Lima Charlie News Political Correspondent & USAF veteran Dan Webb reports from a recent Trump rally in Iowa. Suffice to say, Dan’s views are not necessarily those of Lima Charlie News, its affiliates, or its management. But we really enjoyed the article.
| COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa–Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa September 28 to kick off his Iowa Christian Conservatives for Trump coalition. As the voice of reason on the weekly Horse Race podcast by Lima Charlie News, I felt it was my duty to attend the rally and get my first glimpse of Donald J. Trump, as well as his Iowa supporters, in person. I also wanted to see for myself if the man who may very well be our next president was as bad as some portray him to be.
Council Bluffs is located on the Western border of Iowa, just minutes from downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha residents typically avoid Council Bluffs unless, in a booze filled bachelor party haze, they plan to gamble away their Union Pacific Railroad salary at the smoke filled casinos, or spend it on aspiring performance artists at the local gentlemen’s club. Some might mistake the city for being cosmopolitan when they notice that everyone knows the metric system. But anyone who watched ‘Breaking Bad’ quickly realizes why that is.
When I arrived at the Mid America Center, the mid sized arena where Slipknot and Dwight Yoakam serenade their Iowa fans, I was greeted by a group of protesters holding signs that said “F*&^ Donald Trump” and “Drumpf.” Luckily the guy with the “Drumpf” sign was standing near an entrance used by few rally goers. If people saw that sign it might be the end of the line for Mr. Trump. A simply devastating critique that is quite simply, “huge, if true.”
When I got inside I saw a group of Secret Service agents patting down a man with a re purposed Diet Pepsi bottle containing tobacco spit, and a woman driving a motor scooter wearing a “Hillary for Prison 2016” t-shirt. I take back the mean things I said about Council Bluffs now. That city rules.
I showed up an hour early, but when I made my way into the conference center where Donald Trump was speaking, I noticed a crowd of approximately 1000 people. Tana Goertz, an Iowa native – who was once a contestant on Trump’s reality show ‘The Apprentice’ – was speaking to supporters about the Constitution and Trump’s respect for “the rights given to us by our creator.” Tana brought up a preacher who led the crowd in prayer followed by a middle aged man who claimed to be a veteran. If I had to guess, it was a Grenada veteran. The man led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance but got 50% of the words wrong before his mic “cut out”. The pledge was finished by the crowd, like when Eddie Vedder holds the mic out to let the crowd finish the chorus of Nothingman at a Pearl Jam concert.
Immediately following the pledge, was the song that has become the center of controversy as of late, the Star Spangled Banner. Wherever Colin Kaepernick was, I imagine his ears perked up like The Office’s Michael Scott when hearing an opportunity to drop a “That’s what she said.” My patriotic juices were flowing. When the national anthem concluded, a man with a goatee who looked like he had chemtrail induced Morgellons disease, looked over at his wife and said, “That Kaepernick fella won’t be allowed to kneel when Trump is in office.” I wish I was making that up. It was like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. You know it exists but it’s a real treat when you see it with your own eyes.
The guest of honor was about 30 minutes late, so I decided to ask a few attendees about the man himself. I also wanted to gauge their feelings about the campaign and Trump’s performance at Monday’s presidential debate.
I found a tall red-headed woman who was trying to convince a middle aged Gary Johnson supporter in a Superman t-shirt why he should vote for Trump. I interjected into their conversation to ask her the number one reason why someone should choose Trump over Johnson. She told me Hillary was going to destroy the country and that Muslims were pouring into the country by the millions. I asked her if her count of “millions” was being calculated by turnstiles as they crossed the border. She didn’t know where the number came from, but she was unhappy about the fact that, “they are eligible for welfare and probably Obama phones.”
I reached out to an Apple representative to find out if the iPhone 7 was available for those covered in the “Obama phone” program. They did not immediately respond.
A few minutes later I asked a very well-dressed man what he thought about Trump’s comment that not paying income taxes for several years made him “smart.” He told me, “Hey buddy, if you want to pay taxes, that’s on you.” I asked him how we would fund our military without taxes and he replied, “repeal Obamacare”, as he walked away from me.
These are the Midwestern folk that make David Brooks wax-poetic in his weekly columns for the New York Times. Brooks, I strongly suspect, has never met any real Midwesterners. He conjectures from his ivory tower about the kindness and generosity of “real Americans” who respect his first and only love, institutions. What Brooks fails to recognize is that Midwesterners can be just as motivated by self interest as someone from Boston or the Bronx. Folks from small towns in Iowa see a lot fewer strangers in their everyday life, and it isn’t difficult to be warm when you live in a town where your mother’s former coworker’s daughter is your family’s pediatrician.
Finally, the crowd began to roar as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani came out from behind the large curtain backdrop that separated the crowd from the VIPs. Giuliani, long since leaving the New York City Mayor’s office, has found his niche’ as Trump’s hype man. If you think that is a totally pathetic fall from grace — like I definitely don’t — let me remind you that DJ Khaled was once the hype man for hip-hop legend Fat Joe. Now, DJ Khaled has millions of Snapchat followers and snaps videos of himself in the shower telling people his Keys to Success like “Don’t ride your jet ski at night” and how voluntary celibacy will make you a savvy investor. The people of Atlantic City likely wish Mr. Trump had received that investing advice before his casinos went out of business.
Giuliani didn’t speak long but he fed the crowd some red meat by saying Hillary Clinton called him and the crowd a bunch of deplorables. Being deplorable has become a badge of honor for Trump supporters in recent weeks. One man in the crowd screamed out, “George Soros is the deplorable!” Giuliani immediately responded, “Yeah!”
At this point I was getting overheated because the Mid America Center’s air conditioning was not turned on for this rally. I also ran out of storage on my iPhone and spent the better part of the next five minutes trying to figure out what to delete so I could take more pictures. I didn’t get much out of the rest of Giuliani’s speech but he hyped the crowd pretty well. Outstanding.
The crowd was cult like and the look in people’s eyes as Trump spoke was that of pure captivation.
Finally, the man of the hour, Donald Trump, took the stage. He opened by asking all the Evangelical Christians to raise their hands. He said he was very popular and well-liked by Evangelicals. After that, he asked if the non-Christians would raise their hands. A few people did. Trump laughingly asked if he should have them kicked out. The crowd cheered but Trump said “That’s — oh, there’s a couple people, that’s all right. I think we’ll keep them, right? Should we keep them in the room, yes? I think so.” This comment has drawn some criticism from the media but it came across as a light hearted, albeit hamfisted, joke. That was the end of Trump’s comments about Christians at his rally to kick off a coalition for Iowa Christians.
Trump continued by repeating his favorite talking points and boasting about his campaign performance. He talked about Hillary Clinton’s emails, her Wall Street speech transcripts, his border wall plan, how he won all the online polls after the debate and other such trivial nothings.
At one point Trump remarked that the media wanted him to lose and pointed towards the media gallery at the back of the conference center. The crowd immediately turned and booed. One exceptionally well dressed, middle aged, woman right in front of me, turned and screamed at the media with intensity I would’ve never expected. She roared as she held her “Make America Great Again” sign above her head. She was like a Visigoth warrior about to sprint down the Janiculum hill to sack Rome.
The crowd itself was not unlike any other political rally I have attended. In fact, the only distinguishing features from a Bernie Sanders rally I attended last summer, in the same conference center, was the distinct lack of purple hair and smell of sage. The crowd was cult like and the look in people’s eyes as Trump spoke was that of pure captivation. Some people turned red and nearly suffered from strokes as Trump spoke about Hillary Clinton and the liberal media. The woman who screamed at the reporters and TV crews behind us had closed her eyes and said “amen” when Giuliani told the crowd Clinton would “decimate the military.” You can tell that Trump and Giuliani, the Manhattan elites that they are, despise these people. The way they speak on stage is transparently patronizing to the crowd of their rabid supporters.
Noticeably, the only minorities at the event were media and Secret Service members.
Unfortunately, I was not able to stay behind and take part in any of the post rally festivities at the Mid America Center. A girl I once ghosted after a Tinder date was a journalist for one of the TV stations covering the rally; we made eye contact. I almost asked one of the Secret Service agents for a special escort to the nearest exit thinking they could be sympathetic. The look in their faces told me they’ve never once in their life felt sympathy.
At the end of the day, this rally was not about the Iowa Christian Conservatives, this rally was about making sure Iowa voters filled out absentee ballots. All of the speakers at the rally emphasized filling out absentee ballots, and there were men in suits meandering through the crowd with clipboards getting rally attendee’s information so they could follow up about the process. The speakers mentioned absentee voting at least 3 times more than they mentioned Iowa Conservative Christians.
I tried to get more information about Iowa Christian Conservatives for Trump, but was unable to find a website or any social media presence. I reached out to the Trump campaign and communications director for the state of Iowa, James Rockas, who told me that it was a coalition of over 2000 members, including 650 faith leaders from the state of Iowa.
After the rally I concluded that Trump is also a faith leader. A faith I did not share after seeing him in person.
This essay is adapted from a post that originally ran on Medium .
Dan Webb, Political Correspondent for Lima Charlie News
Dan Webb is a former U.S. Air Force Airborne Systems Engineer on the RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft. He completed three deployments to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom totaling over 1200 combat flight hours. He currently works as a software engineer for an Omaha based marketing agency. Previously he worked for the Office of Military and Veteran Services at the University of Nebraska Omaha where, as a student, he received his B.S. in Political Science with a minor in Economics. Dan’s interests include domestic economic policy, veteran’s issues, and national security.
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Images by Dan Webb
Main photo: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
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