President Trump returned to the scene of the crime Thursday night and reminded everyone once again how he got away with stealing the state of Pennsylvania from Democrats in the 2016 election.
“I feel that we are saving the country,” Mr. Trump told an audience gathered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for a televised town hall meeting conducted by Fox News.
It was one of many applause lines in a wide-ranging interview in which Mr. Trump touted the economy, defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus threat and restated his commitment to bring troops home from foreign entanglements where America’s vital interests are not clearly evident.
Specifically, Mr. Trump trumpeted the elimination of pointless federal rules and regulations from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency that cripple local economies in places like Scranton. He also proudly defended the oil and gas business that has been booming in those places.
Not only is Scranton in a state that Mr. Trump won and hopes to win again later this year, the small city is also the birthplace of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who hopes to challenge Mr. Trump as the Democratic nominee in November’s election.
Mr. Trump was directly asked by a member of the audience what he personally could do to make the political discourse in Washington more civil.
“I wouldn’t be sitting up here if I turned my cheek,” he responded flatly.
“We get hit so hard. We have to fight back.”
Later, Mr. Trump mentioned Mr. Biden by name and then stopped to note that he had not called him “sleepy Joe” as he often does, because he was trying to be nice.
Asked about the $23 trillion national debt, Mr. Trump said he does take it seriously and wants to reduce it. But he said his first order of business was rebuilding the military.
He said that when he first confronted North Korea over its nuclear ballistics ambitions, he was warned by his military leaders that the U.S. was “out of ammunition.”
But, he said, he hopes to tame the deficit going forward with a growing economy.
The president was asked about Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s threatening language during a speech on the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court directed — by name — at two sitting justices nominated by Mr. Trump.
“That was a physical thing,” he said. “Real intimidation.”
“I have to state the facts,” he said. “I’m not threatening anybody.”
Mr. Trump also expressed sympathy for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the socialist opposing Mr. Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.
If Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had gotten out earlier than this week, Mr. Trump said, Mr. Sanders would have won more contests on Super Tuesday and might still be in the delegate lead over Mr. Biden.
“She did him no favors,” he said of Ms. Warren. “That is no friendship.”
Returning to the issue of civility in Washington, Mr. Trump said he remains hopeful. But first, he said, he has to beat the Democrats one more time.
Only then, he predicted, will Democrats surrender in peace and say: “OK, that’s it. Let’s get along.”
One thing you got to give the guy. He is one hopeless optimist.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @charleshurt on Twitter.
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