Trump was back in South Carolina, this time holding a rally at the North Charleston Convention Center. It was just 13 miles from the Rubio event, but Trump’s event was looking more like a circus rather than a rally for a presidential hopeful.
Many protesters, look-a-likes, pro-and-con signs and banners, and major network buses crowded the surrounding streets. People purposefully walked, ran or stood around with the hope that they would get a glimpse of the lion-tamer himself.
Editor’s note: This is an in-depth series of Meyer’s accounts as a military spouse and veteran hitting the Presidential Campaign Trail in South Carolina. Read from the beginning or discover her experiences with Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or skip to her final thoughts.
Ben Epstein, professor of American Politics and Political Communication at DePaul University, described Trump as, “a sort of modern demigod. He [Trump] was tapping into anger, and that’s a strength of his… and how powerful that was considering how our government works.”
The expected crowd filled two of the three exhibit hall spaces, welcoming thousands alongside big screens which projected the stage onto the gigantic brick walls, separating the hall space. Concessions were open, selling all the expected foods you’d see at a concert or baseball game — the smell of hotdogs and french fries permeated the air surrounding the growing audience.
With approximately 4,000 there to witness Trump in person, music blared with the tempo of a sporting event. Every 20 to 30 seconds a new song would cut off the one before, as though it represented the excitement in the air. Even the songs, taking on their own persona, couldn’t finish playing; they were just too excited for the man himself to appear.
What thrilled me the most was the opportunity to speak to Trump personally, an offer that was dangled in front of me via email (and in person) by Hope Hicks.
CNN reporter Jodi Edna was kind enough to stay with me while I awaited this opportunity and even took the time to ask me a few questions about USMC Life. Edna genuinely seemed in interested my time as a military spouse and veteran.
A beautiful, green-eyed ‘Wonder Woman’ at just 26, Hicks was described by the Washington Post as “likable, loyal and resilient.” In person, all of those things seemed as real as they were reported. It was nice to see a woman handling the massive job of managing the media.
With Hicks carefully selecting which photographers would get up close and personal to snap photos of Trump as he spoke, I waited in that line, too. Eventually, I was told that it would be up to Trump afterward if he’d be willing take my question.
With a scheduled speaking time of 7 p.m., Trump arrived on stage at 6:30 to “Right Now” by Van Halen. He spoke about the media presence, applauding himself by saying that it looked like the academy awards with all the cameras.
He appeared agitated as he addressed the crowd, saying, “we’re in now the… in the worst period, of maybe ever.” And shortly after that, discussed how waterboarding was “minimal, minimal torture,” saying he “feels great about it,” and angrily demanded that we go, “much, much further than water boarding.” In his defense, he was attempting to show his strength and passion as a potential future POTUS. The crowd devoured his rhetoric with thunderous applause.
A naval officer who chose to remain anonymous described Trump as the “inverse of Obama,” and remarked, “it’s as though every election season, the pendulum swings one way and then greatly swings the other like with Clinton and Bush, then Bush and Obama, and now Obama with Trump.”
What was clear at Trump’s rally, unlike at other events, was that no one was there to vet him as a presidential hopeful — all who filled the exhibit hall were there with unwavering and dedicated support and allegiance.
This was even more evident at the merchandise counter where lines of people sought official Trump memorabilia. I purchased two hats requested by a family member and a friend who is a commanding officer in the Corps. Trump eventually signed one of the hats for me after rolling his eyes and smirking at me after I fought my way through the crowd — something I had hoped to avoid.
I wished my question would have been taken in person by Trump, but it was not to be. I would have asked:
“Many senior service members, military spouses and educated veterans are concerned about you [Trump] as a candidate for these reasons: reckless rhetoric, alienating our allies, braggadocio about carpet bombing our enemies (something we the military no longer does) all the while egging on China and Mexico in ways that can ignite those countries to come against us. Additionally, shouting about torture in ways that will only put our men and women further in harm’s way exposes your lack of the military mindset. How will you, Mr. Trump, check your ego when making military decisions, and who will you surround yourself with in the White House to ensure that those military decisions are thoughtful, moral with clear intentions?” Oh and by the way, the aircraft currently being flown by our military was older than most pilots who fly them. This was a huge concern in the aviation community. How would you fix that problem?”
The response hasn’t come in– yet. But Hope Hicks did send me an email at the end of the night:
It was wonderful to meet you! Thank you for your support and interest and your family for their service and sacrifice.
I apologize for not being able to make it work and appreciate your understanding.
I resent their campaign my question the other day and still have yet to receive a response.
This is an in-depth series of Meyer’s accounts as a military spouse and veteran hitting the Presidential Campaign Trail in South Carolina. Read from the beginning or learn about her experiences with Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or skip to her final thoughts.
About the Author: Rebecca Meyer, a veteran of the California National Guard, married to an active duty Marine Corps pilot, works part-time for GBX delivering curriculum to separating/retiring service members on behalf of the Department of Labor, writes a veteran’s blog with ACI Benefits, and most importantly is mother to a brilliant, sweet, tree-climbing, bike riding 4-year-old.
She grew up discussing politics around the dinner table and listening to talk radio on AM several nights as a family. She stepped into politics in the 8th grade after giving an award winning (Rotary Award) speech, firmly announcing that she would be the first woman president of the United States. She has fond memories of dancing around the room with her grandparents when Bush Jr. won the election in 2000. She remains an active part of the spouse community in Beaufort, South Carolina.