In February 2011, President Donald Trump gave his first speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual summit of right-wing leaders, in what would become a precursor to his presidential campaign four years later.
Trump told an enthusiastic crowd at CPAC that he was debating whether to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and that if he did run, “our country will be great again.”
The speech largely focused on economic issues, including trade, taxes, and oil prices. Trump promised to crack down on China and other foreign countries that he said were taking advantage of multinational trade deals and making the US a “laughingstock” and the “whipping post for the rest of the world.”
“If I decide to run, I will not be raising taxes. We’ll be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries that are screwing us,” Trump said, to cheers. “We’ll be creating vast numbers of productive jobs. And we’ll rebuild our country so that we can be proud.”
Trump’s promise to raise tariffs on imported goods and bring manufacturing jobs back to rust belt communities became a cornerstone of his campaign, and, his administration says, remain central to his agenda as president.
At the very end of his speech, seemingly assuring the crowd of his conservative credentials, Trump ran through a checklist of his non-economic positions.
“Just very briefly, I’m pro-life. I’m against gun control,” Trump said. “And I will fight to end Obamacare and replace it.”
Trump did not miss the opportunity to self-aggrandize, boasting to the crowd that Steve Forbes had called him “one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the history of free trade.”
He spoke of his own popularity in the third person, “Bloomberg Business said in a vote of its readers that Donald Trump was the world’s most competitive businessperson,” Trump said. He argued that America needed a “highly competent person” like himself to lead it through tough times.
“I’ve beaten many people and companies and I’ve won many wars,” Trump said. “And I can tell you this. If I run and if I win, this country will be respected again. This country will be respected again. I can tell you that.”
Watch the full speech below:
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