Donald Trump Wants You to Think He's Getting All Presidential for November. Don't Buy It.
At times, he sounded downright presidential.
Appearing at Mahattan's Trump Soho, with a row of American flags behind him, his children seated in front of him and teleprompters at the ready, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump laid out a sweeping and personal rationale for his presidency.
"I have built an amazing business that I love and I get to work side-by-side with my children every day. We come to work together and turn visions into reality. We think big, and then we make it happen," he told rows of fans strategically positioned between his lectern and the press.
"I love what I do, and I am grateful beyond words to the nation that has allowed me to do it," Trump continued. "So when people ask me why I am running, I quickly answer: I am running to give back to this country which has been so good to me."
Trump's prepped speech struck serious tones that might be heard from many a politician. He highlighted what he sees as some of the nation's gravest problems, and flicked at how he'd solve them from the Oval Office.
But teleprompter or no, the Donald Trump who's electrified millions of voters with his unlikely candidacy — and horrified millions of others — couldn't help but break through.
Within moments of promising to fight a "rigged" political system, repair an economy that stomps the little guy's dreams and save kids from "failing schools," he was back to one of his favorite hobbies — trying to bash the hell out of Hillary Clinton.
He called her a "world-class liar" — and that was the nice part:
Contrasts are a time-tested and natural part of campaigning, of course.
But for Trump, a man who's used what some call the politics of personal destruction — or sometimes even the politics of humiliation — talking about what he'd do as president versus what Clinton would do wasn't enough.
"No secretary of state has been more wrong, more often, and in more places than Hillary Clinton," Trump charged.
"Her decisions spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched. In short, Hillary Clinton's tryout for the presidency has produced one deadly foreign policy disaster after another," he said.
His speech also quoted liberally from Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash — a takedown of the "personal enrichment" the presumptive Democratic nominee and former President Bill Clinton allegedly enjoy through their family foundation, paid talks and dealings with foreign governments.
Trump's speech hit several key contentions that will surely be reprised on the road to November.
One: "Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency."
Trump's speech received very mixed reviews from outside outlets much as PolitiFact.
Team Clinton, of course, wasn't impressed by any of it.
Said Clinton campaign spokesman Glen Caplin in an emailed statement:
"The only thing Donald Trump offered today was more hypocritical lies and nutty conspiracy theories. This is more distraction from a candidate that cannot answer or dispute any of yesterday's criticism of his business record. Economists on the left, right and center all agree his dangerous economic policies would throw us back into recession and hurt working families costing nearly 3.5 million American jobs, that's a fact. Donald Trump continues to prove that he is unqualified and unfit to be president. Just like he shouldn't have his finger on the button, he shouldn't have his hands on our economy."
Unsurprisingly, Camp Clinton seemed to shed few tears over the fact that Trump's ouster of combative campaign manager Corey Lewandowski hasn't substantially moderated his tone.
And yes, Trump has tried to be traditionally presidential in both style and substance in the past. When he lost the Iowa caucuses despite turning out huge crowds, he was downright humble — briefly.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says it all boils down to a simple question: Can he stay on message?
"He can't do it with any high degree of consistency beyond 24 hours. Can he take what he started today, laying out the indictment against Hillary and why she shouldn't be president and all that means — and stay on message and [not] alienate another social or ethnic group in the country," Steele told Mic.
"He's a 70-year-old man who is more than set in his ways, in his thinking. He's in a new space, never occupied before. And he's got to figure out and understand — and his family's been trying to help him do this — that the only person who's inflicted damage on Donald Trump in this campaign is Donald Trump," Steele said.
"He has to decide whether he wants to stop inflicting pain on himself and stop hurting his chances with the voters. ... He's got four months left."