Trump evokes campaign at Florida rally

US president Donald Trump delivering a characteristically feisty rally speech on Saturday in Melbourne, Florida, railing against the media, the judiciary and his political enemies.
"The White House is running so smoothly, so smoothly," US President Donald Trump said at last Saturday's rally at the AeroMod International Hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida.
"The White House is running so smoothly, so smoothly," US President Donald Trump said at last Saturday's rally at the AeroMod International Hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

President says he is fulfilling election promises, while lashing out at US media

MELBOURNE (Florida) • US President Donald Trump turned back the clock with an aggressive Florida speech straight out of his campaign playbook, enthralling fans while insisting all is well in the White House despite weeks of turbulence.

He also took aim at his favourite foil, the "dishonest" news media that he said has become "part of the corrupt system".

At the end of a stormy first month in office, the billionaire took the power of the presidency on the road, revisiting the style and substance of the campaign trail.

After stepping down from Air Force One to deafening cheers, he was drawn into the collective bosom of several thousands of his dearest followers - mostly white, mostly male middle-class Americans who feel they have been left behind by the country's shifting economy.

"I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people," Mr Trump said.

IN CAMPAIGNING MODE

Life is a campaign. To make America great again is absolutely a campaign.

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, speaking to reporters on Air Force One ahead of the rally, when asked about criticism that he was starting to campaign already.

LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SWEDEN

You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.

MR TRUMP, mistakenly saying Sweden had suffered an attack - apparently because it took in large numbers of immigrants - while listing places targeted by terrorists.

 
 
 

He employed a loud and muscular delivery - one that won over millions of voters on the campaign trail last year - to assure Americans he is fulfilling promises to shrink government, rebuild the military, restrict immigration, and tear up healthcare reforms enacted by his predecessor Barack Obama.

"This will be change for the ages," the President said at the event in Melbourne, a sun-bleached city on Florida's Space Coast.

But Mr Trump was completing his first month in office under a cloud in Washington, where lawmakers pledged to further investigate his possible pre-election ties to Russia; his national security adviser was forced to resign in disgrace; and a Cabinet nominee withdrew amid controversy.

"The White House is running so smoothly, so smoothly," Mr Trump stressed, before going on an extended rant about the US media. "I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news," he said.

"They've become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system," he added, continuing his open warfare with the media.

Last week, Mr Trump took to Twitter to call the media the "enemy of the American people".

Aside from the fact that he is now leader of the free world, the event was eerily similar in style to his campaign - from the layout, to the recorded music, to the President's largely impromptu delivery. About the only thing missing was attacks on his 2016 Democratic rival, Mrs Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump acknowledged that he is always in campaign mode.

"Life is a campaign," he told reporters on Air Force One ahead of the rally. "To make America great again is absolutely a campaign. It's not easy, especially when we're also fighting the press."

In his speech, Mr Trump reiterated his pledge to crack down on terrorism. He also mistakenly referred to Sweden as the site of a terror incident, saying: "You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible."

He went on to name Brussels, Nice and Paris - European cities that have been struck by deadly terror attacks.

Users on Twitter cracked jokes about the apparent miscue using the hashtags #lastnightinSweden and #SwedenIncident.

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt asked: "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound."

Some Internet wags posted photos of the impossible-to-understand instructions for assembling Ikea furniture, calling them "Secret Plans for the #SwedenIncident".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'Trump evokes campaign at Florida rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe