Trump has never seemed to understand why seeking and ultimately occupying the nation's highest office should bring more intense scrutiny than hosting “The Apprentice” or building towers and golf courses.
“When I won, I said, ‘Well, the one thing good is now I'll get good press,’ ” he told the Associated Press last year. “And it got worse. … So that was one thing that is a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought the press would become better, and it actually, in my opinion, got more nasty.”
Memories of gentler coverage were not the extent of Trump's nostalgia at CPAC. Much of his 75-minute turn at the microphone was a throwback to his pre-presidency, a time when fame was not accompanied by the weighty responsibilities of the Oval Office.
“It was a lovefest,” Trump said of his debut at CPAC in 2011, romanticizing an appearance that drew mixed reviews.
“A lot of people remembered,” he continued, “and they said, ‘We want Trump. We want Trump.’ And after a few years, they go by, and I say, ‘Here we are. Let's see what we can do.’ And then everybody said, ‘He cannot get elected. He cannot do it.’ ”
In Trump's version of events, he was drafted into politics by popular demand, only to face totally unfair skepticism once he volunteered his services.
At times on Friday, Trump sought to re-create the thrill of campaigning. His reference to a “crooked opponent” whipped the crowd into a familiar chant: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Axios's Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen wrote on Friday morning, before the president's speech, that “in Trumpworld, every day is yesterday,” which might be an understatement. Sometimes “yesterday” is 2016.
Trump read a poem called “The Snake” that he used to deliver often as a candidate. It is about a snake (obviously) that bites a woman after she welcomes it into her home, which Trump uses as an anti-immigrant metaphor.
The president received a standing ovation for his rendition.
Trump exited the stage to “You Can't Always Get What You Want,” as he used to do on the campaign trail, but not before returning, finally, to his current job to announce new sanctions against North Korea, which White House aides had indicated would be a major theme of the address.
Instead, the sanctions were a footnote.
“You don't mind if I go off-script a little bit?” Trump had asked the audience earlier. “Because it's sort of boring. It's a little boring. Got this beautiful speech — everything's wonderful — but a little boring.”
Last April, as part of a media tour in connection with his 100th day in office, Trump confessed to a Reuters reporter that being president was harder than he expected and that he missed his former life.
“I love my previous life,” Trump said. “I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life.”
“I thought it would be easier,” he added. “I thought it was more of a — I’m a details-oriented person. I think you’d say that, but I do miss my old life. I like to work, so that’s not a problem, but this is actually more work.”
Trump's speech at CPAC on Friday indicated that it still feels the same.