The crowd Donald Trump addressed Wednesday didn’t chant “build the wall!” And the president didn’t mention the border barrier idea that helped him get elected. Nor did he talk of Latino gangs, immigrant “rapists” and mass deportations.
Trump appeared something of a fish out of water as he stood at the familiar presidential podium before a backdrop featuring the logo of The Latino Coalition. After all, as a presidential candidate Trump railed against Latin American countries for sending drug pushers and “criminals” to the United States.
“We got tough,” Trump boasted less than two weeks ago of his administration’s immigration enforcement actions, facing a mostly white audience of supporters at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Reducing violent crime in America is a top priority for my administration, and we will do whatever it takes to get it done,” Trump said that day. “And we’re working to get violent offenders off our streets and behind bars, and get them behind bars quickly, for a long time, or get them the hell out of our country.”
The crowd roared at Trump’s implication that immigration spawns violence and crime.
But the tough-talking president didn’t make the four-minute drive Wednesday to the swanky JW Marriott hotel to deliver the same message to a group of Latino business honchos. Instead, the genial Trump wasted little time buttering up the crowd with platitudes before arguing his agenda will help Latino small businesses, workers and neighborhoods.
“I’m thrilled to be here with so many of our incredible leaders in the Latino business community. And you folks are good business people,” said Trump, in the charmer-in-chief mode he typically reserves for other world leaders and some corporate titans.
“I know that. I know that for a fact,” he said with a smile. “I’ve had to compete against you for a long time. In fact, I said, ‘I want to get out of that. I want to be president. It’s easier.’”
By John Bennett for ROLLCALL
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