Billionaire businessman and reality television star Donald Trump officially announced his 2016 presidential candidacy on Tuesday with a promise to do for America what he's always done for himself: nurture the brand.
"We need somebody who can take the brand of the United States and make it great again," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen: I am officially running for president of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again."
Trump suggested the country is in deep trouble, and that politicians in both parties simply aren't equipped to come to the rescue.
"I've watched the politicians. I've dealt with them all my life. If you can't make a good deal with a politician, then there's something wrong with you, you're certainly not very good," he said. "They will never make America great again. They don't even have a chance. They're controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors, and by the special interests."
What America needs, Trump continued, is more action, less talk.
"Our country needs a truly great leader, and we need a truly great leader now," he said. "We need a leader that wrote 'The Art of the Deal.' We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military."
Trump delivered his grand announcement from the lobby of a skyscraper that bears his name in Manhattan. He was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, who noted, perhaps unnecessarily, "My father is the opposite of politically correct. He says what he means and he means what he says."
Trump then made his entrance, stepping onto an escalator landing above the stage. He waved to the crowd and rode the escalator down to begin his speech.
Much of the speech focused on Trump's conviction that the U.S. is getting bilked by other countries, allies and enemies alike.
"We don't have victories anymore," he said. "We used to have victories. But we don't have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let's say, china, in a trade deal. They kill us. I beat China all the time."
"The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems," he continued. "And these aren't the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best...they're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
"Saudi Arabia, they make a billion dollars a day," he later added. "I love the Saudis. Many are in this building. Whenever they have problems, we send over the ships...what are we doing? They got nothing but money. If the right person asks them, they'd pay a fortune. They wouldn't be there, except for us."
Trump, who's running as a Republican, touched some traditionally conservative themes. He called Obamacare "the big lie," and vowed to replace it with something better and cheaper. He argued "the greatest social program is a job," vowing to be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created." He promised to build a "great, great wall on our southern border, and I would make Mexico pay for that wall." He pledged to "fully support and back up the Second Amendment" and to "end Common Core."
He stepped away from GOP orthodoxy on entitlements, though, vowing to save Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid without cutting them (details on how he would accomplish that were vague.) And he took a few shots at his fellow Republican contenders.
"I hear my fellow Republicans, they're wonderful people," he said. "I hear their speeches. And they don't talk jobs. They don't talk China."
He singled out former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the early GOP establishment favorite who declared his bid on Monday. "He's weak on immigration, he's in favor of Common Core [state education standards]," Trump said of Bush. "How the hell can you vote for this guy?"
Trump has flirted with running for president numerous times before, but he's never quite taken the plunge. Now that he's officially in the race, he said Tuesday, he feels liberated.
"It's so nice to say, 'I'm running,' as opposed to, 'If I run, if I run,'" he said. "I'm running."
Trump discussed his own personal financial picture at length, defying pundits who speculated that his reluctance to enter previous presidential contests stemmed from an aversion to publicizing his personal finances.
"I'm really rich," Trump declared, holding aloft an estimate of his own net worth at $8,737,540,000 (more than double what Forbes magazine recently estimated.)
"I'm not doing that to brag," he rushed to clarify. "I'm doing that to say that that's the kind of thinking our country needs. We need that thinking. We have the opposite thinking. We have losers."
While he's certainly a known commodity, it's not clear Trump has the personal popularity necessary to push him to the top of the presidential race. A Monmouth Univeristy poll released Monday, for example, found that 20 percent of voters view Trump favorably, while 55 percent view him unfavorably - the worst spread of any Republican contender.
In his speech on Tuesday, Trump suggested he's aware of his popularity problem, noting that people have said, "But Mr. Trump, you're not a nice person."
"Actually, I am," he said.
But more to the point, he argued, voters don't care either way. "This is going to be an election that's based on competence. Because people are tired of these nice people and they're tired of being ripped off by everybody in the world," he explained. "Sadly, the American dream is dead. But If I get elected President, I will bring it back bigger, better, and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again. Thank you."
Holly Shulman, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, welcomed Trump to the race in a statement on Tuesday.
"He adds some much-needed seriousness that has been previously lacking from the GOP field," she quipped. "We look forward to hearing more about his ideas for the nation."
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