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What Trump’s Phoenix rally taught us


President Trump used his “Make America Great Again” rally to grab back control of the conversation following criticism from both opponents and supporters.

His response to deadly violence in Charlottesville was widely seen as too vague in its condemnation of neo-Nazis, while some supporters have been scathing about his announcement of more US troops for Afghanistan, a commitment he had promised to end.

The Arizona rally – unusual for a serving president – was his response.

‘Dishonest’ media

Mr Trump accused journalists of misrepresenting his “perfect” words in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, where Heather Heyer was killed after a car ploughed into a crowd of people protesting against far-right demonstrators including neo-Nazis.

“For the most part,” Mr Trump said, “these are really, really dishonest people, and they’re bad people. And I really think they don’t like our country.”

“The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself, and the fake news,” he added, accusing the media of being the “source of division in this country”.

The president then wrongly alleged that US TV networks were ending their live coverage of his speech because he was criticising them.

‘Respect that fact’

Mr Trump has been accused by right-wing Breitbart news – run by his former chief strategist Steve Bannon – of “flip-flopping” on his “America first” approach and instead copying Barack Obama’s Afghanistan policy.

In response he talked up his support for military veterans, said he was increasing defence spending so that troops were well-equipped and said “every American deserves a government that protects them… and fights for them.”

He also said a pro-active approach to foreign policy had led to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un “starting to respect the US”.

“I respect that fact very much. Respect that fact,” he said.

‘Liberating towns’

Mr Trump was at pains to say he wanted a better America for all its citizens, including immigrants.

But some of his remarks appeared designed to appeal to those of his supporters who have been accused of being white nationalists.

Large inflated figures of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and President Trump are seen above ant-Trump protesters outside the Phoenix Convention CenterImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Protesters hold up an inflatable Joe Arpaio, whom Mr Trump hinted he would pardon

Mr Trump again linked illegal immigration to crime and drugs.

“This is like from a different age… These are animals. We are getting them out of here. We’re throwing them in jails, and we’re throwing them out of the country. We’re liberating our towns,” he said.

He hinted at a possible presidential pardon for controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who rose to national prominence because of his tough stance against illegal immigration and was found guilty of in July over his detention of migrants.

And he also made an apparent reference to the removal of Confederate statues – monuments to figures from the slavery-supporting southern states that attempted to secede from the union.

The wall

No Trump rally is complete without a reference to Mr Trump’s proposed barrier on the Mexican border – which he says will keep out illegal immigrants and drug traffickers.

“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” he said.

Mr Trump has always insisted Mexico will pay, but has accepted that US taxpayers will have to cover the initial funding and he wants money allocated in the upcoming US budget.

If there is no deal on the budget and the debt ceiling then the federal government will shut down, federal employees will not go to work and millions of people will not get paid get paid.

A showdown in Washington looms.

Mr Trump also said he would “probably end up terminating Nafta” – the free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada.

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