freedom Coalition on Friday night, he showed the crowd a photo of his confirmation class from a Presbyterian church in New York. “It doesn’t always play, but in this crowd, it plays,” he declared with a smile.
From there on in, it was vintage Trump. The social-conservative audience gave him a generous helping of applause, especially when he took a swing at today’s favored piñata of Washington absurdity, Anthony Weiner. “Of course it was his picture,” said Trump. “Take a look at those skinny legs.”
It is at once Trump’s greatest strength and weakness that he’s more interested in saying what he wants to say than figuring out what his audience wants to hear. Of course it gets him in trouble, but it’s also the reason so many diverse audiences respond to him – from the rowdy crowd at a casino in Vegas, to a group of evangelicals in Washington. It would seem people are growing weary of empty suits reading focus-grouped scripts from teleprompters.
Like most of his public addresses, the Faith and Freedom Coalition speech was a tornado of Trump obsessions, witty digressions, shrewd observations, and strange tangents. For an example of the latter, consider that while he was happy to take credit for pressuring President Obama to release his birth certificate at long last, he’s not really certain he succeeded: “I don’t know exactly what he showed, but someday, somebody is gonna figure that one out.”
Trump was strongly critical of the media bias toward President Obama. “Nobody is protected like Barack Hussein Obama. Nobody. I have never seen a press that is so protective of a human being before.”
He called the unemployment numbers released today “a total disaster” and said, “we need to create a wealthy country again, or we’re going down the tubes.” He put his domestic policy cards on the table: “I’m pro-life, I’m against gun control, and we have to get rid of ObamaCare.”
Trump’s foreign policy proposals emphasized getting out of our entanglements in the Middle East. On the way out of Iraq, he wants to take their oil. Estimating a “100 percent” probability that Iran will take over the Iraqi oil fields after American forces depart, he suggested “we should take this oil and we should give a couple of million dollars each – this is peanuts – to the families of the soldiers who were killed, and we should give a million or two to every soldier that was severely wounded.”
Trump insisted he was “totally serious” about this proposal, and took a swipe at noted conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer – “whoever he is” – for implying that “Donald Trump doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
Krauthammer wasn’t the only member of the Right to come under fire from The Donald. He was especially tough on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who says that extra federal disaster relief for victims of the recent tornadoes in Missouri should be offset by spending cuts in other programs.
“Representative Cantor, who I like, said we don’t want to give money to tornado victims,” said Trump, a characterization of Cantor’s position that might reduce his chances of winning reciprocal affection from the Majority Leader. “And yet, in Afghanistan we are spending ten billion dollars a month, but we don’t want to help the people that are devastated by tornadoes – wiped out, killed, maimed, injured.”
Trump reportedly “loved” the response he got from the crowd at the Faith and Freedom Coalition. How this response might influence his thoughts about running as an independent candidate in 2012 remains to be seen.