HACKBERRY, La. — President Trump used an official White House event here on Tuesday to make overtly political attacks on an assortment of his presidential rivals in 2020, handicapping and mocking the Democratic field during a visit to promote his energy agenda.
Trump drew out the pronunciation of Pete Buttigieg’s uncommon last name, saying: “We’ve got Boot-edge-edge.” Using a derisive nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the president mused: “Pocahontas, I think, is probably out.”
Trump also said former vice president Joe Biden “doesn’t look like the guy I knew” while taking aim at “crazy” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has a “lot more energy than Biden . . . but it’s energy to get rid of your jobs.”
And Trump ridiculed former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) for a Vanity Fair interview in which O’Rourke claimed that he was “just born to be in” the presidential race.
“He was made to fall like a rock!” Trump said at an event designed to tout his energy policies at a liquefied-natural-gas plant in this southwestern Louisiana town. “What happened to him?”
And in a gift to Louisiana politicians in attendance, Trump drew his biggest cheers by promising to build a bridge for one of the state’s main highways, Interstate 10, if reelected. “I didn’t know it was going to be that popular,” Trump said.
During the rest of the 50-minute speech, as he was flanked by dozens of plant workers onstage behind him wearing hard hats and construction vests, Trump promoted his energy agenda and made his case that he was turbocharging the economy.
Trump praised the roughly 10,000 employees at the Cameron LNG plant, where natural gas is supercooled into liquid form to be shipped abroad. To an enthusiastic crowd, the president also mocked the Green New Deal, telling the crowd of plant workers that they would lose their jobs under the plan advanced by some Democrats and saying: “That’s a hoax, like the hoax I just went through,” an apparent reference to the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In the past, “our leaders pursued policies that were anti-American energy and anti-American worker and anti-American wealth,” Trump said. “Now we have an ‘America First’ energy policy, just like we have an ‘America First’ policy. It’s music to people’s ears.”
The president’s speech in Hackberry, about 230 miles west of New Orleans, was the latest in a series of White House events highlighting Trump’s energy agenda. Last month in Crosby, Tex., Trump signed executive orders that would effectively make it easier for firms to build oil and gas pipelines and more difficult for state agencies to stop them.
After the speech, Trump headed to the New Orleans suburb of Metairie for a fundraiser.
Both the Trump and Obama administrations have worked to greenlight gas export terminals like Cameron facility in Louisiana, which is set to begin exports as soon as this month and join three other large-scale export terminals already in operation. An additional three terminals are under construction to help bring the recent boom of fracked gas to market.
Energy executives heaped praise on Trump. “This administration and its forward-looking energy policies deserve a lot of credit,” Jeffrey Martin, chief executive of Sempra Energy, the majority owner of the Cameron LNG export facility, said before Trump’s speech.
Trump, for his part, was happy to take the credit, claiming “this was not going to happen with someone else in office.” In fact, Energy Department approval for the Cameron terminal began in 2016 under President Barack Obama.
For those setting U.S. foreign policy, the exported gas isn’t just fuel for buyers, such as those in Brazil or Thailand, to light and heat their homes. It is also a geopolitical tool.
The United States hopes to wean European countries off gas from Russia, which has used its trade relations as a cudgel against Ukraine by cutting off its energy supply. Since 2016, the United States has sold liquefied natural gas to a dozen European countries, including Poland and Lithuania.
But another geopolitical rival, China, threatens to limit that nascent export business. Chinese officials announced Monday that the country is raising tariffs on U.S. liquefied natural gas amid its escalating trade dispute with Trump.
Grandoni reported from Washington.