Wednesday’s CNN presidential town hall in New Hampshire proved one thing — and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt, which is more than can be said of the countless trumped-up (no pun intended) charges brought against the event’s star.
President Donald J. Trump is back.
The town hall was a debate against CNN and the leftist media elite.
Unsurprisingly more adversarial than the typical town hall event, Wednesday night’s affair showcased Trump at his finest — at least in part because of the petulantly combative questioning from moderator-cum-interrogator Kaitlan Collins, CNN’s former White House correspondent.
Trump is, if nothing else, a rhetorical pugilist. No fencing master is the former president, daintily parrying and lunging; Trump packs a punch, and every punch is intended to be a knockout.
The moment he appeared onstage, Trump got a standing ovation. Collins had announced that the audience was composed of Republicans and undecided voters wondering whether to back Trump in the primary, but the town hall wasn’t really a debate against other Republican nomination contenders; it was a debate against CNN and the leftist media elite.
The first question lobbed Trump’s way was loaded with accusations of trying to “overturn” the 2020 election results. Trump glossed some statistics, noting he received millions more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016, adding, “When you look at that result and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you’re a very stupid person you see what happened.” Wisely, there was no mention of voting machines. Trump instead cited instances of suppression of information — such as the partisan ban on the Hunter Biden laptop story, as documented in the Twitter Files. Trump also emphasized the fallout of that election interference: “Our country has gone to hell. Our borders are bad; our military’s been bad; you look at the taxes; you look at inflation, … [and] it’s just destroying our country.”
Regarding the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Collins asked Trump, “Why did it take you three hours to tell [pro-Trump protesters] to go home?” Reaching into his jacket pocket, Trump quipped, “I don’t believe it did,” before whipping out printed-out screenshots of his Twitter feed from that day and reading line after line calling on protesters to respect police, respect law and order, and remain peaceful.
In response to a question from an audience member, Trump declared that he would pardon the majority of Jan. 6 protesters if elected again, pointing out the double standard in how Black Lives Matter rioters were largely unprosecuted after looting and burning down cities and even killing people for over 100 consecutive days, while Jan. 6 protesters have been “living in hell.” His declaration was greeted with applause.
By the way, CNN questioned some of the audience after the town hall, probably in an effort to do some damage control after Trump mopped the floor. The audience was asked why Trump keeps bringing up the 2020 election — the exact question was: “How do you feel about those lies?” One Republican responded, “Part of it’s also the media narrative, as you guys asked him the first question at the town hall about the 2020 election, rather than current stuff.”
But Trump was asked about the current stuff, at least some of it. When questioned about the Ukraine–Russia war, Trump vowed to end the conflict within 24 hours if elected again. When Collins pressed him to say whether he wants Ukraine or Russia to win, Trump responded simply: “I don’t think in terms of winning and losing.… I want everybody to stop dying.”
Trump also addressed the FBI’s raid on his Mar-a-Lago home, how to handle inflation, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, calling the landmark Supreme Court decision “a great victory.” That victory was achieved in no small part thanks to the three justices appointed by Trump. He said: “Getting rid of Roe v. Wade was an incredible thing for pro-life.… I was able to do it, and I was very honored to do it.”
Trump’s town hall performance was more than just entertaining; it was a return to form for the stalwart brawler who won 2016 in a landslide, and lefties and Never Trumpers realized pretty quickly that they are now facing a 2016 redux. Left-wing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez whined: “CNN should be ashamed of themselves. They have lost total control of this ‘town hall.’” Matt Fuller of the left-wing Daily Beast complained: “This is an irresponsible disaster of journalism. We have absolutely learned nothing.” Never-Trumper Meghan McCain moaned, “This is a Trump infomercial.” Fellow Never-Trumper Rick Wilson of the Lincoln Project griped, “Kaitlin Collins is getting utterly incinerated.”
Whether you love him or hate him, Wednesday night’s event made one thing clear: The Jared Kushnerized Trump is gone, the pugnacious pugilist is back, and Americans love it.
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