TOLEDO — In less than a week, Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani went from feared terrorist to the centerpiece of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
“He was a bloodthirsty terror and he’s no longer a terror. He’s dead,” Trump declared Thursday night during his first campaign rally of 2020.
More than 8,000 in Toledo’s Huntington Center erupted in applause and cheers.
The response in the hockey arena was just as loud when he warned, “If you dare threaten our citizens, you do so at your own grave peril.”
Trump said Soleimani was plotting more attacks on U.S. embassies, and “not just the embassy in Baghdad. And we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold.”
Trump’s 90-minute remarks at the Ohio rally were his first at a major public setting since the president ordered a drone strike that killed Soleimani last Friday. Late Tuesday, Iran fired several missiles aimed at two bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are housed, but the attack caused little damage.
The speech also came just a couple of hours after the Democratic-controlled House approved a resolution designed to limit Trump under the War Powers Act of 1973. The measure would bar using military forces against Iran without congressional approval or a formal declaration of war.
The nonbinding resolution seems unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled Senate.
Trump ridiculed Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for, as he put it, wanting him to get their permission before he could order the killing a terrorist leader. That claim doesn’t match Pelosi’s comments.
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If House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had been told ahead of time about U.S. plans to kill Soleimani, the California Democrat would have leaked it to CNN, which would have immediately broadcast the information and allowed the terrorist to escape, Trump alleged.
“You little pencil neck,” he said about Schiff. “He buys the smallest shirt collar you can get, and it’s loose.”
That wasn’t all.
“The radical left Democrats have expressed outrage over the termination of this horrible terrorist,” Trump said. “Instead, they should be outraged by Soleimani’s savage crimes and the fact that his countless victims were denied justice for so long.”
He also blamed Soleimani for last week’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. “Had they gotten through, we would have had dozens of dead people or hundreds of hostages,” the president said.
He said he called U.S. generals for help but they said they could not get to the embassy until the following day. Trump said he ordered, “Have them there immediately.”
The speech was interrupted for a few minutes by protesters carrying signs saying “No War” and “Bone Spurs,” and another calling Trump a “Russian asset.”
As security staffers hauled the dissidents away, Trump remarked, “They’re going home to mommy. It’s a beautiful sight.”
The Ohio rally came against the backdrop of impeachment, as Pelosi waits to send formal articles to the Senate, and the upper chamber decides rules on a trial that presumably will occur this month. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now reportedly backs a move allowing the Senate to dismiss the impeachment articles if they aren’t filed by Sunday.
Trump called today’s Democrats “stone cold crazy.”
Jobs in Ohio
He also touted his economic accomplishments, saying, “I’ve actually completed more promises than I’ve made.”
He told the crowd, “As we begin the new year, our economy is booming, wages are soaring, workers are thriving, and America’s future has never, ever looked brighter.”
The president also asserted, “Ohio just had the best year economically in the history of your state … and this year’s going to be even better.”
The state’s official tally later this month is expected to show that Ohio actually lost jobs in 2019, likely the state’s worst year since 2009 during the Great Recession.
Ohio has fewer jobs today than it did in the year 2000. Currently, Ohio job growth ranks 39th out of the 50 states, calculates the Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University.
As in the rest of the state, jobs are down in the Toledo area, dropping by 3,000 (0.1%) from November 2018 to November 2019, per the latest statistics available from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
As he frequently does, Trump also took credit for allowing veterans to seek private medical help at taxpayer expense when they face a long wait at a Veterans Affairs hospital.
The Choice program was passed in 2014 under President Barack Obama, although it was later amended.
Trump enjoyed interplay with the crowd in Ohio, even polling the audience on whether he should stick to his Make America Great Again or the new Keep America Great slogan. The crowd backed the latter.
Trump warned about turning the U.S. over to Democrats, saying, “We have a country that could go to hell very, very fast.”
TRUMP: "I sort of hope it's Joe because he will hear 'where's Hunter' every single debate, nine times a debate." pic.twitter.com/hlZriT0Qoa
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) January 10, 2020
Trump again slammed the media, gesturing to “the fake news that’s back there” behind the crowd standing on the floor, as several in the crowd shouted insults at journalists.
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