Trump tells Americans 'have a good life' as he leaves White House
Donald Trump left Washington DC and the White House for the last time on Wednesday morning, giving a typically pugnacious and misleading speech as he departed and offering his parting words to America: “Have a good life, we will see you soon.”
The outgoing president, who has broken with tradition by refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration, took a government helicopter from the White House at 8.18am, leaving what has been his home for four tumultuous years, and headed for Joint Base Andrews, a military facility in Maryland.
Trump had demanded that aides prepare an ostentatious ceremony at the base, accompanied by a sprawling audience, but two weeks after Trump incited a riot at the US Capitol, he got neither. The soon-to-be former president arrived at the military base just before 8.30am, and was met with a flat sendoff marked by a sparse crowd.
As is his wont, Trump gave a defiant, partisan, and sometimes delusional speech as he bid goodbye to the nation. A day after the coronavirus death toll hit 400,000 in the US, Trump praised his administration’s response to the crisis and gave a catalog of what he said his government has achieved.
“This has been an incredible four years, we’ve accomplished so much together,” Trump said, before thanking his family, friends and staff. “What we’ve done has been amazing by any standard.”
The list of government’s accomplishments, however, felt sparse. Trump said his administration had “rebuilt” the military, and said he “took care of the vets”, who, in Trump’s telling, had been treated “very badly” before his presidency.
The president then touted the economy, which was sent into free fall by a coronavirus pandemic that Trump has, by any measure, mishandled. There was none of the usual grace shown by presidents to their successors – instead Trump remarked of the incoming Biden administration: “I hope they don’t raise your taxes, but if they do I told you so.”
Attendees had been told to arrive at the Joint Base Andrews between 6am and 7.15am, when the temperature hovered above zero. A campaign-style stage was set up at the base, with total of 17 US flags hung behind a speaker’s podium. The Air force one presidential plane was parked in the background, waiting to fly the president out.
Trump arrived in Marine Force One as the song Gloria by Laura Branigan blasted out at the stage, and exited the helicopter to the sound of Don’t Stop Believing, by Journey. Both songs have been staples at Trump’s rallies.
Trump was due to speak at 8am, but there was a delay, leaving the crowd waiting. Senior Republicans had shunned the event, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, in favor of attending Biden’s inauguration, and the audience for Trump’s final send off far from filled the small viewing pen that the that had been set up.
Even Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence didn’t make it – a White House official told reporters it would be difficult for Pence to attend both the send off and the inauguration.
Trump, who has not left the White House for over a week, had reportedly spent recent days in a dejected mood, but according to CNN, the outgoing president had been “eagerly anticipating” the send off event.
Instead, Trump seemed sombre and lacking in energy as he addressed his crowd, perhaps disappointed by the scale of the event. Those looking for some remorse or self-reflection over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic would also be disappointed.
“We did something that was really considered a medical miracle,” Trump said of his team’s response to the virus. “And that was the vaccine.”
In reality, Trump has been criticized for the rollout of the vaccine. As Americans clamored for the vaccine, the Trump administration vowed to release vaccine doses held in reserve, only for it to emerge that no such reserve exists.
As Trump’s speech came to a close, for a brief moment it appeared the president would belatedly adopt a statesman-like tone, only for Trump to laud himself instead.
“I think they’ll have great success,” Trump said of the incoming government, before his message took a turn. “They have the foundation to do something really spectacular. We put [the country] in a position like it’s never been before despite the worst plague to hit since I guess you’d say 1917.”
Trump was likely referring to the wave of flu that hit the US in 1918 and killed some 670,000 people in the country.
After thanking members of Congress – “we really worked well with Congress, at least certain elements of Congress” – Trump gave his final message to the American people.
“Have a good life, we will see you soon,” was the rather uninspiring benediction, before Trump clambered off the stage to the tune of Village People’s YMCA.
Trump walked past the crowd and hugged family members, including his son Donald Jr and daughter Ivanka, then walked along a red carpet to Air Force One. The president touched down in Florida just after 11am, and was bound for the Mar-a-Lago resort , where he intends to live indefinitely. His aides have been carrying the so-called “nuclear football”, which will continue to be at Trump’s behest until midday. Biden will take possession of a second football after he is sworn in, and Trump’s nuclear codes will go dead.
As he headed to the airplane, there was the rare sight of Trump holding hands with Melania Trump, and the more common sight of Trump clutching onto the staircase banister as he boarded the craft. At the top of the steps, Trump turned and waved, before he entered the plane at 8.49am and disappeared from view.
The plane took off at 9am exactly, carrying Trump away from Washington for the last time as president. At the now empty send-off stage, one last song played, in what seemed to be a final act of defiance: My Way, by Frank Sinatra.
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