Donald Trump Greg Gianforte Jon Tester Kathleen Williams Matt Rosendale Montana Politics Senate Race 2018 US Politics

Trump visits Missoula. Sad.

Photo: Carolyn Kaster (AP)
Written by Pete Talbot
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Today I’m deeply disturbed. My emotions are raw. There’s a void, a hollowness. That’s what comes from a Trump rally.

I’d like to think there were decent people at the rally, for the most part, from Ravalli, Lake, Flathead and, yes, Missoula County. They also came from the far reaches of Montana, and Idaho and Washington. These are the folks who help their neighbors, pull them out of the barrow pit when they’ve slipped off the road, coach Little League and bring casseroles to families who have suffered a loss.

And then they chant “lock her up” and “build the wall” and boo the press corps and nod their heads in approval when Trump praises beating up reporters.

I can’t comprehend the disconnect.

But let’s back up. The mood was mellow in the line that stretched for over a mile when I arrived at 2 p.m. Mostly the banter was light — Seahawks and Grizzlies sports talk, etc. — as vendors plied their wares.

“Don’t be deplorable, make yourself adorable” and “Don’t be a Democrat, buy yourself a MAGA hat.” These pitches were delivered by a mostly African-American crew hawking t-shirts, hoodies and hats, and pins that said things like, “All Lives Matter.” They stood out in this crowd.

Ages of those attending ranged from teens to families with babies to seniors. The large number of young people at the event was disconcerting although some were there just for the spectacle, I imagine.

The line took us to school busses that took us past the four porta-potties requisitioned for the event to another line at a security checkpoint staffed with TSA and Secret Service and finally to the Minuteman hangar.

Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte took turns appearing on the big screen at the entrance of the hangar to warm up the crowd: Kavanaugh, Second Amendment stuff, immigration, leftist mobs… They received a tepid response. The crowd was there to see Trump.

I was skeptical when the Missoulian said 6000 to 8000 would attend, and it’s hard to get a head count at that sort of venue, but 5000 to 6000 isn’t out of the question. It was more than I anticipated.

It was surrealistic in the worst way. As the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” blasted over the PA, Air Force One circled the airport as the masses roared. Bizarre. Limos took Trump and entourage the thousand yards from the 747 to the Minuteman hangar. Frank Sinatra’s “I Did it My Way” and then Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” accompanied him as he strutted around the stage. He is a showman.

He opened with a nod to Senate candidate Matt Rosendale and a slight to “super liberal” Sen. Jon Tester. Then he was all over the map: Kavanaugh, of course, to much cheering, Benghazi, Russia — and a jab at Sen. Bernie Sanders. He promoted “the wall” then segued to the “angry mob.” That would be the handful of protesters I saw at the airport and the hundreds who gathered miles away at Playfair Park to celebrate “Love Trumps Hate.”

“Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs,” Trump said.

Immigrants were often the target and that whipped up the crowd. Democrats are “the party of crime” and “want to destroy everything” and “your Senator is like that,” he said, alluding to Tester and not Daines, I assume. He was referencing “criminals, bad people” who come across the border and then Democrats “catch and release” them. He was going to send in the military to defend the border.

“We have the worst laws in the world on immigration,” he said. “Every other country in the world can send them back” but not us. I did not know that.

He took a break here to point to the back of the hangar: “We have the fake news back there.” Big boos from the crowd.

Trump’s ego was also on full display: “How have I done?” The audience roars approval, and on elections: “I’m one for one, going for two for two.” God help us. He has “saved America” while reminding us that he won Montana “by a lot” and that he kicked electoral college butt. The world, he said, pointing to the crowd, “never saw a movement like this.”

He has “built the most powerful military ever” and “it was built right here in the USA.”

“America is winning!”

Much cheering at the mention of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats had launched “a heartless campaign” (boo) “said horrible things” (boo) it was “a shameful act” and “a national disgrace.”

A woman in the crowd shouted “I love you” which got  Trump on a bluster about the “fakers on TV” who say women won’t vote for him, which led to a mention of Melania: “How good is our First Lady?” The crowd likes the First Lady. The only other women he commented on were, of course, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, and Gianforte’s opponent, “radical far-left” Kathleen Williams.

Sorry, gentle reader, he was only halfway through his spiel but I had to leave. The crowd was amping up: shouts of “traitor” and “coward” were being bandied about as various Democrats were mentioned. Not everyone was entranced, others were leaving, too. They’d heard it before and the spectacle was wearing thin. Or they didn’t want to fight the traffic or … did I mention the FOUR porta-potties?

I’d had enough of the carnival huckster in the cashmere overcoat. And although I’ve seen worse behavior at Trump rallies, I was still disappointed by my fellow Montanans.

If you want to see the entire Missoula speech go here. It’s more of the same.

I’m in recovery this morning. Then I’m filling out my absentee ballot and sending it in. Please, if you haven’t already, do the same. This needs to stop.

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