As Democrats Debate, Trump Offers Alternative: A Rambling Speech

BALTIMORE — Moments after Democrats took the debate stage on Thursday night, President Trump delivered a rambling and disjointed 68-minute speech accusing the news media and the “radical left” of wanting to destroy America.

“Whether you like me or not, it doesn’t matter,” Mr. Trump told an audience of Republican House lawmakers at a conference in Baltimore. “You have to elect me; you have no choice.” He said that a Democratic president would “take your money and very much hurt your families.”

Intended as counterprogramming to the 10 Democratic candidates debating in Houston, the president’s speech hit virtually every one of his usual political lines as he careened between prepared remarks, ad-libbed attacks and boasts about his record.

At times, Mr. Trump would read lines clearly written by a speechwriter: “Working with Republicans in Congress, we slashed 30,000 pages of regulations from the Federal Register.” But moments later, he departed from the staid lines on his teleprompter.

“The bulb that we’re being forced to use — the light doesn’t look good,” Mr. Trump lamented during an extended aside about his dislike for energy-efficient light bulbs. “I always look orange, and so do you.”

In more than an hour, there was little that he skipped. He mentioned military spending, socialism, the North Carolina elections, Veterans Choice, opioids and the search for nonaddictive painkillers, tax cuts, China trade, the individual mandate, food stamps, African-American unemployment, Venezuela, “Crazy Bernie,” the Paris climate accords, straws, collusion and judges.

He made fun of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, saying he would call her “Cortez” because he did not have “time to go through the whole damn name.” He pronounced Pete Buttigieg “Boot-edge-edge” because “nobody can pronounce this guy’s name.”

In the second half of the speech, the president touched on the Green New Deal; open borders; Hillary Clinton’s aversion to stairs; his 2016 victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania; guns; ethanol; NAFTA; the deaths of birds because of wind turbines; paid family leave; “sanctuary cities”; his love of cowboy hats; and homelessness in San Francisco.

In his extended riff about wind turbines, Mr. Trump complained that “they make noise, they kill all the birds, the energy is intermittent.” Then, in a nod to the Democratic presidential primary debate, he suggested what might happen if a family were watching the Democrats on TV in a house supplied by energy from a wind farm.

“You happen to be watching the Democratic debate and the wind isn’t blowing,” he said. “You’re not going to see the debate. ‘Charlie, what the hell happened to this debate?’ He says, ‘Darling, the wind isn’t blowing.’ The goddamned windmill stopped.”

Mr. Trump delivered his remarks in Baltimore, his first visit as president to the city he once called a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

There were no rats evident on the streets from inside the president’s motorcade as he made his way from a landing zone about 10 minutes from the Republican event at the swanky Marriott hotel in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

There was, however, a large, inflated rodent made to look like Mr. Trump. Protesters flew the balloon near the hotel as other critics of the president waved signs, made obscene gestures and yelled at the motorcade.

Mr. Trump’s feud with the city escalated in July when he took offense to criticism about crowded and filthy border facilities from Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the longtime Democratic lawmaker from Baltimore.

On Twitter, the president insisted that Mr. Cummings’s “Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than the Border Patrol facilities.

“If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place,” Mr. Trump tweeted, directing his anger not just toward Mr. Cummings but also toward the heavily Democratic, largely African-American city.

The comments generated days of outrage from city officials, residents and others who said the president had, for the first time, broadened his attacks from a single individual to an entire population of one of the most historic cities in the United States.

In his remarks on Thursday, the president made only a glancing reference to that city, pledging that the Republican Party would “fight for the future of cities like Baltimore which have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule.”

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