In the first night of his “victory tour” rally, Donald Trump promised to build a border wall, defended appointing billionaires to his Cabinet, and said “anything is possible” in America now that he’s won the election.
But throughout the speech in Cincinnati, Trump often appeared far more interested in looking back at the presidential campaign than looking forward to his presidency. He repeatedly replayed the highs and lows of the campaign, relishing in bashing those who had doubted him.
Trump couldn’t resist bringing his speech back to the election, even when he was supposed to talk about his presidency. At one point, he began talking about his plan to reduce regulations in states like North Carolina — which then led him to talk about how some had doubted he could win the state, which then led him to a familiar rant about the press:
We are going to reduce the regulations. If a company wants to still leave the state of Ohio or Pennsylvania — or how about North Carolina? How well did we do in North Carolina? Remember when they said, “He cannot win North Carolina.”
And then it was, “Breaking news, Trump won Florida.” And then we waited. But then the people back there, the extremely dishonest press. Very dishonest people. How about, how about. I mean, how dishonest. How about, when a major anchor who hosted a debate started crying when she realized that we won? How about it? Don’t tell me this is untrue.
Again and again in the speech, Trump veered from a prepared remark about his coming presidency to reliving the glory of the election. A few of the other wild tangents he took:
- Dumping on third party candidate Evan McMullin and mocking those who thought McMullin could win Utah. “Remember when they said Donald Trump is going to lose to some guy I had never heard of? Who is that guy?” Trump said. “But the people of Utah were amazing, and we drowned them.”
- Reflecting on the calls he’d received from foreign leaders after the race. “They all tell me how this was amazing. How they sat in their magnificent rooms, the prime ministers, presidents, and how they sat watching in wonderment hearing how people came to vote,” Trump said. “Honestly, one of them told me, ‘I truly respect the United States again because of what happened.’” (He didn’t say which foreign leader.)
- Replaying a TV segment comparing his campaign to Andrew Jackson’s presidential victory. “When was that? 1838?’” Trump said. (Jackson was elected in 1828.) “Then somebody said, ‘That was great, but nothing like what happened here.’”
- Why he was thankful for police that came out to support him. “The number of votes I got was staggering. Staggering,” Trump said.
- Three consecutive times in a row, Trump mockingly quoted pundits who said, “There is no path for Donald Trump.”
- How big his victory in Ohio had been. “We won this state by almost 10 points, which they say is totally unheard of,” Trump said. (He won Ohio by 7 points.)
It all suggests what many critics have long suspected: that Trump’s attention was riveted by the glitz and glamor of the campaign trail, but that he has no interest in or capacity to doing the hard analytic work of the presidency.
Tweets out of this Trump event say what we shld have expected. He wishes the campaign were still happening. He's already getting bored.— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 2, 2016
Vox’s Matt Yglesias has argued that the best way for Democrats to defeat Trump is to focus on how his policies will hurt working-class people, rather than hitting the president-elect for his outlandish temperament and clownish behavior. And that may be true.
But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s carnival barker style isn’t immensely troubling.