Trump rouses right-wingers with 'socialist nightmare' speech

President Donald Trump hugging an American flag before speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last Saturday. He spoke about the "socialist" ideas touted by the Democrats and vowed that America will never be a socialist c
President Donald Trump hugging an American flag before speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last Saturday. He spoke about the "socialist" ideas touted by the Democrats and vowed that America will never be a socialist country.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

He accuses Democrats of abandoning the American mainstream on issues such as immigration and abortion

NATIONAL HARBOUR (Maryland) • President Donald Trump has rallied right-wing activists with a speech offering conservative red meat on immigration, trade and the threat of "socialism", as he sought to move on from a bruising week in domestic and international politics.

"We believe in the American dream, not in the socialist nightmare," he said to boisterous applause from hundreds of supporters at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington last Saturday.

"America will never be a socialist country," Mr Trump said in a two-hour speech that seemed to draw energy from the fervent reception offered by some of his influential supporters in the room.

It was his first public appearance since coming home empty-handed, and to criticism from all sides, after a nuclear-disarmament summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

He told CPAC the meeting was "very productive" - but that he would not "make a deal just for the sake of doing it".

The White House is also smarting from explosive testimony on Capitol Hill by Mr Trump's former lawyer and fixer last week that branded him a cheat and a racist.

Mr Trump, often speaking in mocking tones, portrayed the Green New Deal climate strategy touted by the left of the Democratic Party as a socialist plan that will devastate the fossil fuel and automotive industries.

He said progressive healthcare policies would "lead to colossal tax increases" - and accused the Democrats of having "totally abandoned the American mainstream" on issues such as immigration and abortion.

With the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia reportedly approaching its conclusion, Mr Trump again berated Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team as partisan hacks out to get him, adding that "these people are sick".

On the foreign front, Mr Trump repeated his claim that the last of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group's fighters in Syria would be captured or killed imminently, even after he told US troops last Thursday "we just took over" 100 per cent of the caliphate.

He also railed against Chinese tariffs on American goods and said the US loses US$500 billion (S$677 billion) a year to the world's second-biggest economy, calling it "such a disaster". Mr Trump regularly ignores the dominant US service sector to focus only on goods, when in 2017 the US trade deficit with China was actually US$337 billion - not US$500 billion.

Mr Trump last year initiated a tariff war with Beijing, which has taken a nasty bite out of US growth.

Although both sides say they are now close to resolving the dispute Mr Trump told his supporters: "The beauty is this. I have US$250 billion more to put tariffs on."

The word "socialism" has been in heavy rotation since some Democratic would-be presidential candidates began openly embracing liberal platforms including the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

Last Friday, Vice-President Mike Pence spoke at the four-day conference in National Harbour, Maryland, to warn that Democrats are taking a "hard left turn" ahead of 2020. "Under the guise of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, Democrats are embracing the same tired economic theories that have impoverished nations and stifled the liberties of millions over the last century. That system is socialism," he said.

Mr Trump's speech came at the same time Senator Bernie Sanders, who has embraced the label of "democratic socialist", spoke at a rally in New York, assailing Mr Trump as "the most dangerous president in modern American history".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2019, with the headline 'Trump rouses right-wingers with 'socialist nightmare' speech'. Print Edition | Subscribe