In a controversial speech from the White House lawn, President Donald Trump on Thursday accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term as commander in chief with a promise that “the best is yet to come” and to continue rebuilding the military.
“Four years ago I ran for president because I could not watch this betrayal of our country any longer,” Trump said. “I could not sit by as career politicians let other countries take advantage of us on trade borders, foreign policy and national defense.
“Unlike previous administrations I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home.”
Trump, who has made veterans and national security key points of his campaign speeches, repeated his claims of defeating the Islamic State group “100 percent” and of bringing unprecedented peace to the Middle East in his convention address.
Like Vice President Mike Pence a day earlier, Trump highlighted his move to create the new U.S. Space Force and his changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs as signs that he has fulfilled his duties to reform and improve government for military families, while attacking Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as a dangerous replacement for voters.
“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years (in federal government),” he said.
“When I took office, the Middle East was in total chaos. ISIS was rampaging. Iran was on the rise. And the war in Afghanistan had no end in sight …”
“We will have strong borders, strike down terrorists who threaten our people, and keep America out of endless and costly foreign wars.”
Critics have charged that Trump has exaggerated his role in the ISIS fight, inflamed tensions with Iran and done little to change course in Afghanistan, where nearly as many U.S. troops are stationed today as when President Barack Obama left office.
Opponents also blasted Trump’s decision to make his speech from the White House — federal property that is supposed to be free from partisan campaigning — as unethical and offensive.
Hundreds of supporters, including many Republican lawmakers and administration Cabinet members, packed the South Lawn for the event, many sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and not wearing masks despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The speech was the culmination of a week of praise for Trump as commander in chief, including an address from Senate Armed Services Committee member Tom Cotton, R-Ark., earlier on Thursday.
“America is safer now than four years ago,” he said. “But Joe Biden would return us to a weak, dangerous past … President Trump’s strength has kept us out of war. Joe Biden won’t stand up for America.”
Last week, Democratic leaders decried Trump as an erratic leader who has been soft on foreign dictators, adversarial towards allies and callous about the impact of his decisions on military families.
Biden in his acceptance speech charged that Trump has “has cloaked America in darkness for much too long.” Trump countered that with hope that, given another four years, his new brand of politics will change the way the federal government operates permanently, and for the better.
“This November, we must turn the page forever on this failed political class,” he said. “Together, we will write the next chapter of the great American story.”
The presidential election will be held on Nov. 3.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.