President Trump arrived in New Orleans today to celebrate the 100th convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“On this special anniversary, we gather here to celebrate, celebrate America’s proud farming heritage. Through your sweat, through all of your work, the strength of your hands, and in your hearts, the American farmer feeds and fuels, and sustains our nation. So true.”
In a room filled almost to capacity, nearly every joke landed. President Trump couldn’t have found a better crowd for his speech, receiving several standing ovations. Often he went off the teleprompter, hitting many standards of his previous speeches, while some comments seemingly bordered on random. One of his earliest jokes landed well, as he admitted that he should “take up jogging,” but making it clear that wouldn’t happen. These comments earned a warm response from the crowd.
The President presented a list of supposed success stories through the efforts of deregulation. “We’re killing a record of job-killing regulations, and the farmers got hit probably as far as anybody. We’re reversing federal intrusion. And to keep family farms in the family, we have virtually eliminated the estate tax, also known as the ‘death tax.’” On that last part, he received more applause. He made it clear that the estate tax was keeping small, family-run farms from being kept in the family.
Claiming that this was good for families and their kids, killing the death tax and allowing future generations to own farms, he said, “So if you like your children, you’ll like me. If you don’t love your children-” which was followed by laughter from the audience. “If you leave the farm to them, it probably isn’t going to matter that much.” He paused, “Does anybody here not love their children?” Looking at the audience, he couldn’t seem to find one.
He also gave shout-outs to Governor John Bel Edwards, Senators Bill Cassidy, Steve Scalise, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and current Secretary of Agriculture George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III.
People listening weren’t here for statistics; they weren’t here for numbers. They were here to listen to a man speak who is as much as a celebrity as a political figure.
As he threw out his catchphrases such as “believe me” and at times receiving massive applause, it was a change of pace from his current reception in Washington among Congressional leaders. Trump also touched on how he believed he did a great job, but when he got home the “fake news media” would discredit him. With the crowd standing, he said, “Please sit down, with the media, the fake news media, I get no standing ovations.’ Why? Because everyone remained standing.” Adding, that the media’s distortion, according to him, “They can take the best thing. I go home and say, ‘darling, I did such a great job. Wait until you see the news tomorrow…” followed by laughter.
As expected, he touched on the wall, making the false claim once again that Democrats have been in favor of his style of a barrier, when in fact they had been interested in a very different form of border fence. “So I’m asking all of our citizens to contact your Democrat (sic) law-makers, and ask them to pass a bill that secures our borders, protects our country, and now reopens our government because as soon as they do that, we will reopen our government. You would think that would be a very simple task.”
He again referred to a standard argument of his the last week, the effectiveness of the “medieval wheel and wall.” He touched on the concept of Democrats wanting smart border security, agreeing that part of that could include drones, but without a wall that wouldn’t make any difference.
Trump summed up the need for the wall, saying, “Women and children are being ruthlessly exploited at the border by vicious coyotes. Who would think of this? Human traffickers. Now when you hear the words, ‘human traffickers’ you think about a thousand years ago. Two thousand years ago, you wouldn’t think, it’s worse today in the world, it’s a world problem, than it’s ever been. And the reason it’s worse, it’s because of the internet. They target women they target young children, the internet.”
Getting surprisingly graphic he continued, “They’ll come in through our southern border into our country, and they’ll have women taped. They’ll have their mouths taped with duct tape and electrical tape. They tape their face, their hair, their hands behind their back, their legs. They put them in the backseat of cars, and then they go. They don’t come through our port of entry. Cause you’d see them. Couldn’t do that. They come through our border where we don’t have any barriers or walls. And they drive right in, and they have no problems.”
Statistically, according to the Department of Homeland Security, undetected illegal border crossings are down since 2006 at 851,000 to about 62,000 in 2016. Despite having a Republican Senate, House, and Executive Branch for the last two years, the President and fellow Republicans are only now, since Democrats took over the House, seeing the wall as a priority.
In a speech a little under an hour long, he did touch on farmers’ issues here and there, openly admitting that he did not seem to come to this event with every important statistic in his head, as related to farmers, but he touted what he believes to be important to most people–deregulation. “On every front, we’re fighting for our farmers, our ranchers our growers, we are fixing broken trade deals that are horrible.”
Crediting himself with record unemployment, which is at 3.7 percent is truthfully the lowest since 1969, “a tax cut even bigger than Reagan’s, tax,” and the low gas prices, he made it clear he felt there were no coincidences.
The record-length government shutdown is starting to cause farmers pain, but you wouldn’t have known it if you were at this speech. “I’m thrilled to be here in a state that I’ve had a lot of luck with.” With over 58 percent, he’s not wrong. However, while Louisiana probably won’t turn against him, the longer the shutdown goes on, the more likely that luck will run out.
The audience inside may have received him well, and the state, too. However, outside of the convention center, activists were moving a mock guillotine through Jackson Square as many citizens, particularly millennials, have felt abandoned by this President and his party.
Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.