Outgoing President Donald Trump, whose White House tenure will end in less than 24 hours, touted his judicial picks, his notions of free speech, and his other legislative victories during a 20-minute speech on Tuesday. But he also spent considerable time praising the same American democracy he spent two months fighting against in dozens of court cases and public statements.
Trump tacitly acknowledged his slow erasure from social media networks and used the farewell speech to rail against the increasingly limited dissemination of his own words and thoughts through private online platforms.
In the speech, Trump parroted the reason his supporters frequently cite to support him: he cast himself as a wealthy man who stepped from a perch of privilege to care for the common American. Trump said his victories for the common man included “landmark criminal justice reform” and remaking the courts in his name.
“We confirmed three new justices of the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said. “We appointed nearly 300 federal judges to interpret our constitution as written.”
The latter comment is an apparent reference to the conservative judicial philosophies of originalism and textualism—philosophies shared by a number of the Trump-appointed judges (and justices) who rejected the 45th president’s post-election lawsuits.
Trump also spent time praising American democracy after spending more than two months fighting against his democratic removal from office by the Electoral College and the popular vote. Trump and/or his surrogates and legal supporters lost 64 court cases related to the election. Trump also lost two recounts and was impeached twice, Democratic party and Biden campaign attorney Marc Elias noted on Twitter.
Trump did not mention Joe Biden by name; instead, he made only vague references to the transition of power.
“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration, at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” Trump said. “There’s never been anything like it. The believe that a nation must serve its citizens will not dwindle, but instead only grow stronger by the day.”
Politically, the speech was markedly anti-Progressive in tone. Trump spoke glowingly of history and of his belief that the past should be what drives the country forward.
“We promoted a culture where our laws would be upheld, our heroes honored, our history preserved, and law abiding citizens are never taken for granted,” Trump said. “Americans should take tremendous satisfaction in all that we have achieved together.”
He said that he is spending his time while vacating the White House “reflecting on the dangers that threaten the priceless inheritance that we all share,” including threats from abroad and a “loss of confidence in our national greatness.”
“A nation is only as strong as its spirit. We are only as dynamic as our pride,” he added. “No nation can long thrive that loses faith in its own values, history, and heroes, for these are the very sources of our unity and our vitality.”
He said the “shared national identity” of the country was critical to its future.
He also called out what he called alleged “political censorship,” “blacklisting,” and “punitive speech codes,” presumably but not explicitly referencing the recent ban by internet sites like Twitter of Trump and his various high-profile supporters. Trump said such restraints on speech were unnecessary because American were strong enough to tolerate viewpoints with which they disagreed.
“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol,” he said. “Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.”
Violence erupted after the president spoke at a rally and repeated the falsehood that the election was stolen from him. The Trump campaign and its allies failed to find one court — whether federal or state — that supported the president’s tall tale. So, the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol Complex in the hopes of making sure Vice President Mike Pence — in at least some of their minds — “did the right thing” to “stop the steal.” To them, the required action — which many of Trump supporters said they were undertaking in Trump’s name — was to ignore the Constitution and to overturn the election by throwing out Electoral College votes based on assertions of fraud that were never backed by legally sufficient evidence.
Trump did not reference the fears that future deadly violence may be stoked and instigated by his verbiage online. (Twitter said it “permanently suspended [Trump’s] account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”)
Earlier in the speech, Trump said he was glad he answered a “plea” by Americans to secure the country’s borders, which he called the “most secure” in “history” due to his decision to give law enforcement officers the “strongest and most robust” tools ever and 450 miles of “powerful, new wall.”
Trump also dubiously claimed Americans enjoyed the “lowest prescription drug prices anywhere in the world.”
A recent House Ways and Means Committee report said the opposite.
“The U.S. pays the most for drugs, though prices varied widely,” the report concluded. “Annual pharmaceutical spending per capita varied from $318 in Denmark to $1,220 in the United States. Average annual per capita spending on pharmaceuticals was $675.25 across the 12 countries, $625.73 excluding the U.S. U.S. drug prices are on average outliers relative to all comparator countries. Most countries had average drug prices around 24 to 30 percent of those in the United States.”
Trump asserted the opposite was true.
He also said he “obliterated the ISIS caliphate” and “ended the wretched life of its founder and leader,” actions he said would result in the “dawn of a new Middle East.” He also said he was “especially proud to be the first president who has started no new wars.”
“The world respects us again,” said Trump, pleading of the incoming administration. “Please don’t lose that respect.”
The full transcript is below.
[image via screen capture from YouTube/The White House]
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