Trump gives Las Vegas Republicans an earful
LAS VEGAS — Donald Trump brought his presidential flirtation to Las Vegas Thursday night, portraying President Obama as a weak leader and pushing an aggressive foreign policy agenda that involves, among other things, extracting oil from war-torn countries as the price for American protection.
"In the old days, when you won the war, it was yours," Trump said to applause. "When we win a war ... we leave with nothing."
He added: "I'm interested in protecting none of them unless they pay."
Speaking in a casino ballroom, the combative developer and reality television host seemed to embrace this town's let-loose ethos, delivering a wide-ranging and expletive-laced speech that touched on topics including Obama's citizenship and drilling off the Gulf Coast. He was in Las Vegas to attend the wedding of Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, his friend and business competitor.
The trip is his second in as many days to one of the states that will help determine the Republican presidential nomination. On Wednesday, Trump visited New Hampshire and claimed credit for Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate, despite having questioned its existence for weeks. In Las Vegas, a jubilant Trump basked in applause once again.
"He did it because we went after him hard. We're tough negotiators like this country needs," he said. "I just ask him one thing: Why didn't he do it two or three years ago? Why does he have to put this country through turmoil?"
(Obama released the legally recognized version of his birth certificate in 2008.)
Trump attacked Obama's health care reform, saying it had hampered American businesses with uncertainty and calling on the Supreme Court to strike it down. "At least we'd know what the hell we're doing," he said.
He blamed the administration's policies for Nevada's continuing high unemployment and foreclosure rates, ticking off a laundry list of the state's problems. "I don't want to make you people depressed, but this is what you've got," he said.
The event, hosted by several Republican women's groups, attracted hundreds of activists and had all the trappings of a Las Vegas revue: an open bar, an ice sculpture emblazoned with Trump's name, even a Trump impersonator. It took place at Treasure Island, a resort in the shadow of Trump International Hotel, a 64-story building wrapped in 24-karat-gold glass and his sole Las Vegas venture.
His foreign policy stances won him the biggest applause. While admitting that he "made a lot of money in China," he repeated his call for a 25 percent tax on the country's imports. "They are professionals at manipulation," he said of China. "They are abusing this country like we've never been abused before."
He blamed Obama for failing to lower gas prices by challenging OPEC.
"You are going to be paying $5, $6 a gallon for gasoline," he said. "We don't have someone in Washington who says, 'You're not going to raise that ...price."
He proposed that the country take over the oil fields in Libya and Iraq — and demand compensation for military protection elsewhere.
"I'd say to South Korea, 'All those televisions you sell us, all the billions you make — we're going to protect you and make sure you're in good shape, but you're going to pay for it,'" he said. "You know something, they would do it in two minutes."
He added: "While we're spending billions of dollars being policemen of the world, China is spending billions of dollars a day buying the world."
Moving to domestic matters, Trump also called for offshore drilling in Alaska and the Gulf Coast, making no mention of last year's oil spill disaster.
"In China and other countries, they just burn whatever the hell is available," he said. "Over here, we want clean technology. What the hell good is green here if this guy over here is spewing all sorts of crap into the air?"
As for his presidential ambitions, Trump merely promised to make a decision soon. Some in the crowd suggested the enthusiastic reception was more an indication of the unsettled Republican field than support for Trump.
"I love the fact that he speaks his mind and is forcing some issues that no one else wants to force," said Rhonda Means, who lost her job as an assistant in a medical office last year. "But it depends on who else runs."