Washington — President Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican nomination for president on Thursday, closing out the final night of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House, where hundreds of people were seated closely together with few wearing face masks in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 180,000 American lives.
Using the White House as a backdrop for a political event like no president has before, Mr. Trump said he was "brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the next four years," while warning that Joe Biden would enact a liberal Democratic agenda if elected.
"This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it," the president said.
Earlier speakers, as well as the president, focused heavily on unrest that has broken out in American cities in recent months, painting a dark picture of criminals running rampant in the streets while sidestepping the underlying racial injustices that sparked mass protests in the first place.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said that voting for Biden and other Democrats "creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessness to your city, to your town, to your suburb." Patrick Lynch, the head of the New York's largest police union, said "Democratic politicians have surrendered our streets and institutions." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Democrats want to "dismantle our institutions, defund our police and destroy our economy."
"There is violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities throughout America," Mr. Trump himself said later. "This problem could easily be fixed if they wanted to."
Mr. Trump's acceptance address came as protests continued to roil Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot several times in the back by a police officer, and a white teenager allegedly shot two people dead at a protest days later.
Rows and rows of chairs spaced just inches apart were set up on the South Lawn of the White House, where attendees waited in the heat for the president's remarks. Reporters counted roughly 1,900 seats arranged on the South Lawn, with just 50 to 100 seats left vacant during the night's programming.
Trump casts election in stark terms in lengthy acceptance speech
Trump accepted his party's nomination for president in a lengthy speech that stretched nearly an hour and a half, painting a contrast between his vision for the country and Joe Biden's.
"My fellow Americans, tonight, with a heart full of gratitude and boundless optimism, I profoundly accept this nomination for president of the United States," he boomed from the podium. The address was written primarily by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, according to Trump officials involved in the process.
The president said he stands "before you tonight honored by your support, proud of the extraordinary progress we have made over the last four incredible years and brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the next four years."
Mr. Trump, like his daughter Ivanka, began his address by noting the Americans impacted by Hurricane Laura and said he will be visiting those impacted this weekend.
Speaking before a crowd of more than 1,800 supporters who gathered on the South Lawn, the president attempted to paint a portrait of a stark choice between himself and Biden.
"This election will decide whether we save the American dream, or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny," he said. "And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it."
Echoing the claims of several other speakers across the four-day convention, Mr. Trump warned that Biden "is a Trojan horse for socialism" and painted him as a weak candidate who, unable to take on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, will not stand up for the American people.
"He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage," the president said of Biden.
Mr. Trump insisted that he's kept his promises, although PolitiFact estimates he's broken roughly half of them.
"From the moment I left my former life behind, and a good life it was, I have done nothing but fight for you. I did what our political establishment never expected and could never forgive, breaking the cardinal rule of Washington politics: I kept my promises," he said.
The president listed off some of the promises he has kept, like pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. He also emphasized how he's tried to be tough on China.
"We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years," Mr. Trump said.
After making the case for his reelection by listing his domestic and foreign policy accomplishments, Mr. Trump attacked Biden's 47 years in office, calling the former vice president's record "a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime."
It took roughly 30 minutes for the president to mention the coronavirus pandemic still ravaging the nation. As of the president's speech, 180,000 Americans had died from COVID-19 and there have been more than 5.8 million confirmed cases.
The president touted how his administration made sure personal protective equipment reached hospitals, and the nation's case fatality rate. The president also touted the financial recovery package signed into law in the early months of the pandemic, as millions of workers lost their jobs.
In contrasting his administration's handling of the coronavirus crisis with Biden's plan to defeat COVID-19, Mr. Trump claimed that a shutdown of the economy proposed by Biden — if recommended by scientists — "would be measured in increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation and more."
"Joe Biden's plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender," the president said.
The president inaccurately claimed that Biden called his ban on travel from China in January "xenophobic."
"When I took bold action to issue a travel ban on China, Joe Biden called it hysterical and xenophobic. If we had listened to Joe, hundreds of thousands more Americans would have died," he said.
But Biden has not called that specific move xenophobic. He has called the president's handling of China and the virus xenophobic in other respects. The virus had already reached American shores and was spreading across the country by the time of the president's ban on travel from China.
The president claimed the U.S. has "pioneered" the case fatality rate, or the proportion of people who die after being infected with the virus. But the U.S. does not have the lowest case fatality rate. Chile, Armenia, South Africa, Luxembourg, Argentina and Bahrain are among the countries with a lower case fatality rate.
Mr. Trump reiterated his support for law enforcement and claimed that under a Biden administration, "no one will be safe."
"We must remember that the overwhelming majority of police officers in this country are noble, courageous and honorable," he said. "We have to give law enforcement, our police, back their power. They are afraid to act. They are afraid to lose their pension. They are afraid to lose their jobs, and by being afraid, they are not able to do their jobs. And those who suffer most are the great people who they want so desperately to protect."
Mr. Trump acknowledged the justice system must hold police officers who commit wrongdoing accountable. He did not, however, make mention of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back by a police officer in Kenosha on Sunday, or George Floyd, a Black man who died in late May after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Their deaths, as well as the killings of other Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, have sparked a nationwide reckoning on the need to end police brutality and address racial inequities in the justice system.
Mr. Trump stressed that the GOP "in the strongest possible terms" condemns the looting, arson and violence that has occurred in Wisconsin and elsewhere and issued a forceful denunciation of the violence in major U.S. cities, including Portland, where he deployed federal law enforcement this summer, Chicago and New York.
"As long as I am president, I will defend the absolute right of every American citizen to live in security, dignity and peace," he said.
Mr. Trump attempted to paint a grim landscape of the country if Biden wins in November and claimed that if he loses re-election and Democrats win control of both chambers of Congress, "they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town and suburb in America."
Tying in the theme of the Republican National Convention, "Honoring the Great American Story," Mr. Trump said that in November, voters "must turn the page forever on this failed political class" and with him in office for a second term "write the next chapter of the great American story."
The president then laid out the broad contours of his second-term agenda, which includes expanding Opportunity Zones, shifting medical supply chains back to the U.S. and slashing taxes and regulations. Mr. Trump also vowed to create 10 million jobs in the next 10 months and said he would push for more stringent penalties for assaults on law enforcement.
Looking to space, the president pledged to land the first woman on the moon and vowed to make the U.S. the first country to plant its flag on Mars.
"This is the unifying national agenda that will bring our country together," he said.
Mr. Trump concluded his address by reflecting on the country's trailblazers and looking to what will come in the future.
"For America, nothing is impossible," Mr. Trump said as he closed his remarks. "Over the next four years, we will prove worthy of this magnificent legacy. We will reach stunning new heights. And we will show the world that, for America, no dream is beyond your reach. Together, we are unstoppable. Together, we are unbeatable."