In April, Donald Trump pledged “at some point, I’ll be so presidential that you people will be so bored.” Despite being president-elect, it seems that particular pivot has yet to come.
On the first day of his self-described “thank you tour”, Trump returned to his bombastic style on the stump at a half-full arena in Cincinnati. He bashed Hillary Clinton to chants of “lock her up” from the rowdy crowd while settling scores with the media and former rivals as well as announcing the nomination of former marine general James Mattis to be secretary of defence.
The event came at the start of an unprecedented victory tour where Trump will hold campaign-style rallies across the country. Often, however, Trump still seemed to be fighting the campaign. He reminisced, “We did have a lot of fun fighting Hillary, didn’t we?” to chants of “lock her up” while criticising conservative critics.
The president-elect launched an attack on Evan McMullin, his independent, conservative third-party rival in the campaign: “What the hell was he trying to prove? I guess he wanted us to lose the Supreme Court.” Trump didn’t mention McMullin by name and simply called him “that guy”. The president-elect also expressed his displeasure towards Ohio’s Republican governor, former presidential rival John Kasich.
Trump said of his win over Kasich in the Buckeye State: “We didn’t have much help at the top levels, and it turned out it didn’t matter,” and noted how Kasich eventually gave him a congratulatory phone call after the election. The Ohio governor didn’t vote for his party’s nominee and instead wrote in John McCain on election day. In a tweet, Kasich strategist John Weaver indirectly returned fire: “No tour, but thankful every day @JohnKasich shows us the #twopaths way with honor & integrity. #ItIsALongRoadWithoutATurn.”
The president-elect also teased the crowd with his long expected announcement that Mattis was his choice to head the Pentagon. “I don’t want to tell you to this, I refuse to tell you, don’t let it outside of this room. I will not tell you that one of our great great generals, don’t let it outside, we are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defence, and we’re not announcing it until Monday so don’t tell it to anybody.”
Trump also gave his usual tirade against “the dishonest media” and expressed his displeasure that it took television networks until after midnight on election day to call his win in Pennsylvania. Trump went on to boast of his win in the electoral college, but not the popular vote: “We won in a landslide. We didn’t have the press, the press was brutal.”
Trump began the rally with broad attacks on what he termed “globalism”.
“There is no global anthem, no global currency,” he said. “We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag.” Trump added: “Global is wonderful, but right now we want to focus on our national community.”
The president-elect also cast blame for terrorist attacks on the admission of refugees into the United States. “These are threats that are stupidly created by our stupid politicians’ refugee programs,” Trump said.
The venue was the same location where a packed house rained down boos towards the media at a Trump rally in mid-October. This time, the disdain for the press was far less visible in an arena that was half empty, in part because road closures due to the president-elect’s visit tied up traffic in the area.
The rally happened as top staffers for every presidential candidate’s campaign met at Harvard’s institute of politics to discuss the campaign, resulting in fiery exchanges between former Clinton staffers and Trump aides.
In one instance, Clinton’s former communications director, Jennifer Palmeiri, told Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway: “If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost. I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”
Conway was also asked about Trump’s recent untrue tweets about voter fraud. She said, “He’s president-elect so that’s presidential behaviour.” If so, it means being presidential may not be so boring after all.