BOSTON - Former President Donald Trump made his first visit back to Washington D.C. since leaving office at a moment when polls show a growing number of Republicans are wondering if they'd be better served in the 2024 presidential race by someone less intent on relitigating the 2020 election.
It's a focus his former vice president - himself a potential 2024 candidate - called out in a speech hours before Trump spoke. "It's absolutely essential at a time when so many Americans are hurting, so many families are struggling, that we don't give way to the temptation to look back," said Mike Pence.
And for most of his speech, Trump did look forward, to an all-out Republican-led war on crime. "There is no longer respect for the law," he claimed, painting a picture of a nation overrun by a criminal reign of terror. "We need an all-out effort to defeat violent crime and be tough and nasty and be mean if we have to." Trump called for a return to stop-and-frisk policies, which studies have found do little to reduce felonies, and demanded that police be "left alone" to do their jobs - without reference to the January 6 assaults on police guarding the Capitol.
"Parents are worried sick that their kids will get shot on the way to school or on the way back home," he said. But efforts to curb the sale of weapons to troubled buyers without criminal records, like the Uvalde mass murderer, are a non-starter for Trump. "Take the guns away from the criminals who shouldn't be having guns. Let the people who need to have guns, have to have guns, let them have them."
And in the end, he abandoned his script and returned to his favorite theme - the past and his contemplated revenge. "We got millions and millions more votes, and you know what? That's gonna be a story for a long time - what a disgrace it was - but you know what? We may have to do it again and straighten out our country."
Will this speech do anything to deter those Republicans who are looking for someone new?
I doubt it, but it might help quiet them down because it was a return to the candidate Trump of 2016 who electrified the party with red-meat rhetoric on issues like crime, immigration and the Second Amendment. It was like a greatest-hits concert by a band that hasn't had a hit in a while but leaves the audience saying 'Hey, they still got it.'
And if Trump intends to run again, as I suspect he does, that is mission accomplished.
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