The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place in sunny Florida this weekend, with its top drawer speaker Donald Trump pulling out all the stops to deliver one of his strangest and most inflammatory speeches ever.
Every year American conservatives spend as much as $7,000 a ticket to watch the likes of Ted Cruz’s flailing attempts at self-mockery, and this year was no different.
The former president doubled down on his long lasting claims of election fraud, with a healthy dose of QAnon dog whistling for good measure.
Despite disengagement from some of the Republican party’s establishment figures in the wake of his second impeachment trial, the conference proved to pretty much be a shrine to Donald Trump in every possible way.
Here are the comprehensive highlights of his 90 minute mess:
Trump opened with some considerable fawning over the “journey” his party has been on over the past four years.
He was also quick to derail all claims that he will be starting a new party.
“I want you to know that I am going to continue to fight right by your side. We will do what we’ve done right from the beginning, which is win. We are not starting new parties. They kept saying ‘he’s going to start a brand new party’. We have the Republican party – it is going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party, that was fake news. Fake news. Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Lets start a new party, lets divide our vote so we can never win.”
A lot of the speech used tired material that could have been taken from anything he said back in 2016. There was heavy mention of his not-so-successful border wall.
“You know what I’ve always said? Walls and wheels, those are two things that’ll never change.”
The former president doubled down on the myths of a fraudulent election, announcing he “might even decide to beat them for a third time”. It was met with some of the loudest cheers of the entire speech that went on for over half a minute.
In a truly mystifying claim that will likely not receive any further inspection, he proudly declares that the US was able to withhold foreign aid during his time in office.
“I said ‘we’re not going to pay them anymore’. So after I said that, I stopped payment. A term we use in the world of business - lets stop payment. So we stopped payment. They were delinquents. We stopped payment. They very quickly came to the table and we made a deal. A very quick deal. We still kept the money, and we still didn’t pay because...”
Trump also mourned the “extremism, corruption and incompetence” of the Biden administration with the exact lack of self-awareness you’d expect.
Here’s some key quotes from other topics covered in the speech.
On trans rights:
“[Young girls and women] are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males. It’s not good for women. It’s not good for women’s sports, which worked so long and so hard to get to where they are. The records that stood for years, even decades, are being smashed with ease. Smashed. If this does not change women’s sports as know it will die. They’ll end. It’ll end.”
On Joe Biden rejoining the Paris Climate Accord:
“If you wanted to go back in - which frankly - we have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, and everything else that we’ve ever so I don’t know why we have to. What good does it do when we’re clean but China’s not, and Russia’s not, and India’s not? So they’re pouring fumes. The world is actually a small piece of the universe, right? They’re pouring fumes and we’re trying to protect everything and building products.”
On fundamentally misunderstanding wind power:
“It’s so bad for the environment. It kills the birds, it destroys the landscapes. Remember - these are structural columns with fans on them. They wear out. And when they wear out all over the country you see them, nobody takes them down. They’re rotting, they’re rusting. How this is environmentally good for our country...it costs many, many times more than natural gas, which is clean. It can fuel our great factories. Wind can’t do that. And solar, I love solar but it doesn’t have the capacity to do what we have to do to Make America Great Again.”
“The Democrats used the China virus as an excuse to change all of the election rules without the approval of their state legislators, making it therefore illegal!”
On his rift with Mitch McConnell:
“He made a request, he asked for my endorsement. It brought him from one point down to twenty points up, and he won his race in the great state. Actually, the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. He won it very easily. I said ‘I wonder if I’m doing the right thing here!’ But you know what? I did what I did [...] If you compare that to his other elections, I’m sure you’ll see something interesting.”
On electoral fraud:
“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that must be fixed immediately. This election was rigged. The Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
As the speech draws to a close, he reels off a list of his detractors - including the House Representatives that voted to impeach him. It reads more like a primary school register than any meaningful argument against why they’ve stood against him.
After 90 minutes exits the stage to none other than the YMCA.
The whole thing was met with ridicule from many people across Twitter.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer even called Republican Congress members’ attendance of the rally “unconscionable”.
It’s an interesting case study on what happens when the former leader of the most powerful country in the world is banned from sharing his dangerous views online.