Donald Trump’s often slurred, mistake-ridden grievance speech in Ohio on Saturday has been widely panned. It was so uninspiring and devoid of new material that scores of attendees, most sporting Trump merch, were seen leaving well before his 90-minute screed ended – most likely just to beat the traffic.
Ostensibly the appearance was to support the candidacy of his former staffer Max Miller, who is looking to unseat incumbent Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in the Republican primary in advance of the 2022 election. Gonzalez committed the unpardonable sin, in Trump’s eyes, of voting to impeach the former president for inciting the deadly insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The twice-impeached, one-term former president fancies himself a kingmaker and jetted into northeast Ohio to bestow his endorsement upon Miller. “I want to thank Ohio for the incredible turnout … and all of the unbelievable, hardworking patriots who are here tonight at the very first rally of the 2022 election,” he told the thousands who trekked to the Lorain County Fairgrounds outside Cleveland.
He took a few shots at Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who’s running for Senate, and he had plenty of criticism for President Joe Biden. But the bulk of Trump’s ire was aimed at Gonzalez, someone whom Trump once labeled a “tough cookie” and a “friend.”
“A guy named Anthony Gonzalez, who is bad news,” Trump said, referring to the two-term congressman. “He’s a grandstanding RINO, not respected in D.C., who voted for the unhinged, unconstitutional, illegal impeachment witch hunt. … He’s a sellout, and a fake Republican, and a disgrace to your state,” generating a chorus of Pavlovian boos from his adoring masses. Gonzalez is a kind of hometown hero who was an all-state high school football player, excelled at Ohio State and was drafted in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.
When a reporter from The Dispatch called Gonzalez to get his reaction to Trump’s speech railing against him, the congressman was nonplussed. “Took my wife on a date. Didn’t pay any attention.” He did, however, express concern about Trump’s continued promotion of the “big lie.”
“I couldn’t care less about what the former President says about me. I really couldn’t,” he said. “What I do care about is the fact that he continues to double and triple down on the election lies that led to insurrection on January 6 and very likely could lead to more violence in the future.
“The most important thing that all elected Republicans can do right now is tell the truth to the country and our voters about the fact that we had a legitimate election and President Trump lost,” he continued. “Anything short of that is an abdication of duty.”