Trump is back. Twice impeached, facing a slew of legal and financial issues, the disgraced former president made good on his threat to run in 2024 in a weird and draggy hour-long mess of a speech to the faithful last night at Mar-a-Lago. The announcement was everything you’d expect from a Trump performance: the accordion hands, the singsong voice, the tussle with the teleprompter as if the machine were a hostile headmaster testing him on Latin declensions.
Whoever wrote the speech loaded up the usual gobbledygook about “globalist sellouts” and China and rebuilding the military, but to no avail. Trump, as usual, seemed uninterested in the prepared text, and he shifted to all the greatest hits, including his many grievances, the meandering stories, and the bragging that defies fact-checking. Among the many weird gems of improvisation, Trump said that, during the four years of his presidency, there were “decades without a war.” (Pretty sure that one’s inaccurate, but forget it, he was rolling.)
As a former speechwriter, I can’t really blame Trump for being bored by the text. Whatever Trump’s idiosyncrasies and failings as a public speaker, his speechwriters—I assume Stephen Miller, in most cases—are terrible, writing for themselves with attempts at high drama and Gothic menace, rather than for the simpler cadences of a Queens casino boss with a limited vocabulary.
I’m sure that many Americans, if they bothered to watch the speech, rolled their eyes. Even the loyalists at Fox kept cutting away, while reassuring the viewers that it was a great speech. (Among the network’s many over-the-top moments: Joe Concha said it sounded like a State of the Union address, which I suppose made sense if you couldn’t hear the actual words.) As I used to do during the Trump years, I live-tweeted my commentary on the speech, and many Twitter users angrily told me to ignore Trump—to stop amplifying him and stop giving him attention, as if he would just disappear if we looked away.
But I have to admit that I welcome Trump’s candidacy.