Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s critics say his popularity is built on raw anger.
“People are sick and tired and fed up, and yes, we’re angry,” Trump told a near-capacity crowd of about 9,000 at the Oral Roberts University Mabee Center on Wednesday afternoon.
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who possibly was cheered louder than Trump, sounded a similar tone in her warm-up remarks.
“People say this base of support is angry,” she said. “Darn right we’re angry.”
Palin and Trump directed most of that anger toward President Barack Obama, whom Palin called “our weak-kneed capitulator-in-chief” and seemed to blame him for her son’s recent domestic violence arrest in Alaska.
Trump called Obama and just about everyone else in Washington, D.C., “stupid” and said he is smarter than the other Republican candidates.
He especially singled out Jeb Bush, who Trump said “is probably an honest guy but a stiff.”
He also directed the crowd’s anger toward the media, immigrants, the “establishment,” Democrats and anyone who disagrees with him.
Palin said Trump’s “ability to go rogue” and attack everyone from the Republican establishment to liberals “who wear political correctness like a suicide vest” is the outstanding feature of his candidacy.
Both parties’ leadership, she said, has failed “Joe Six-Pack,” leaving the billionaire Trump to look out for them.
“The politicians are all talk and no action,” Trump said. “We have incompetent leadership at the highest level. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
An example of Trump’s leadership style might be his approach to negotiations. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, he said, have been hoodwinked by Iran.
“The Persians are great negotiators,” Trump said. “They always have been throughout history. … They made us look like a bunch of dummies.”
Both the invasion of and withdrawal from Iraq were mistakes, he said. “In 2003 and 2004, I said, ‘Don’t go into Iraq.’ And I’m the most militaristic person there is,” he said. “We shouldn’t have been there, but once we were there we shouldn’t have gotten out that way, and we should have kept the damned oil.”
Trump called Bowe Bergdahl, the captured U.S. soldier who was returned in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, “a dirty rotten traitor” who should be dropped into the heart of ISIS territory “before we bomb the hell out of it.”
Illegal immigrants, Trump said, are flooding into the country and taking jobs.
“Our southern border is a mess,” he said. “The Border Patrol is told to stand back, don’t touch.”
What has become something of a ritual at Trump events — the throwing out of the first protester — occurred about four minutes into his speech.
From the press area, it was not clear what the person did to attract attention, but a round of boos went up to the side of the stage and high up in the seats, and Trump ordered the person removed.
Handling hecklers and protesters at political events while maintaining order and focus can be difficult, but Trump has turned it into an art form, stirring his supporters’ ire against both the dissenters and the media.
“I hope there are more (protesters),” Trump said after the first one was removed from the arena. “The only way the cameras will turn to show the audience … the only time they show (the crowd) is when we have a protester.”
Continuing to talk about the media, he said: “They’re dishonest people. They’re totally dishonest people, they really are.”
Trump got his wish. He several times drew attention to people in the audience who seemed to disagree with him, then chastised the press — and especially the cameras — for turning toward the disturbance.
One of those singled out by Trump was Tulsa musician Ty Clark, who was wearing a shirt with the words “You are being lied to.” Clark was on the floor for more than half an hour before Trump pointed him out.
“I was surrounded by old ladies hitting me with their signs and screaming the most hateful things I’ve ever heard,” said Clark.
He said he was extricated by a Tulsa police officer who escorted him to an exit.
“The Tulsa police were awesome in keeping people from hurting us,” Clark said.
Near the end of Trump’s speech, though, a friend of Clark’s named Brandon Smits got into an altercation when he stood on a ledge behind the press area and pointed to his shirt. The writing on the shirt could not be read from the Mabee Center floor, but according to Clark it said “We come in peace.”
There appeared to be some pushing, and a hat was knocked off, but, because Trump was wrapping up and people were heading for the exits, the situation seemed to defuse.
Palin’s 20-minute speech covered some familiar ground for her and even included her signature “Drill, baby, drill,” line, even with the price of oil falling below $27 a barrel on Wednesday.
Her main thrust, though, was that Trump is a skilled and effective negotiator who is not afraid to play hardball and who is independent of moneyed interests — largely because he has so much money himself.
“He is the one candidate with the willingness and ability to make that change, to change up that establishment,” she said. “Are you ready to take back our country, Oklahoma? Are you ready to take back our country?”
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365