Feb. 23 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a keynote address Thursday night at the Conservative Political Action Conference, after a day filled with opinions — and some grievances — aired by several top Trump administration figures.
Pence occupied the top speaking spot at this year’s event near Washington, D.C., which is put on by the American Conservative Union, and received the event’s “Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award” – an annual honor given at CPAC named after the iconic actor and National Rifle Association advocate.
Echoing remarks from GOP leaders throughout the day, the vice president hailed the efforts of President Donald Trump after four weeks in the White House.
“Because of you, my friend Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States,” Pence told the audience. “You have elected a man for president who never quits, he never backs down, he is a fighter, he is a winner, and I promise you he will never stop fighting until we make America great again.”
Pence was preceded on-stage Thursday night by Fox News Channel host and former Westchester County, N.Y., District Attorney Jeanine Pirro — who passionately praised the Trump administration’s recent efforts on immigration — and was introduced by NRA lobbyist Chris Cox.
“In Trump parlance, it’s called law and order,” Pirro said of the president’s new, tougher immigration stance.
“Sanctuary cities? No thanks, I’ll take a wall,” Cox said.
In his 20-minute address, Pence slammed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act and the mainstream news media — and lauded the Trump campaign’s persistence in winning the election, every member of the president’s Cabinet and unconditional support for Israel.
“This is the time to prove again that our answers are the right answers,” he said.
“Talk about your fake news, folks, just look at all the promises liberals made about Obamacare,” he continued, drawing a few shouts of “lies!” from the crowd. “Despite all the fear-mongering from the left, make no mistake about, it we are going to have an orderly transition to a better healthcare system that finally puts the American people first.”
During a White House meeting with budget leaders Wednesday, Trump said a replacement healthcare system will be submitted next month. To date, neither the president nor Republicans in Congress have unveiled or provided details of a successor for the ACA.
Pence also pledged to rebuild the U.S. military to “restore the arsenal of democracy” and “hunt down and destroy [the Islamic State terror group] at its source so they can no longer threaten our nation and our families.”
Many other speakers Thursday, including Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, chastised the mainstream news media and the Democratic left for their treatment of the new administration. Pence’s speech was a crescendo of those views.
“This is our time. And I promise you the president and I will work our hearts out to make America safe again,” he said. “We need your prayers.
“With President Donald Trump in the White House the best days for America are yet to come. Let’s get to work.”
Pence last spoke at CPAC in 2015, when he was governor of Indiana, and has appeared at the event nine times.
“It’s great to be back,” he tweeted just moments before he took the stage.
Trump is scheduled to speak at the 44-year-old conservative grassroots conference on Friday morning — the first president to do so in his first year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1981. Trump declined to speak at last year’s event because he was on the campaign trail — a refusal that organizers called “a clear message to conservatives.”