I saw bits of this speech yesterday and heard it critiqued by freakily emotive commentators on CNN. I had to look away. I'm up for watching/reading the whole thing now. Here's the full transcript. I'm going to read it and live-blog my reactions.
Well. I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true: this is my first stop.I don't remember seeing other Presidents speak in this location. Clearly, Trump intends the very fact of his appearance here to convey meaning.
Officially. We’re not talking about the balls, and we’re not talking about even the speeches. Although, they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday [laughter]. I always call them “the dishonest media”, but they treated me nicely.Trump immediately distracted himself. This seems almost like the way many speakers tell a joke or anecdote before getting to the real topic. Trump is warming himself up — and drawing the crowd in collusively — by voicing what is always between the lines: The press won't be fair to him. The press is listening to this speech, and hearing the challenge: I don't think you can be fair. And I don't just want fairness. I want niceness. If you won't give me good press, I'm going to push the dishonest media meme.
He gets into and then out of his sidetrack quickly. Perhaps it's a device to get us to lock into attention. He's the one that does distractions for you, so your mind doesn't wander. If you wander, you'll get confused. And if you do get confused, you might blame him. That's what his opponents do. His digressions drive them mad. He's accused of serving a "word salad" and of lacking any attention span. But he's keeping track. He cuts in a side issue and jumps back to continue where he left off:
But, I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence Community and the CIA than Donald Trump. [applause]. There’s Nobody. Nobody. And the wall behind me is very very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while. And I’ll tell you what: twenty … nine? I can’t believe it.. No. Twenty eight. We’ve got to reduce it. That’s amazing.Yikes! He got back to the topic only to digress again — and it sounds really incoherent. I think the 29/28 may refer to the number of months he's been touring.
And we really appreciate it what you've done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group. These are really special, amazing people. Very, very few people could do the job you people do. And I want to just let you know: I am so behind you.That's the message, the message already delivered by the choice of location, repeated in a few simple words. And then he repeats the verbal message, with a tinge of criticism to his predecessor:
And I know, maybe sometimes, you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted.And he repeats it again as a self-effacing joke:
And you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say “please don’t give us so much backing”. [laughter] “Mr President, please, we don’t need that much backing”.Returning to seriousness, he repeats it again:
But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.He's now done all that he showed up to do, I believe, and has maxed out the repetitions of the message. He supports the CIA. Noted.
Now what can he talk about?
You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking, -- but, all of it -- but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes.Oh, why did I even have to ask?! His go-to conversational topic is his great, great victory in the election:
We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. [laughter] But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength. [applause] All right? [pointing to the crowd] He knows. Took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right? Because we know. We’re on the same wavelength.That's not really the right material for the location, and I think he knows it. He's scanning the mental files for something appropriate to say, something Trumpropriate.
We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things.Say it twice!
We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.Aha:
We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS.Say it twice!
We have no choice. [applause]The go-to argument that is no argument.
Radical Islamic terrorism - and I said it yesterday - has to be eradicated.He loves to say the phrase that Barack Obama would not say. He loves to say it and then stop and look at his having said it and comment that he has said it.
Just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil.Say it twice!
And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side.Say it twice! You know, this claim to understand other perspectives — or at least one other perspective — is out of whack with reliance on the argument-that-is-not-an-argument we have no choice.
There can be wars between countries. There can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody could even understand.Radical divergence from the say-it-twice rule of Trump rhetoric: Say it and then say exactly the opposite with equal conviction as if you haven't contradicted yourself.
But you know me. I am almost always eager to attempt a sympathetic reading to get some perspective on something that sounds so wrong. Here's me, doing that: Trump seems to have meant that with some wars, both sides have reasons to fight, and it's complicated figuring out what America ought to do, but radical Islamic terrorism is simply plain evil, so there's nothing to understand: Just eradicate what is plainly evil.
This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. You’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.The CIA has a job to do. But is "end it" really their job? Isn't Trump misunderstanding what they do? Or is he speaking so simply that it doesn't feel enough like an offer of understanding to warrant the label "misunderstanding"?
He finds a new topic in his mental file: The new CIA director:
You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary.And he's immediately drifting into other territory:
You know for the different positions, of secretary of this and secretary of that and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people. And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent.Great, great, amazing.
And by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand, Mike. What a good guy [applause]Compliments. Compliments. Everybody loves compliments. Let's see, who else can I compliment?
And Reince, and my whole group. Reince. You know Reince? They don’t care about Reince.He knows this isn't a good topic! Why is he telling the CIA about Reince Preibus? They don’t care about Reince. Ah, what the hell? It's a thing to talk about and he hasn't talked long enough yet.
He’s like, this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince. But, we did. We had just such a tremendous, tremendous success. So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and in this case went so quickly. Because I would see six or seven or eight for secretary of agriculture, who we just named the other day.Suddenly, it's not about Reince anymore. It's about agriculture. He's telling the CIA about the Secretary of Agriculture!
Sunny [sic] Perdue. Former Governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.It's like he's talking in his sleep, babbling impressionistic memories of the last few weeks. Maybe this will get to why
But I met Mike Pompeo, and he was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said “cancel everybody else”. Cancel. Now he was approved, essentially. But they’re doing a little political games with me."They" are the Democrats in the Senate, I assume. But this is what I mean about babbling. There's a positive side to this: He gives us the feeling that we are now inside his head, seeing his thoughts. But there's something almost insane about the assumption we know what the references are. Pronouns without antecedents? A disembodied "they" is playing games with him. He makes it so easy for his antagonists to cry: Paranoid!
You know, he was one of the three.The three? The three what? I have to try to construct a thought that he thought that I was not privy too, despite the feeling of being inside his brain.
Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis - fantastic guy - and General Kelly got approved [applause] And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group; it was going to be the three of them.Okay. The three nominees the Senate was going to vote to confirm on Friday.
Can you imagine? All of these guys. People respect … they respect that military sense. All my political people? They’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well…See? It's like he's talking in his sleep! He's trying to say that the nominees with a military background are advancing in the confirmation process more quickly than the ones with a political background, such as Mike Pompeo.
... but you … We’re going to get them all through. But some will take a little bit longer than others.He finally gets back to the CIA-appropriate material — Mike
But Mike was literally -- I had a group of, what, we had nine different people? -- Now. I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world.That is, there were 9 people set to interview for CIA director, and he interviewed the first one, and decided that's the guy. Tough luck to you other 8.
But I met him, and I said “he is so good”. Number one in his class at West Point. Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics.Oh, no. Here it comes:
In fact, every time I say, I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically. He was an academic genius.Had to say that. Just had to say that. And then you know what comes next? He must add an assertion about his own genetic gift:
And then they say: “is Donald Trump an intellectual?” Trust me. I’m like a smart person....He snaps out of the digression:
And I recognized immediately. So he was Number 1 at West Point. And he was also essentially number 1 at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a home run. People like him. But much more importantly to me, everybody respects him.A star? And when you’re a star... you can do anything.
When I told Paul Ryan that I want to do this, I would say, he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled, right, Mike? Because he said “I don’t want to lose this guy."
You will be getting a total star.
You going to be getting a total gem. He is a gem.Say it twice!
And I just …. [applause] You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see. And again: we have some great people going, but this one is something, going to be very special, because this is one of -- if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be, perhaps, you know, in certain ways, you could even say my most important. You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing. And the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful.Wonderful wonderful.
But if you give them the right direction? Boy, does the fighting become easier. And boy do we lose so fewer lives, and win so … quickly.I know he just means to compliment everyone and give respect to the lower-downs and the higher-ups. But this is scarily babbly when he's talking about human lives.
And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.A familiar line circled around to the front of the brain and flew out. Yeah, we need to win wars. But forget that, Trump wants to muse about when he was young...
You know what? When I was young, And when I was … of course, I feel young.And his digression provoked a digression. He suddenly doesn't want to talk about when he was young but how young he feels today:
I feel like I’m 30. 35. 39. [laughter]. Somebody said “are you young?” I said “I think I’m young."Somebody said something, and then I said something and then....
You know, I was stopping when we were in the final month of that campaign.And now we're back at the original digression, the story of the campaign.
Four stops, five stops. Seven stops. Speeches -- speeches -- in front of twenty five, thirty thousand people. Fifteen thousand, nineteen thousand, from stop to stop.Numbers numbers numbers. Say some numbers. And they add up to...
I feel young.Back to the when I was young digression:
But when I was young -- and I think we’re all sort of young -- when I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars. At a certain age I remember hearing from one of my instructors “The United States has never lost a war.”Oh, I remember hearing that live yesterday. I remember remembering that I always heard "The United States has never lost a war." And the other thing I remember remembering yesterday when Trump was remembering always hearing "The United States has never lost a war" is how important that perfect record was in getting us deeper and deeper into the hell of Vietnam. If Trump remembers that, he doesn't say it.
And then, after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.The campaign slogan cycles to the front of the brain again. And then another old idea:
The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” - you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil”. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil”.Let's see what Mike thinks about that:
Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. [laughter] Maybe we’ll have another chance. But the fact is: we should’ve kept the oil.Mike doesn't get to engage on this interesting policy question, but maybe Trump and Flynn have talked about keeping the oil.
Trump gets back to his core message, suggesting he's bringing this speech in for a landing:
I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country towards making us safe, towards making us winners again. Towards ending all of the problems -- we have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated -- to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused.Numbers. Fake numbers. Fake on their face. It's okay. Numbers are beautiful. Fantastic. I love numbers!
So I can only say that I am with you 1000%.
And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. [laughter, applause]I'm having deja vu.
And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number 1 stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.Ah, this connects 2 topics that seemed disconnected at the beginning of the speech. But he drops that to bring in another example of media dishonesty:
And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday...A thing. The Inauguration!
... the speech, and everybody really liked the speech, you had to right? [applause] We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed. I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: “wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was…. It looked like a million, a million and a half people.” They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said “Donald Trump did not draw well”. And I said “well it was almost raining”. The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said “we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”.Now, he's switching to the subject of the rain, about which there is no dispute with the media and no possible connection to the CIA.
In fact, when I first started I said “oh no”. First line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And i said “oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it”. But the truth is: that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sudden, and then I walked off and it poured right after I left - it poured.At least he resisted additional speculation about God's expressing his opinion through precipitation.
But you know, we have something that’s amazing because, we had, it looked honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on, with my steak … and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people.With my steak?! Come on, Washington Post! He didn't suddenly inject the subject of what he was eating for dinner as he watched the news. He said: "And I turn on, and by mistake, I get this network and it shows an empty field."
Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20 block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed. So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.And a lot of people think that right here he's getting caught in a beauty and he's going to have to pay a big price. But it's like those thousands of Muslims dancing on the rooftops of Jersey City. He doesn't have to pay a big price. He got a big reward. He doesn't have to stick to facts. He can waft stories and call other people liars. He's probably right that the others are lying (or somewhere on the continuum between truth and lies). And he knows he can win by rousing us all from the dream of truth. It's all fake news, so pick the story you like. And he only needs half of the people to like his storytelling to get all of the power.
They had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill.Churchill digression:
Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country. But he had lot to do with it. He helped us. A real ally. And as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out. The bust. And as you probably also have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly, and they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. And I said “absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill”.A digression in the middle of a digression. Trump's face on Time. And I've heard he got it wrong that this was a record, but I don't really care anymore. It's just an idea. His face is on Time a lot.
So a reporter for Time magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all time record in the history of Time magazine. Like it Tom Brady is on the cover of Time magazine, it’s one time, because he won the Superbowl or something, right? [laughter]. I’ve been on for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that they can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?
Getting back to MLK:
But I will say that, he said something that was very interesting: that “Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr Martin Luther King”. It was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it.The MLK statue story. Man, that's a long story. But it's a memorable chapter in The Story of How Truth Died.
So Zeke - Zeke - from Time magazine writes a story about how I took it down. But I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is: a big story. And the retraction was like -- was it a line? Or did they even bother putting it in?
So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting.Truth was dearly loved.
I will tell you the final time: although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that had been trying to come in, because I am coming back. We may have to get you a larger room. [laughter, applause] We may have to get you a larger room. And maybe - maybe - it’ll be built by somebody that knows how to build and we won’t have columns [laughter] You understand that? We’d get rid of the columns.He's talking about the CIA Headquarters and implying that he'd like to put on his construction hat and build them a better building — one where thousands can amass and columns do not obstruct their gaze upon the face that has launched a thousand TIME magazines.
I just wanted to really say that I love you.That's disarming. You forget all the abuse.
I respect you. There’s nobody that I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again. And you’re going to be leading the charge. So thank you all very much. Thank you, beautiful. Thank you all very much. Have a good day. I’ll be back. I’ll be back. Thank you.Goodbye. Thank you. Have a nice day.
* I got confused about the 2 Mikes. I'm sure the CIA people in the room did not.