Reporting from Boca Raton, Fla. — Donald Trump filled several roles Saturday: self promoter, crowd pleaser, economic analyst, and slashing critic of President Barack Obama.
He didn’t do what many of the 2,500 to 3,000 people gathered to hear him at a tea party rally wanted, declare himself a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. But he drew cheers by dropping tantalizing hints.
The crowd roared approval when he said he wasn’t quite ready to apply the signature line, “You’re fired,” from his reality TV show to Obama. “We’ve got a long way to go before we start using that. It’s too early, and to be honest it’s too trivial,” he said. “But I have it in the back of my mind.”
Trump bragged about his intelligence, touted his business acumen, laid out areas in which he thinks American domestic and foreign policy is wrong, and again raised questions about whether the president really is a U.S. citizen.
In many ways, the 47-minute speech was unlike anything a presidential candidate or potential candidate says.
He offered this view on the U.S. helping Japan with the aftermath of its earthquake and tsunami: “For 30 years, they’ve been ripping us off and taking advantage of us. But I still think we should help. See don’t I have a great heart?”
And, he said, “In the old days, when we won a war, we won a war.” Trump said that what that means is “you keep the nation, you keep the land, you keep the oil.” He said he’d only be interested in current U.S. military actions in Iraq or Libya if the U.S. got the oil from those nations.
He said Obama would “almost certainly will go down in history as the worst president of the United States.”
Trump termed Obama as living “in the world of the make-believe” because he believes government statistics that indicate inflation is low. And he disputed if Obama wrote both his own books because he said there is a huge difference in quality between the two works.
“The difference was like chicken salad and chicken s---,” Trump told the crowd.
Trump said he’d be a far different president and America would be on a new path.
“The United States has become the laughing stock and the whipping post for the rest of the world, whether we like it or not, and we don’t like it, the world is laughing at us. They’re laughing at our leaders, they’re taking advantage of us, and it’s a disgrace,” he said.
He said he can turn around the nation’s fortunes because he has worldwide experience negotiating business deals.
“I’ve come out almost always as the victor, and I have to say that,” Trump told the audience. Saying he didn’t want to be “bragadocious,” Trump said the nation needed that type of person as president.
He said his self-assessment was “both a scorecard and an acknowledgement of certain abilities.” And Trump said about himself, “I have very high aptitude. I was a great student. I went to the best schools.”
Trump pledged that if he were president, he would not raise taxes, that he’d create “vast numbers of productive jobs” and “get rid of Obamacare, which is a total disaster.”
He said he doesn’t like the idea that someone calling to check on a credit card bill often gets a representative in India instead of an American. And he said U.S. infrastructure needs improvement, pointing to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which he often uses. “It’s old. It’s dirty. It’s falling apart. It’s disgusting.”
Trump, who lives part time in Palm Beach, arrived at the tea party rally at Sanborn Square Park in Boca Raton looking as if he’d just come from the set of “Celebrity Apprentice,” dressed in a black suit, white shirt and pink tie. He joked about his much mocked hair, “and with all this wind, now at least you know it’s my real hair.”
Mike Cericola, a member of the Staten Island, N.Y., tea party vacationing in South Florida, said he attended Saturday when he heard Trump would be there. He said Trump should be taken seriously as a candidate, and dismissed naysayers who think he’s trying to gin up publicity for his reality TV show.
“The man has enough money he doesn’t have to use this as a ploy,” he said.
Suzanne Solomon of Jensen Beach is ready to vote for Trump for president. “I don’t think I disagreed with anything," she said.
The tea party may provide a critical base for Trump if he decides to run, said Sean Foreman, a political scientist at Barry University. “These are the people who shaped the 2010 elections and he’s banking on them shaping the 2012 election, and he wants to be their champion.”