It was two years ago to the day — June 15, 2015 — when Donald Trump descended the escalator at Trump Tower and began his calculated, aggressive ascent, gouging itself into the face of political history.
You can talk all you want about President Donald Trump’s nomination, election, inauguration, first 100 days, first 200 days or whatever — but you can’t speak of this man’s dramatic impact on American politics without examining that day he announced his candidacy in New York.
In my book it was the beginning of endless political upheaval, the curtain-raising of “Make America Great Again,” the advent of a candidate willing to call sitting presidents and political opponents “stupid” and “losers” — and much worse in the days to come. It was the first of many lessons for pundits who thought brash, inexperienced outsiders were incapable of getting traction, let alone getting elected.
If you go back and watch the 45-minute announcement, captured on a YouTube video of an ABC live broadcast and on C-Span (https://youtu.be/apjNfkysjbM), you see the beginnings of Trump’s populist appeal, his flirtation with the unemployed, the unappreciated blocks of voters who were unidentified by everybody but him at that juncture.
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June 15 was the first day he fancied himself “President Trump,” the “greatest jobs president that God ever created,” and a “nice guy.” It’s the day he pronounced his net worth at somewhere between $8.8 and $10 billion — though he would never release the tax returns to complete his financial profile.
For those who thought the crowd that day was paid or hand-picked to cheer him on, they have trouble explaining the crowds who came after. It was Trump talk tapping into a base only his campaign seemed to be able to identify and sway.
“China has our jobs, and Mexico has our jobs....our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work. Boy, does that send signals to Putin....we have a disaster called the big lie — Obamacare,” he said.
Crowd: “We want jobs now. We want Trump. We want Trump.”
“Well, you need somebody. Politicians won’t save you,” he replied.
“I am officially running for President of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again.....
“How stupid are our leaders?” Obama “did” Bergdahl. “We get Bergdahl and they get five killer terrorists that everybody wanted over there...we get a no-good traitor....and those people (terrorists) are back on the battlefield trying to kill us.”
The promises rolled out on the Trump Talk assembly line: repeal and replace Obamacare; build a great wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it; nobody will be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump. And plenty more.
“The American Dream is dead ... but if I get elected president, I will bring it back.”
As was typical over the next months and years, pundits that day wrote off Trump as a longshot, and gave these assessments of that speech: rambling, problems mentioned, no solutions. He called the U.S. a third world country; Scott Bixby with Mic News at the time, said Trump seemed “unhinged,” “frothing at the mouth” and spoke like “a dumb person trying to sound smart.”
Though Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo vacillated about Trump, there was no support for him in the early going among the Idaho congressional delegation. And none of them predicted he would win the nomination or the presidency. Of course, who did?
“I have never seen anything like it,” says Sen. Jim Risch. “He violated every rule of survival, and yet he won.
“However this comes out (the Trump presidency) he is going to be a substantial historical figure. America has never seen anybody like this before.”
Donald Trump won the day June 15 and the next 500 — alienating half the country during the journey.
That I can tell you.