NASHVILLE, TN — Lines to get into Municipal Auditorium stretched for blocks like tendrils of a web, with many people lining up hours early to get into the 9,700-seat, 55-year-old facility to see President Donald Trump.
Many of them did not get in. Presidential appearances rarely run on time but Trump, scheduled to hit the stage at 6:30, didn’t go on until nearly 7 as security worked to get as much of the ticketed crowd inside as possible. By the time the president began, the upper levels of Municipal were still largely empty, but there certainly was no lack of demand to see the president, who overwhelmingly won Tennessee but was far outpaced by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Nashville itself in November’s election.
Many people waited for hours only to find out the line they were standing in didn’t actually lead to the auditorium itself, so they found themselves out in the March chilliness, mixing with a hefty number of protesters. While there was plenty of sometimes rancorous back-and-forth, there were also surreal — if ultimately touching — moments:
Free hugs from apparent Trump supporters. Some are talking them up on their offer. pic.twitter.com/Z48iQrATbN— Megan Seling (@mseling) March 16, 2017
Inside, Trump touched on a number of his favorite talking points: immigration, trade reform, tax reform, increased defense spending. His half-hour speech touched on the plans for the future of health care, but the rhetoric was far more focused on the front-half of repeal-and-replace, and though he promised a replacement plan for Obamacare, he didn’t overly commit to it being the plan presented by the House Republicans. With a decision coming out of a federal court in Hawaii putting a halt on the latest executive order banning travel from certain Muslim-majority countries just moments before he took the stage, certain federal judges were among those who earned his oratorical ire. In a tangent during which he read from the U.S. Code regarding presidential powers on immigration, he noted that the law used the pronoun "he" to refer to the president; he conceded that a woman could be president, but said it wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton, prompting that old October favorite — "Lock her up!" — from the crowd.
But it wasn’t Clinton or judges or Washington insiders or Democrats who were the main targets of Trump Wednesday. It was the media. The president repeatedly referred to the "fake news," "the lying media" and emphasized that reporters were "bad, bad people."
During his visit to The Hermitage before his arrival downtown, Trump was told that President Andrew Jackson would cross out stories in newspapers that he didn’t like.
"We know that feeling," he quipped.
Trump laid a wreath at the tomb of the seventh president and drew comparisons between himself and Old Hickory, noting they both he, the scion of a real estate empire and ex-reality television star, and Jackson, the former soldier who was raised in poverty, both surprised the Washington elite with their elections on platforms built around upsetting the existing power structure in the nation’s capital.
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Image via Patch staff