When Donald Trump visited Philadelphia Wednesday for the second time in the space of a week, the setting was starkly different from Friday’s meeting with African-American voters at a church catering hall.
This time, Trump appeared before an nearly all-white audience of Republican loyalists at the Union League, a symbol of status and privilege. The Wi-Fi password in the building was “golfcourse.”
But both appearances were part of the effort to reshape public perceptions of Trump … last week on racial inclusion, and this week presenting him as a man of substance — and not bombast.
Trump delivered his speech on national security in advance of an MSNBC forum on the subject Wednesday night.
This speech had facts and numbers — lots of them.
“In 2009, our Marine Corps stood at 202,000 active Marines. Today, it’s 182,000,” Trump said, reading from a teleprompter. “Our ship count is below the minimum of 308 that the Navy says is needed.”
Trump detailed a decline in American military strength, and he promised to increase spending to fix it, along with improving cyberwar capabilities, rebuilding missile defense system, and improving care for veterans.
He said rebuilding the military would create jobs in all 50 states, but he didn’t have a price tag for the effort. He said it could be paid for by cutting bureaucracy and waste, and doing a better job of collecting taxes.
Trump also didn’t offer a specific plan to defeat ISIS, saying only that, upon taking office, he would ask his generals for plans “to immediately defeat and destroy” the group.
Trump’s tone was noticeably more measured than in recent stump speeches.
He said, for example, he would respectfully ask countries including Japan, Germany and Saudi Arabia to pay more for U.S. military protection, “and they’ll fully understand. They’re economic behemoths. They’re tremendously successful countries, but we’re subsidizing them for billions and billions of dollars. I think they’ll fully understand.”
While his words were carefully chosen, he still had plenty of harsh ones for his Democratic opponent.”Hillary Clinton’s legacy in Iraq, Syria, and Libya has produced only turmoil and suffering and death,” Trump said. “Her destructive policies have displaced millions of people.”
Trump promised he would abandon what he called Clinton’s policy of reckless intervention in the Middle East, saying diplomacy and gradual reform would his guiding principles.
Reporters noted that you don’t hear Trump described as diplomatic much. He wasn’t available for questions afterward, but a supporter, retired Brig. Gen. Remo Butler said Trump isn’t quite the loose cannon you might think.
“Trump knows what he’s doing,” Butler said. “When he first got involved, there were 16 or 17 other people [in the race] and everybody laughed him off as a joke. And he was very bombastic, and he made crazy statements.
“But guess what? That got him attention, and it made people listen to him.”
Both campaigns are spending a lot of time in Pennsylvania. Next week, President Obama will be in Philadelphia to campaign for Clinton.