CLEVELAND– Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination Thursday night in a 76-minute speech where he cast himself as the candidate of law and order.
In delivering the heated remarks, enthusiastically received at the Quicken Loans Arena, Trump largely kept to prepared text on a TelePrompTer, occasionally sprinkling it with Trump-isms like, “Believe me.”
His speech was long, reportedly the longest acceptance speech since 1972, and described the dire situation of the country and then how he was the one to fix it.
He characterized Hillary Clinton as a “puppet” of the elites, a candidate who would not bring about change.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton — death, destruction and weakness,” he said, in one of the speech’s darker lines. “But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy.”
His best line may have been near the end, when he made a dig at Hillary Clinton’s “loyalty pledge” “I’m with her,” with his own. “I’m with you.”
But he didn’t shy away from identifying himself as the ones who could solve the country’s ills.
“I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence today that afflicts our nation will soon and I mean very soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.”
He softened his rhetoric on issues like his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. And he expressed his support from the NRA as indicative not of a right to bear arms, but to keep families safe.
As he did during the campaign, Trump strayed from past Republican orthodoxy, criticizing free trade agreements and foreign intervention. But he put the blame on policy failures squarely on Clinton.
Trump’s speech recalled Richard Nixon’s theme of his campaign for president in another tumultuous year, 1968, when he too talked of restoring “law and order.” Trump tied his largely to the turbulence of recent police shootings, and blamed President Obama for fomenting some of the lawlessness through his rhetoric.
Although some initial reaction to the speech was that it played too much to fear and lacked uplifting moments, at the arena there was sentiment that it was just the right capper to a week marked by disruptive moments.
John Traier, a New Jersey delegate, said that he thought the speech was “terrific — and I say that as a gay man.”
He was disappointed that the GOP platform still takes a position against same-sex marriage, but felt that Trump made up for it in his reference to protecting LGBTQ Americans. He mentioned it when talking about the terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
“I think he said the right things about protecting our country, investing in America first,” he said.
CNN chief Jeff Zucker said he thought Trump came through in the most important moment of his political career to date.
“I thought it was a good night,” he said.
Zucker dismissed the talk about whether Trump can unify a fractured GOP, signs of which were evident at the convention.
“All that matters for him was tonight,” Zucker said.