Donald Trump gave a short, well-scripted speech to veterans on Thursday, drawing heavily on themes of patriotism, American strength and rebuilding the military.
“We will stop apologizing for America, and we will start celebrating America,” Trump said. “We will be united by our common culture, values and principles – becoming one American nation.”
One day after his visit to Mexico to meet Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and delivering a major speech in Phoenix on that re-drew his hard line on immigration, Trump arrived at the American Legion Convention in Cincinnati shortly after 9 a.m.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York and Sen. Jeff Sessions, who were with Trump in Phoenix, accompanied him to the Duke Energy Convention Center and Trump pointed them out to the crowd.
Trump seemed to draw a slightly bigger crowd of some 3,000 veterans than came to hear Hillary Clinton’s speech on Wednesday.
While the crowd was polite and clapped for both candidates, their applause for Trump seemed to come more frequently and with more enthusiasm.
Here are a few takeaways from his speech:
He can stick to a speech
Trump spoke to a conservative group of mostly older white men, and a neutral audience, so he deviated very little from his prepared speech. There were few, if any, rambling, off-the-cuff remarks that Trump is so famous for. His short speech relied heavily on themes of patriotism and American pride that brought round after round of enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
After his speech, Trump spent at least 10 minutes on stage with American Legion leaders, shaking hands and taking photos. Before he left, the crowd gave him one final standing ovation.
Trump as a powerful leader
Many predicted that Trump would portray himself as powerful leader who prefers strength to diplomacy, and he did just that.
“We will rebuild our depleted military and pursue a state-of-the-art missile defense,” Trump said. “We will do it based on those three famous words: peace through strength.”
Sean Comer, Xavier University’s director of government relations, predicted before the speech that Trump would stress safety and power. “He wants people to believe he is the leader that can keep them safe and secure from terrorism around the globe and that you do that by approaching it from a position of power before diplomacy,” Comer said. “So, one tact he could use, that he has used throughout the campaign, would be to represent that position of power.”
Rebuilding the military
His speech touched on all of the themes important to veterans: improving health care, rebuilding the military and a total reform of the VA.
“We will make sure our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have the best equipment, training and tools in the world – and we will ensure that they have the best medical care in the world, both in service, and when they return home as civilians,” he said. “I will appoint a Secretary of Veterans Affairs whose personal mission will be to clean up the VA.”
No mention of the wall
Trump’s immigration policy received a lot of attention this week as reporters nationwide tried to sort out exactly who would pay for the wall he wants to build between Mexico and which immigrants he seeks to deport.
During his speech at the American Legion, he did not mention “the wall” and only briefly touched on immigration. However he did say he had a good meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto the day before.
“We agreed in the meeting on the need to stop the illegal flow of guns, drugs, cash and people across the border and to take out the cartels,” Trump said. “We also talked about the importance of working to keep jobs and wealth in our hemisphere. A more prosperous Mexico means fewer illegal border crossings, and a better market for products made in the United States.”
What did he say about Hillary Clinton?
Trump only mentioned Clinton twice during his speech, taking jabs at her policy on Syrian refugees and for the email scandal that has plagued her, saying that “important email records will no longer be deleted and digitally bleached.”
He said he would keep terrorists and extremists out of the country by changing immigration screening procedures.
“That includes stopping the influx of Syrian refugees. My opponent wants a 550 percent increase. I, on the other hand, want to build a safe zone overseas – and use the money saved to invest in America,” Trump said. “We do not want to let anyone in our country who doesn’t support our values and is not capable of loving our people.”
But not all veterans agreed
After the speech, councilman Wendell Young and former state Representative Connie Pillich, who are both Democrats and U.S. Air Force veterans, held a press conference at a nearby park to rebut Trump’s comments.
“I would estimate military veterans do not trust Donald Trump with their care, with their charities, or with the nuclear launch codes,” Pillich told WCPO earlier this week.
The nation’s military works in coalitions, Pillich said.
“We don’t just bomb indiscriminately," she said. "Donald Trump doesn’t work with others. And Hillary Clinton has shown that she has worked well with others.”
Photo Gallery: Trump speaks to American Legion
The Clinton campaign issued a news release after Trump's American Legion appearance that referred heavily to a speech he made the previous night in Phoenix, Arizona. There, he insisted that his immigration plan would not include a path to legal status or citizenship for undocumented people and that his administratoin would remove millions of said people from the United States.
"Donald Trump once again showed us that he will continue his decades-long record of divisiveness and campaign of hate by pledging to forcibly remove every single undocumented immigrant from our country," the Clinton campaign said in the release. "He showed us, very clearly, what's at stake in this election by painting a picture of his idea of America: one in which immigrants are not welcomed and one in which innocent families are torn apart."