Donald Trump pledges better times for U.S. in Republican convention finale
CLEVELAND — Declaring America in crisis, Donald Trump pledged to cheering Republicans and still-skeptical voters Thursday night that as president he will restore the safety they fear they’re losing, strictly curb immigration and save the nation from a Hillary Clinton record of “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”
READ MORE: Full coverage of the RNC
A political novice, he completed the greatest step yet in his improbable rise, accepting the GOP nomination to face Clinton, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state.
Trump’s address on the closing night of the Republican convention marked his highest-profile opportunity yet to show voters he’s prepared for the presidency. He set aside much of his usual bravado.
As the crowd, fiercely opposed to Clinton, broke out in its oft-used chant of, “Lock her up,” he waved them off, and instead declared, “Let’s defeat her in November.”
WATCH: Donald Trump full presidential nomination acceptance speech at Republican National Convention
He offered himself as a powerful ally of those who feel Washington has left them behind.
“I’m with you, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you,” he declared. “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves.”
He accused Clinton, his far-more-experienced Democratic rival, of utterly lacking the good judgment to serve in the White House and as the military’s commander in chief.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction and weakness,” he said. “But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy.”
In a direct appeal to Americans shaken by a summer of violence at home and around the world, Trump promised that if he takes office in January, “safety will be restored.”
As Trump moved into the general election campaign, he stuck to the controversial proposals of his primary campaign, including building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and suspending immigration from nations “compromised by terrorism.”
But in a nod to a broader swath of Americans, he vowed to protect gays and lesbians from violence and oppression, and said he would ensure that young people in predominantly black cities “have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America.”
He was introduced by his daughter Ivanka who announced a childcare policy proposal that the campaign had not mentioned before.
“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women weren’t a significant portion of the workplace, and he will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all,” she said.
Trump took the stage in Cleveland facing a daunting array of challenges, many of his own making. Though he vanquished 16 primary rivals, he’s viewed with unprecedented negativity by the broader electorate, and is struggling in particular with younger voters and minorities, groups GOP leaders know they need for the party to grow.
The first three days of this week’s convention e gathering bordered on chaos, starting with a plagiarism charge involving his wife Melania Trump’s speech and moving on to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s dramatic refusal to endorse him from the convention stage.
Then, Trump sparked more questions about his Oval Office readiness by suggesting in the midst of the convention that the U.S. might not defend America’s NATO partners with him as president. The remarks, in an interview published online Wednesday by The New York Times, deviate from decades of American doctrine and seem to reject the 67-year-old alliance’s bedrock principle of collective defense.
Trump did not repeat those comments from the convention stage. But he did disavow America’s foreign policy posture under both Democrat and Republican presidents, criticizing “fifteen years of wars in the Middle East” and declaring that “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.”
“As long as we are led by politicians who will not put ‘America First,’ then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect,” he said.
He had promised to describe “major, major” tax cuts. But his economic proposals Thursday night were vague, centering on unspecified plans to create millions of jobs. He promised a “simplified” tax system for the middle class and businesses, fewer regulations and renegotiation of trade deals that he says have put working class Americans at a disadvantage.
“These are the forgotten men and women of our country,” he said. “People who work hard but no longer have a voice.”
At every turn, Trump drew sharp contrasts with Clinton, casting her as both unqualified for the presidency and too tied to Washington elites to understand voters’ struggles. Her greatest accomplishment, Trump said, was avoiding punishment from the FBI for her use of a private email and personal server while as secretary of state.
Indeed, Clinton was aggressively attacked throughout the four-day Republican convention, with delegates repeatedly chanting, “Lock her up.”
Democrats will formally nominate Clinton at their convention next week in Philadelphia. Clinton was on the verge of naming a running mate to join her in taking on Trump and his vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in the general election. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has emerged as her top choice.
Trump’s speech came after Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who is openly gay, made history when he threw his support for the fellow billionaire.
Thiel took the stage earlier in the night to tell Republicans that he is proud to be gay and proud to be a Republican — but most of all, proud to be an American.
Trump had hoped the four-day Republican convention would bolster his support among GOP leaders and win over skeptics. But that goal seemed guaranteed to go unfulfilled following Cruz’s stubborn defiance on the convention stage.
The Texas senator refused to endorse Trump during his Wednesday speech, even as delegates loudly jeered him from the convention floor. It was a surreal moment given how carefully scripted political conventions normally are, and served as a fresh reminder that Trump events rarely go by the rules.
WATCH: Ted Cruz says personal attacks prevented him from endorsing Donald Trump
A Cruz aide said one of Trump’s advisers had reached out to the senator’s team shortly before the speech in hopes of getting a last-minute commitment.
Trump brushed aside the controversy, insisting Cruz was an outlier in an otherwise unified party.
“Other than a small group of people who have suffered massive and embarrassing losses, the party is VERY united. Great love in the arena!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
With files from Global News’ Nick Logan as well as AP writers Kathleen Hennessey, Josh Lederman, Alan Fram and Thomas Beaumont in Cleveland, and John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas.
© 2016 The Associated Press