Speaking to a Florida crowd Saturday evening, President Trump recycled campaign rhetoric as he discussed reforms of health care, taxes, and border control while stoking the fires of his feud with the press.
“Life is a campaign,” he told reporters before taking the podium, according to The Guardian. “Making our country great again is a campaign. For me, it’s a campaign. To make America great again is absolutely a campaign. It’s not easy, especially when we’re also fighting the press.”
Just four weeks into his presidency, Mr. Trump returned to the popular tactics he used on the campaign trail. Hosting the rally in Melbourne, Fla., the same city where he rallied a crowd of voters in September, he spoke to a sea of supporters in red "Make America Great Again" hats.
Many have questioned the reasoning behind holding a campaign-style rally less than a month into his presidency – long before the midterm campaign season, let alone the next general election season, ever takes off. For Trump, who held far more rallies than his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, speaking freely among his supporters became a key part of the campaign and transition period, and seems to be continuing into his presidency.
The rally gave the president a chance to deliver an unfettered message to the people, free from what he sees as “fake news” coverage by the media.
“The dishonest news media, which has published one story after another with no sources – even though they pretend they have them, they make them up in many cases – they’ve become a big part of the problem,” he said. “They are part of the corrupt system.”
The rally followed a week of disruption in his administration. From the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder’s nomination as Labor secretary, recent coverage has highlighted miscommunication and discord within the White House.
The president dismisses those stories as "lies" and "fake news," saying, "I promise you that the White House is running so smoothly."
“When the media lies to people, I will never, ever, let them get away with it,” he said to loud applause. “They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda.”
These repeated claims, presented without evidence, have resonated with Trump’s supporters, including Cheryl Hall, a disabled veteran from Claremont, Fla. At Saturday’s rally, she told the Associated Press that she wishes outlets wouldn’t be “so mean” to the president in their coverage.
They’ve also raised concerns among news outlets and politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said Saturday on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Saturday afternoon, before the rally began. “Without it I’m afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.”
“That’s how dictators get started,” he said, adding, “they get started by suppressing a free press.”
The president is spending the weekend in Florida at his private club, where he plans to meet with candidates to replace Mr. Flynn. The rally, Trump told the crowd, was a way to reconnect with the voters whose support put him in office.
“I’m here because I want to be among my friends and among the people,” he said.