FORT WASHINGTON, Md.—President Donald Trump appeared confident he would win reelection as he painted a picture of the grim realities of life under socialism and addressed the peace agreement the United States just signed with the Taliban during a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Speaking to a crowded gathering on the last day of the conference on Feb. 29, Trump said the United States is bringing an end to the nearly 19 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan—America’s longest war.
“Today, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban, so we can begin the immediate process of bringing our troops back home,” he said at the conference. “You know who we have to thank? The families and those incredible people that lost their lives to start off with.”
The theme at this year’s CPAC—the largest gathering of conservatives in the country—is “America versus socialism.”
During the four-day conference, Republican politicians and conservative personalities spoke out against the rising influence of socialism, calling it the biggest threat to the future of the nation. Vice President Mike Pence said at the conference days earlier that “It won’t be enough just to win the next election. We’ve got to win the next generation.”
Trump said they are “prepared to begin those force withdrawals,” adding that the United States can begin “finally rebuilding our nation.” On his foreign policy, Trump stated that American forces cannot be the policemen for the entire world, adding that “sometimes, our allies treat us worse than our enemies.”
As part of the deal, the United States would withdraw 4,400 of 13,000 troops in the next three to four months, with the remainder pulling out in 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban committed to preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks.
“The longest war in American history, by far—not even close—will be over,” Trump said at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. “We had 28, essentially 28 countries participating in this, and they’re very happy to be out.”
He also explained in detail the U.S. military raid that killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi last year. “You can’t make a movie like this,” he said.
After addressing the peace deal, Trump, in a speech that lasted 1 hour and 24 minutes, spoke about what he called the American comeback, while condemning the ideology of socialism and the far left. He also touched upon the 2020 election and accomplishments under his “America First” agenda.
“Far-left radicals have become increasingly desperate and increasingly dangerous in their quest to transform America into a country you would not recognize—a country in which they control every aspect of American life,” he said.
“Just as socialist and communist movements have done all over the world, they’re cracking down on all dissent and demanding absolute conformity. They want total control.”
Trump said the result of implementing such policies would “turn America very quickly into a large-scale Venezuela.”
Socialist policies introduced by dictator Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, crippled Venezuela in less than two decades. Food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, and violent crime have driven millions of Venezuelans out of the country, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
Previous speakers at CPAC have pointed to the Chinese Communist Party, which they said uses a system of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Under the rule of the Party, between 50 million and 70 million people died of unnatural causes during peacetime.
The president said about socialism and the far left, “They want to take away your money, take away your choice, take away your speech, take away your guns, take away your religion, take away your history, take away your future, and take away ultimately your freedom.”
“But we will never let them do that,” he said, adding that he would be back next year.
Trump also talked about the latest measures taken to protect Americans against the coronavirus outbreak, which has dominated the news in the past weeks.
“My administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to control our borders and protect Americans from the coronavirus,” he said.
“I ordered sweeping travel restrictions to prevent the uncontrolled spread of this disease and took a lot of heat, as I did it very early,” he said, adding that he was called racist for imposing the measures.
“And that decision has been now given very good grades, like an A-plus.”
One person died from the coronavirus in Washington state on Feb. 29, the first patient to die from the disease in the United States. Trump said at a press conference before arriving at CPAC that the person who died of the virus was a medically high-risk patient in their 50s.
Officials in California, Oregon, and Washington state this week confirmed that four patients were infected with no history of exposure to people in or from China, where the virus is circulating.
Trump appointed Pence on Feb. 26 to be in charge of a White House coronavirus task force.
Trump touted the strength of the economy, which is central to his reelection bid.
While the stock market gains of the past few years have been a boon for many Americans, the coronavirus has rattled investors, recently sending stocks lower.
During his speech, Trump continued to express confidence about the state of the economy, saying the United States is “in the midst of the great American comeback.”
He praised the growth of jobs, record levels of unemployment, and rising wages.
“Under the so-called Trump economy, we are achieving progress, hope, the change the liberals have been falsely promising for decades but utterly failed to deliver. And it’s driving them crazy.”
He said that’s why he might end up running against Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential race, whom he repeatedly called a radical leftist.
Trump also praised recent trade deals. He called the North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s entrance to the World Trade Organization “twin disasters.”
He defended his trade war with China, saying it should have been done a long time ago.
“That great betrayal of America is over,” he said.