President Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term on Thursday and painted a stark choice for voters this November: a second term for himself or voting for Joe Biden, a man who would ‘demolish’ the nation.
Trump’s use of the White House as a convention speaking venue garnered criticism from ethics experts, with administration officials nonchalant about violating longstanding rules such as the Hatch Act, a law that is supposed to stop the federal government from affecting elections or going about its activities in a partisan manner.
Down in the polls and facing the headwinds of a coronavirus-battered economy, Trump attempted to portray Biden as a worse choice.
‘Despite all of our greatness as a nation, everything we have achieved is now endangered,’ the president warned in his acceptance speech, given on the South Lawn of the White House. ‘This is the most important election in the history of our country. At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas.’
‘This election will decide whether we save the American Dream, or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny,’ he said.
And he ended his remarks with the same message.
‘I say again to all Americans: This is the most important election in the history of our country. There has never been such a difference between two parties, or two individuals, in ideology, philosophy, or vision than there is right now,’ he said.
His speech ended two weeks of conventions – first Democratic, then Republican – which presented two diametrically opposed versions of a country gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, racked by a reckoning on racial justice, and hit by mass unemployment on a scale unknown since the 1930s.
Democrats called Trump’s administration a time of ‘American darkness,’ while Republicans said Biden would bring anarchy; Democrats focused on the virus and unemployment, and Republicans on ‘crime and violence.’
The end of the conventions marks the dash to the finish line, with the first head-to-head debate on September 29, giving Trump and Biden a month to focus their message and deal with the challenge of campaigning in a pandemic.
But there was little to remind viewers of Trump’s speech that there is a pandemic: on the South Lawn, almost 2,000 guests – some in their 80s, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross – sat tightly-packed, hardly any wearing masks, and crowded together at the end as a spectacular fireworks display lit up the Washington sky.
The split screen America was on display at and around the White House, with protesters outside who blasted airhorns during the speech, at times audible on the South Lawn, and shouted at departing RNC guests.
Biden was a mainstay of the president’s remarks, getting mentioned more than 40 times in the 71 minutes he spoke. Trump’s speech, given with the White House lit up behind him and members of his administration, his family, and adoring supporters spread out in front of him on the South Lawn, was introduced by his daughter Ivanka.
During his speech, he veered back and forth between touting his accomplishments and attacking his Democratic rival.
‘We’re here and they’re not,’ he said at one point, pointing to the White House behind him.
His speech caps a Republican National Convention dedicated to all things Trump – his record, his work, his power as president. Thursday’s final night offered a new view of Trump – with staff testifying to his empathy and compassion – along with an appeal to Democrats to change sides and give him a second term.
It also featured speeches by some of his most faithful supporters, including long time staffers, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and a series of filmed sections designed to paint him as compassionate and an ally of African Americans, both of which polls suggest he has struggled to be seen as throughout his time in office.
But the closing argument was on Trump’s shoulders, his speech the event the week had been building up to.
The South Lawn location was controversial for its selection – and possible violation of the Hatch Act – but, with the coronavirus pandemic hitting the country, the hub of the convention moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Washington D.C.
In his remarks, Trump continued an argument he has been making to voters for months, painting a bleak picture of what the country would look like under a President Joe Biden. He made it clear to voters the choice was in their hands.
‘This election will decide whether we will defend the American Way of Life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it,’ he said.
He attacked Biden’s record on jobs and hit his Democratic opponent in one of his strongest areas – his appeal to blue collar workers, the same group that put Trump in the White House four years ago.
‘Joe Biden is not the savior of America’s soul – he is the destroyer of America’s Jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American Greatness,’ Trump said, with many of the lines in his speech couched in similar, dramatic language.
Mixed in with the remarks were moments that are vintage Trump – a whimsical attack line delivered with a wink and a nod that had his audience in stitches.
Thursday night had a ‘hugs and kisses’ line that had the audience doubled over in laughter.
‘For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue collar workers, gave them hugs and even kisses,’ Trump said, pausing as the audience roared with laughter. The president grinned after he delivered it, as if knowing the effect it would have.
‘And told them he felt their pain – and then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship their jobs to China and many other distant lands. Joe Biden spent his entire career outsourcing the dreams of American Workers, offshoring their jobs, opening their borders, and sending their sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars.’
He also attacked Biden’s ties to China at multiple times in his speech. As vice president, Biden visited China as part of his diplomatic duties. But the Trump campaign has tried to turn Biden’s foreign policy experience into a negative, arguing he was working against the United States instead of promoting American interests overseas.
‘Joe Biden’s agenda is Made in China. My agenda is made in the USA,’ he said.
And he conducted the official business at hand early on, formally accepting the party’s nomination for a second term – a line that always gets a candidate applause.
‘My fellow Americans, tonight, with a heart full of gratitude and boundless optimism, I proudly accept this nomination for President of the United States,’ he said.
The 1,500 strong crowd burst into cheers, jumping to their feet and shouting ‘four more years.’ But also audible throughout the president’s remarks were the air horns and sirens from the protesters outside the White House, protesting the president’s use of the executive mansion for his speech to a political convention.
Trump outlined his plans for his second term, including rebuilding the economy decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, and reaching for ‘new heights of national achievement.’
‘In a new term as President, we will again build the greatest economy in history – quickly returning to full employment, soaring incomes, and RECORD prosperity,’ he said.
‘We will lead America into new frontiers of ambition and discovery, and we will reach for new heights of national achievement. We will rekindle new faith in our values, new pride in our history, and a new spirit of unity that can only be realized through love for our country. Because we understand that America is not a land cloaked in darkness, America is the torch that enlightens the entire world,’ he added.
WATCH: Donald Trump Accept 2020 Republican Party Nomination
He also acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic that has decimated the United States, infecting more than 5.88 million Americans and killed more than 181,000.
Although he did not refer to it by its proper names – coronavirus or COVID – nor did he use the moniker ‘China virus,’ which has been criticized as a racist term. Instead he called it the ‘invisible enemy’ and the ‘virus.’
‘In recent months, our nation, and the entire planet, has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy. Like those brave Americans before us, we are meeting this challenge. We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner! We will defeat the virus, end the pandemic, and emerge stronger than ever before,’ he said.
But later in his remarks he did refer to the ‘China virus’ when he talked about his administration’s work to counter the pandemic.
He acknowledged the first responders and health care workers in the crowd.
‘We are grateful to be joined tonight by several of our incredible nurses and first responders – please stand and accept our profound thanks. Many Americans have sadly lost friends and cherished loved ones to this horrible disease. As one nation, we mourn, we grieve, and we hold in our hearts forever the memories of all of those lives so tragically taken. In their honor, we will unite. In their memory, we will overcome,’ he vowed.
And then he went on to blame China for the virus.
‘When the China Virus hit, we launched the largest national mobilization since World War II. Invoking the Defense Production Act, we produced the world’s largest supply of ventilators,’ he said.
‘We developed, from scratch, the largest and most advanced testing system in the world,’ he added.
He argued Biden would have ‘surrendered’ to the virus instead of fighting it, referring to a comment Biden made in an interview where he said he would shut down the country if scientists recommended it.
‘Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country. His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation’s children, families, and citizens of all backgrounds,’ Trump claimed.
‘The cost of the Biden shutdown would be measured in increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation and more. Joe Biden’s plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender,’ he said.
‘We will have a safe and effective vaccine this year, and together we will crush the virus,’ he said.
Biden was the focal point of many of Trump’s attacks.
He also attempted to tie Biden to the left wing of the party, which has pushed for stronger environmental protections and defunding the police – areas Biden has said he does not agree with.
‘Biden is a Trojan horse for socialism. If Joe Biden doesn’t have the strength to stand up to wild-eyed Marxists like Bernie Sanders and his fellow radicals, then how is he ever going to stand up for you?,’ he said.
‘Make no mistake, if you give power to Joe Biden, the radical left will Defund Police Departments all across America. They will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide. They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon. No one will be safe in Biden’s America,’ he added.
FACT CHECKER: ‘Trump is a serial liar.”