President Donald Trump embraced his role as commander in chief Thursday, donning a flight jacket and USS Gerald R. Ford cap as he addressed a group of sailors aboard the deck of the aircraft carrier.
“What an honor. You know, they just gave me this beautiful jacket,” Trump said. “They said, ‘Here, Mr. President, please take this home.’ I said, ‘Let me wear it.’ And then they gave me the beautiful hat and I said, ‘You know, maybe I’ll do that.’”
Trump highlighted the “great” Make American Great Again cap he’s sported before but suggested he’d rather wear the Ford hat because this was a special occasion.
“This is a special day,” he said. “We’re wearing this, right? I have no idea how it looks, but I think it looks good. It’s a great-looking hat. Just like this is a great-looking ship.”
Getting into his 15-minute address here, Trump said he was “privileged” to stand before the crowd of America sailors, whom he hailed as “the best war-fighting sailors anywhere in the world.” “It’s not even close,” he added.
Of the aircraft carrier, Trump said, “What a place.”
“It really feels like a place,” he continued. “You stand on that deck and you feel like you’re standing on a very big piece of land, but this is better than land. It’ll not only a great symbol of American strength but a great legacy of your father and our former president, Gerald Ford.”
More than that, though, Trump said it “will make an extraordinary addition to the fleet, like
no other, like no other.”
The newly constructed aircraft carrier is one of the most expensive ships in the world, with a nearly $13 billion price tag. And it’s formally known as the PCU Gerald R. Ford because it hasn’t been commissioned yet (PCU stands for “pre-commissioning unit”).
“Anywhere in the world, there’s nothing like this,” he said. “It represents the future of Naval aviation. I have no greater privilege than to serve as your commander in chief and the commander in chief of the men and women of the United States military.”
Noting that his budget will call for one of the largest increases ever in military spending. Trump pledged to rebuild the armed forces — including making the Navy larger than it’s ever been.
“We will give the men and women of America’s armed services the resources you need to keep us safe. We will have the finest equipment in the world: planes, ships and everything else,” he said. “We are going to have very soon the finest equipment in the world. We will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and, if required, to fight war and only do one thing. You know what that is? Win. Win! We’re gonna start winning again.”
He added that his administration will negotiate to get good deals on military needs. “The same boat for less money. The same ship for less money,” he said. “The same airplanes for less money. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re doing. Means we’re gonna get more of them, and we can use them.”
Calling carriers “the centerpiece of American military might overseas,” Trump said he was standing on 4.5 acres of “combat power and sovereign U.S. territory, the likes of which there is nothing to compete.”
“There is no competition to this ship. It is a monument to American might that will provide the strength necessary to ensure peace,” Trump said, remarking that it will have the capacity to carry 4,500 people and 70 aircraft.
It “will be a vital component of our defense,” he said. “This carrier and the new ships in the Ford class will expand the ability of our nation to carry out vital missions on the oceans to project American power in distant lands. Hopefully its power we don’t have to use, but if we do, they’re in big, big trouble.”
Sailors declined to comment on the president’s address. But Diane Carr, 58, who has been a welder in the yard for 30 years and didn’t vote for Trump, gave him a glowing review.
“I loved it. It was the first time I saw the humble side of him,” she said. “Just seeing the caringness of him. He kept it simple and about the shipyard, and no one sees the work that goes into it. He seemed to be about making it easier to do the physical things. And he seemed to understand what we have to go through.”
Tim Glascock, a 52-year-old shipbuilder, sounded a similar note. “I think it was a great speech,” he said.
Asked about the increased scrutiny over Trump’s potential ties to Russia, Glascock said he wasn’t look for Trump to address that. “I was looking for defense spending and eliminating the sequester on the budget,” he said. “I’m not concerned about [the Russia connections].”