In Harrisburg, Trump touts his first 100 days, boasts the fight is “just beginning”

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HARRISBURG — President Trump delivered a slashing, campaign-style speech here to mark his 100th day in office, accusing the media of lying about his success and saying he would rather spend the day with “much better people” in Pennsylvania than those in Washington.

 “Make no mistake: we are just beginning in our fight to make America great again,” Trump told a raucous and loyal crowd at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, many wearing his signature red “Make America Great Again” hats. “We are keeping one promise after another and, frankly, the people are really happy about  it.”

He touted his placement of Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and scrapping of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, but got his biggest cheers with a sustained attack on the media, returning, nearly six months after Election Day, to the same themes that drove his campaign.

While Trump has come under criticism for failing to show progress on some of his biggest campaign pledges, he said the media has refused to give him credit and “deserves a very, very big fat failing grade.”

And in a sign that 100 days in the Oval Office have done little to change Trump, he continued to boast about his crowds, declaring that “we have a lot of people standing outside” and that he “broke the all time record for this arena.” However, there were rows of empty seats in the arena, and space on the floor.

Trump made Central Pennsylvania a regular stop during 2016, and in many ways Saturday’s rally was a mirror image of the campaign. As the event neared, Democrats planned to protest what they said would be devastating policies the president hopes to enact. Inside, effusive supporters who had traveled hours – some from Michigan and New York – joined the rally and chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” 

Trump spoke just 40 miles from Gettysburg, where in October he laid out a largely unaccomplished 10-point plan for his first 100 days in office. The rally also coincided, not coincidentally, as the Capitol press corps mingled with celebrities at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a gala that has become a symbol of cozy ties between media, cultural and economic elites.

“There’s another big gathering taking place tonight in Washington, D.C.” Trump said to loud boos. “I could not possibly be more thrilled to be more than 100 miles away from the Washington swamp, spending my evening with all of you, and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people.” 

In a gravelly near shout, he returned to his campaign themes: He painted a dark picture of dangerous immigrants flooding into the country, of police under siege and Islamic terrorism threatening Americans’ safety, promising to reverse those problems. He urged police to get protesters at the site “outta here” as his supporters shouted at those who came to disrupt. One man was walked out, shouting “Trump is a traitor” and holding a Russian flag.

The president’s approval ratings have hovered around 40 percent through most of his presidency, an historically low rating this early into a first term. But his supporters — including many waiting in a line snaking through the vast farm complex parking lot — remain fiercely loyal and encouraged by his first few months. 

Zachary Adam Perry, a York resident who served in Iraq in 2007, said he hopes Trump can hold his temper on the world stage, but approved of the president’s missile strikes in Syria.

 “It’s time we show the terrorists that we are a nation that is forceful now. They see weakness and they jump on it,” said Perry, 30.

Jill Williams, 39, who drove four hours from Groton, N.Y. said the president’s promises to “get rid of Obamacare” had resonated with her. “It’s way expensive,” she said — her boyfriend, who owns a small construction company, had found its premiums unaffordable.

Williams said she hadn’t followed much of the Congressional debate over the repeal. But she said she felt the president’s initiatives had been stymied at every turn — and was especially been disappointed by federal judges who blocked Trump’s ban on travel from several majority-Muslim countries.

“No matter what he’s trying to do, he’s getting stopped,” said. “He’s the president. He should be able to overrule some things.” 

Brendon Gaylor, 22, a network technician at the state Department of Health, was attending his first Trump rally. He said he was a member of the alt-right, the far-right nationalist movement that embraced Trump early and fervently. 

As for Trump’s first 100 days in office, “I thought it’d be a little easier to drain the swamp,” Gaylor said. “but 2018 is around the corner.” 

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