April 23, 2024

Many of the people on former President and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s VP shortlist were present at CPAC 2024 and gave speeches. Among them, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbardtech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik has also been another name floated, and she also gave a speech at the conference. Save for two other names purportedly on the list – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott – it’s almost like CPAC was an audition of sorts.

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Or at least the CPAC attendees thought so. Their picks for Trump VP in the Straw Poll rendered some interesting results.

With all due respect to the attendees at CPAC, I disagree. Trump refined his criteria for who he would choose as VP, and if their speeches were any indication, the Top 5 chosen do not fit the bill. On Tuesday, Trump did a Fox News Ingraham Angle town hall, and he discussed these possible choices. My colleague Nick Arama noted Trump’s comments on what he would look for in choosing a running mate.

Unlike Biden, he didn’t say he was picking people because they checked an identity box. Instead, he gave a great answer, and what should always be the top answer: it should be someone who could be a good president. Simple, but most important. Funny how that should be what you look for, but it wasn’t when Barack Obama was making his choice or Joe Biden was picking his. 

If this standard holds true, then Byron Donalds should now be at the top of his list. Donalds’ Thursday introductory speech at CPAC went beyond setting the stage for the event; it was setting the stage for presidential leadership. Donalds was intelligent, cogent and thoughtful, laying out policy positions with depth, focus, and constitutional principles. Frankly, it sounded like a speech a presidential candidate would make.

When Matt and Mercedes Schlapp introduced Donalds to the stage, it was clear that he has taken the mantle of conservative and Republican Party standard bearer. Donalds speech revealed why he wears this mantle well. Like Trump, Donalds cuts through hierarchical BS and engages the American people on common ground, as equals and allies, not in a paternalistic or imperious fashion. This shone through and produced immediate likability and engagement with the CPAC crowd.

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Donalds talked about leadership and how our lack of leadership in this country is at the heart of our problems with healing the divides that plague our nation. 

The thing that kills the vision is leadership. It is not governments, it is not going along to get along, it is not saying nice things. It is leadership that actually helps secure those divides. The time has come again for America to reassert itself and bring American leadership back to the forefront of our country.

Donalds brought up President Joe Biden’s abject failure of leadership and how it is making the entire world unsafe. Donalds then used the analogy of the teamwork that Michael Jordan exhibited in order to see the Bulls win their championships. Donalds drew the comparison to our NATO allies, and how as part of a global team, they must step up and do their part. 

Donalds continued on foreign policy, discussing Israel, and the Oct 7 Hamas massacre. Donalds did not mince words on what his stance was and what America’s stance should be. 

We here in America, we stand with Israel. We don’t equivocate to the radicals who might be in our midst here in America. We stand with them. Joe Biden’s terrible leadership is why our enemies are on the move.

My view is clear. Israel should obliterate Hamas off the face of the earth. This is not a statement, this is burned in fact. On Capitol Hill, we need to go back and do the job to make sure that Israel has everything they need to finish that job. Because you cannot have someone come in your home, cause damage and you do nothing. All you do is invite more of the same. So, if Israel is our friend, and I know, CPAC, Israel is our friend. We stand by them, we support them, we do not stand in the way of them. And we want them to do everything they must do to secure themselves, and to secure the people of Israel. 

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Donalds also blamed lack of leadership for America’s neglect of its own hemisphere, and how our focus on internal squabbles is allowing China to achieve the upper hand.

The Chinese are on the move in South America. And while we’re having these petty squabbles amongst Republicans and Democrats, The Chinese have one mission: and that’s to put us in a box. So, we have to reassert our dominance in our own hemisphere. No more should we allow communism and fascism to breed in our own hemisphere while we just argue over the stupidest things with each other. I mean, stuff that really does not matter in the plight and the success of human beings across the globe. There was a time where we actually focused on our hemisphere.

In his CPAC speech on Saturday, Trump talked about the word “conservative” just being synonymous with common sense. The policies Donalds outlined were as sober and commonsense as they come.

I want to be clear on this: This is not a statement of isolationism versus being the world’s police. It’s not that. It’s being sober. It’s being a realist. It’s understanding that America in a dominant position across the globe means the best thing for the people of the world who desire freedom and peace. Who actually want to actually grow an economy, who want their children to be raised up. A globe where China is dominant is a globe that is to the detriment of human freedom. And so we have to do the things that are prudent, to make sure we assert those freedoms in our own hemisphere.

Donalds’ foreign policy direction properly dovetailed into the crisis on America’s southern border.

If you’re gonna secure America you have to secure its borders. You have to. We have 7.3 million who have come into this country illegally. Seven point three million. And Joe Biden wants to make it an even 10 million. That’s insane. No country would ever tolerate this. So my position to my colleagues on Capitol Hill is clear: You either secure the border or you get no money for the government. 

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The audience responded with much applause at this line in the sand; a line that much of the GOP Congress refuses to draw. Donalds said that reporters often “clutch the pearls” and ask whether Donalds would be concerned if the government had to close.

I tell these reporters when they ask me this, I say, the federal government has one primary job: it is to secure this nation and to secure its people. That’s its first job before anything else. The states that ratified the Constitution of the United States would have never ever ratified a constitution that would have allowed the federal government to allow an invasion into the United States. They never would have signed it. Those states would have kept their militias and said, I’ll see you guys later, maybe we can work some things out, but that document is nuts and there is no way I’ll be a part of this.

Donalds used confrontational language to highlight Biden’s inaction, which received the loudest applause of the speech followed by chants of USA.

So we have to be very clear about this: Joe Biden has a decision to make. Decide, Mr. President: Do you want to close Mount Rushmore so the Southern border can be open? Do you, Joe Biden, want to tell the last remaining of our World War II vets that they cannot see the World War II Memorial on the National Mall so we can have military-aged men from China and the Middle East come into our country illegally? Decide, Joe Biden, which country matters more to you? The border of the United States or the border of Ukraine?

Showing again his connection to the audience, he joked, “I love when you chant, CPAC, but you messing up my time, CPAC! I love it.”

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An audience member yelled back, “We love you!”

Donalds replied, “I love you too.”

And I believe he truly meant it. Donalds then hit our country’s energy policies, slathering after green energy for green energy’s sake, while rejecting tried, true, and cheaper forms of energy that supply American jobs and allow Americans to thrive, not suffer.

You gotta have leadership to tell the truth and set America on the track going forward. We shouldn’t be chasing green technology just to chase green technology, we should be chasing the cheapest and most readily available form of energy so all of our people can be successful.

Donalds touched on the two-tiered justice system and the potential for the government to try to implement a digital currency. But the icing on the cake of Donalds’ speech was his articulation of the cultural fight and how the erosion of the family only serves to weaken America.

I’m the product of a single parent. My mother did everything for me. Things between my mom and dad didn’t work out, I love them both, but it didn’t work out. I know firsthand, having two parents in the house is better than having one. And that’s not to diminish the sacrifice, and the love, and the strength my mother had. You wanna see strong, I’ll show you a single Black mother. They’re strong. They’re tough. We gotta understand that the formation of the family, that is the thing that sets the formation of culture in the country so that kids grow to be adults and form their own families. Their success in the family unit breeds America’s success in our country. And our success actually breeds success in a much better world, in a much safer world. And this isn’t about nation building. this is about doing first things first at home. Making sure America is in position at home. Being focused on and solving our issues here at home. Because when we do that, the Chinese can’t stop us, the Russians can’t stop us, the Iranians can’t stop us. Nobody can contend with a strong and prosperous America. 

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Even Donalds closing remarks seemed a pitch toward the form of leadership that could be expected under a Trump-Donalds presidency.

So, CPAC, this is where I leave you. I just want to tell you this: The type of leadership we need is not leadership that looks to just get along with everybody. If you look back at Michael Jordan, or Tom Brady, or Bill Belichick, or a Mike Shanahan, they were tough. They would say things you would not like if you were on those teams. But they held everybody accountable. They were focused on the mission of success. We would cheer for them if you were a Patriots fan or a Bulls fan, […] but you would cheer for ’em because you’re like, “Oh my gosh, look at what they’re accomplishing.” If it works in sports, if it works in business, shouldn’t we have that type of leadership in our country? We should. We have to have leadership that holds our government accountable. We have to have leadership that’s gonna have a bold vision of what we should do, and not be afraid of polls of what people think we might need to do. We gotta have leadership who says tough things when we need to hear them. And we have that leadership this November in Donald J. Trump.

In terms of standout leadership, very few in Congress can hold a candle to Byron Donalds. After this speech, Donalds should be standing out as the most quality VP candidate.

             

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