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It was hot and a large and heartily partisan crowd was starting to wilt as it waited Friday on the blistering Redding Municipal Airport tarmac for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to fly in and recharge flagging spirits.
Finally, at about 1:35 p.m., almost four hours after the crowd started forming, Trump’s custom Boeing 757 appeared from the south and performed a stately low-altitude flyby while an orchestral fanfare played on the public-address system.
Minutes later (where had he gone? Arcata for a quick hit of fog? Benton Airpark? Scouting the perimeter for Bernie signs?) the white, navy and red-accented jet returned and landed. Trump emerged, waved, moved to the lectern and started delivering what more than 3,000 people – and hundreds more behind security fencing – came to hear.
“We love Redding!” he exclaimed as he scanned the crowd before immediately seeking to link Friday’s poor jobs report—a mere 38,000 jobs created in May according to the U.S. Department of Labor, far short of the 160,000 expected by economists—with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s inability to wrap up her party’s nomination. “It’s going the wrong way folks.”
“She can’t close it,” said Trump, while adding that his yearlong campaign continues to draw larger and larger (“the biggest”) crowds. “I wish those cameras would turn around and show these people,” Trump said, complaining that news media continue to exaggerate the size of his opponents’ crowds while minimizing his.
The press came in for other criticism and each barb (biased, dishonest, and unduly negative) was met with cheers, but Trump saved his harshest words for Clinton. Apparently riled up from her comments Thursday in San Diego (“dangerously incoherent” and “temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility” were just two salvos), Trump unleashed some haymakers of his own.
“Hillary’s always got problems. Whitewater, impeachment, Monica Lewinsky, the emails … these are lying people. We don’t need four more years of the Clintons,” Trump said. “I’ve won all my life and I’m going to start winning for you.”
In the area of temperament or tone, Trump said his contentious tone, forged through years of business success, is required to tackle serious issues like failed borders, the loss of jobs and trade imbalances. “We need a tough tone in this country folks. We don’t need this stuff anymore,” he said. “There’s nobody with a better temperament than me.”
Clinton’s comments, he said, were all carefully scripted, based on polling and then displayed for her on a teleprompter. “If I ever did that, I’d be run out of town.”
“Hillary is a thief,” Trump continued, “and she should be in jail for what she did with those emails … you talk about composure: who would be so stupid with your emails?” Calling her “weak and pathetic,” Trump said he now believes his chances of winning Tuesday’s primary are improving on a daily basis.
“Frankly, I honestly believe — and I really mean this — I think that Hillary Clinton is unfit to lead our country, certainly at this time,” Trump said. “I think she’s unfit. She doesn’t have what it takes. I call her Obama lite.”
Trump mixed in several references to the wall he promises to build, at Mexico’s expense, along the U.S.-Mexico border, a topic that prompted shouts of approval and choruses of “build that wall!” “It’s going to be a big, beautiful wall. You won’t believe it,” Trump said.
Earlier in his 45-minute speech, Trump was beginning to describe some unrest at an earlier rally in Arizona where protesters showed up inside, dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and one of them was assaulted by a black man.
Trump looked to his right and suddenly said, “Look at my African-American over here! Are you the greatest?” He then went on to tout his support among people of color, along with his endorsements. It was later revealed in the Record Searchlight that Trump had singled out Gregory Cheadle, a Happy Valley resident and a Republican candidate for Congress. Cheadle later told the newspaper he was not offended and was, in fact, grateful for the acknowledgement.
At another point in his address, a woman apparently collapsed near the front of the throng and Trump called for medical assistance and then encouraged the audience to applaud the efforts of the paramedics and firefighters who tended to her.
“Look at the police and the medics. Isn’t it a great job that they do? That’s true though, the police and the medics and the firemen and women and whatever, they’re going to start being appreciated again, they really are.”
Trump wrapped up his talk by launching a fusillade against President Obama, calling him the “worst president in history” and saying Clinton has the potential to be even worse. He then promised a future full of winning.
“We’re going to be proud of our country again … we’re going to win at every single level.”
The sweltering heat took its toll on Friday, but it could have been worse, according to Redding Fire Chief Gerry Gray. “We only had around 24 hours of planning, but still quickly put together a solid multi-agency team to deal with any public safety issue that might arise,” Gray said in a post to the Nextdoor web site. “Law, EMS and Fire all worked together perfectly to ensure that it was a peaceful and pleasant event. We succeeded. No San Jose riots here. The Redding community attended the event with class and grace.
“Although we evaluated and/or treated 50+ people for heat-related issues, in the blistering heat, we really could have handled another 100 (glad we didn’t!). Job well-done by all of our emergency services.”
Photos by Jon Lewis.