WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump promised a massive military buildup and put a staunchly nationalistic stamp on Republican politics in a fiery address to supporters Friday.
“The era of empty talk is over. It’s over. Now is the time for action,” Trump told battalions of conservatives gathered for an annual meeting just outside the US capital.
In wide ranging remarks Trump painted immigrants as criminals, attacked the media as the “enemy of the people” and promised one of the “greatest military buildups in American history.”
“Nobody’s going to mess with us, folks. Nobody.” the president said.
“Offensive. Defensive. Everything. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before. And hopefully we’ll never have to use it,” he added.
The hawkish message was met with euphoric chants of “USA, USA” by conservatives packed into the Oxon Hill venue.
Twenty-one-year-old Austin Wellman hailed Trump’s drive to “bring back” patriotic fervor following his election victory last November over Hillary Clinton.
It “makes us feel like we don’t have to hide the pride that comes with being an American,” Wellman said.
Trump’s month-long tenure in the White House has been marked by a political tug-of-war between Republican orthodoxy and those advocating a more radical upheaval of American politics and the global order.
In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump pulled the rope decisively to the nationalistic far-right.
“There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag,” he said, echoing his promise to put “America First.”
“This is the United States of America that I’m representing.”
Americans bleed the “same red blood of great, great patriots,” he added.
This was also a victory lap of sorts. Just a year ago Trump dropped out of the same conference amid controversy over his appearance.
With his administration now mired in multiple missteps and strong disapproval ratings, Trump went on the offensive.
He painted Sweden, Germany and France as blighted by jihadist violence, as he sought to defend his own controversial crackdown on immigrants.
“We fully understand that national security begins with border security,” he said.
“Let me state this as clearly as I can: We are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” he said, promising to revisit a failed attempt to bar entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“We will not be deterred from this course, and in a matter of days, we will be taking brand new action to protect our people and keep America safe.”
Trump also defended orders issued by his administration for a sweeping crackdown on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already living in the country.
Though it targets as a priority people convicted or accused of crimes, the move sent shivers through US immigrant communities, most of them from Mexico and Central America, who are seriously threatened with deportation for the first time in decades.
Several cases of immigration enforcement have drawn national attention since Trump took office, including that of an undocumented woman with a brain tumor who was reportedly dragged out of a Texas hospital to a detention center.
Trump asked supporters to remember the rationale behind his orders.
“These are bad dudes. We’re getting the bad ones out, OK?”
“If you watch these people, it’s like gee, that’s so sad. We’re getting bad people out of this country, people that shouldn’t be, whether it’s drugs or murder or other things.”
“Basically all I’ve done is keep my promise.”