For a night, anyway, it was a kinder, gentler Donald Trump.
At the conclusion of a day that saw pipe bombs delivered to prominent Democratic politicians, donors and CNN’s New York offices, President Trump employed a markedly different tone when he addressed his supporters at a campaign rally Wednesday night in Mosinee, Wis.
After acknowledging the packages that he said the FBI was investigating and vowing to “find those responsible,” Trump decried politically motivated violence and said “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony.”
“Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective,” Trump said, reading from a teleprompter.
Whereas Trump usually rails against the “fake news” organizations assigned to cover him at his rallies, this time the president pulled his punches.
“The media has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories,” Trump said, a line that failed to generate the rousing chants of “CNN sucks!” heard earlier in the week.
Hours before the Wisconsin rally, CNN president Jeff Zucker issued a stern statement criticizing Trump for his incendiary rhetoric at rallies across the country, saying he shows a “complete lack of understanding” about the consequences his words have.
As he pivoted into his stump speech, the fiery, combative Trump was nowhere to be found. In a softer, even tone, Trump extolled the need for “more, not less policy debate in our country.” To that end, he portrayed the differences between the two political parties in terms that any Republican politician of the past 50 years might have used.
“Republicans are for lower taxes, less regulations and more economic freedom, and that’s a good thing,” Trump said. “The Democrats are for higher taxes, more regulations, and more top-down government control.”
Then Trump made it clear that his demeanor was itself scripted. “By the way, do you see how nice I am behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this? We are all behaving very well. Hopefully we can keep it that way, right? We are going to keep it that way.”
Gone from his speech was his usual assertion that “Democrats are the party of crime”; that Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who had received pipe bombs in the mail, was a “low I.Q. individual”; and that the media are “dishonest people” or even the “enemy of the people.”
In fact, he sounded much like the Republican politicians he defeated in the 2016 primary, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the candidates he had come to Wisconsin to try and boost in a tight midterm election.
“I’m trying to be nice,” Trump said.
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