Politics

Trump spotlights Ohio manufacturing -- and demands credit

President tours Army plant in Lima

(CNN) - President Donald Trump visited an Army tank plant in Ohio on Wednesday to bask in the afterglow of the facility's revival -- one of several accomplishments he cast as ignored or insufficiently credited during a politically charged address to workers.

"You better love me," the President opened. "I kept this place open, that I can tell you."

It was a sign of sentiments to come during a speech that careened from renewed complaints about the late Sen. John McCain to pronouncements on the fight against ISIS to a diatribe against windmills.

If there was an undercurrent to all of it, it was a persistent belief by Trump that he was not receiving his due -- not from the media, not from politicians -- for the way the last two years have proceeded.

Wielding chart after chart of economic data -- printed on sheets of paper too small for cameras or the crowd to see -- Trump made the case for a resurgent American economy, particularly in Ohio, a state that forms a key piece of his 2020 re-election strategy, but is being hit by the closure of a major auto plant.

In his 10th visit to the state as president, Trump toured an Army tank plant in Lima, which the administration says was destined for closure before massive new military spending revived orders.

But on the other side of the state, workers at a now-idled General Motors plant in Lordstown are searching for work after the automaker said there was little demand for the sedans that were produced there.

Trump on Wednesday angrily decried the closure, saying it made little sense in a strong economy.

"Get that plant open or sell it to somebody and they'll open it. Everybody wants it," he said, adding he'd received word that the United Auto Workers union -- which also represents the workers at the Lima tank plant -- would help in discussions.

"Lordstown is a great area -- I guess I like it because I won so big there," Trump said. "We're very proud of what's happened in Ohio, under our federal auspices, we've gotten so many things done and this plant is one of our great achievements."

Trump has pressured GM CEO Mary Barra to find a way to reopen the plant. There's little to indicate those entreaties are working, but his continued attention on the issue reflects the centrality of heartland manufacturing to his political message.

It was promises of reviving that sector which helped drive Trump to the White House in 2016, including in Ohio. Trump's repeat visits to the state over the past two years, including for rollicking campaign rallies during the 2018 midterm elections, are meant to maintain his standing.

As a backdrop for Trump's political message, the tank plant illustrated the traditional manufacturing jobs the President has vowed to boost, believing those workers will reward him politically.

The message came into sharp relief when he lampooned the type of building projects his long-defeated 2016 rival proposed during their campaign more than two years ago.

"You know, Hillary wanted to put windmills all over the place," he said. "Let's put up some windmills. When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television, darling, please. No wind out today. There's no wind. 'Please turn off the television, quickly.' "

On Wednesday, he sought to tie together the nation's economic health with its national security goals in a tour of the Lima Army Tank Plant, which produces Abrams tanks for the US military. He cited the vanquishing of the ISIS caliphate, which has all but disappeared as a US-backed coalition and Kurdish forces drive the terror group from previously held territory.

The spike in defense funding that Trump approved early in his presidency -- including billions for new tanks -- helped the Lima plant avoid closure, and hiring sped up for welders and machinists to produce the new vehicles.

Ahead of his speech, aides said Trump would press for another spending hike, which was included in his budget proposal revealed last week. But he did not mention that budget in his remarks Wednesday.

Instead, he took time out to revive his attacks on McCain, a Vietnam War veteran who died last year. The section initially appeared as an aside -- "if you want, I could tell you about it," Trump teased to the crowd -- but as he went along, it became clear Trump's broadside was scripted.

"I have to be honest, I've never liked him much. Hasn't been for me," Trump said of the Arizona Republican, who he's lambasted for voting against a GOP-backed health care effort.

As the crowd of tank machinists, welders and other workers grew quiet, Trump accused McCain of going behind his back to alert the FBI of an unverified dossier containing information about Trump's purported ties to Russia. And he pinned blame on McCain for extended US engagement in Middle East wars.

Finally, he deemed McCain (or his family) ungrateful for the funeral proceedings Trump approved in his position as president.

"I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as President I had to approve," Trump said. "I don't care about this -- I didn't get 'thank you.' "


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