As we begin the year in which President-Elect Donald Trump takes office, here’s a look back at the Top 10 moments of his 17-month-long campaign in a contest that will likely go down as one of the most acrimonious, hard-fought and bitter presidential races the United States has ever witnessed. To be sure, Trump has many great moments ahead of him, but these will be remembered for their zing, their zeal and their zest long after Trump has left Washington.
- Low-Energy Jeb Bush
Who can forget the moment on the debate stage at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California when Trump referred to GOP Establishment candidate Jeb Bush as having “low energy”? The look on Bush’s face said it all.
Jeb was aghast that another candidate had the chutzpah to even say such a thing before the television audience and yet, for all its bombast, from many perspectives, it was true. Jeb held a lackluster campaign from start to finish, believing that a massive war chest and a recognizable last name were all that were needed to virtually lock up the race.
Trump ended that illusion quickly, and by the third primary, after Bush had scored no higher than eight percentage points despite spending $130 million, the brother of the 43rd president and son of the 41st quit the race. No doubt Donald Trump today is one of Bush’s less-favorite people.
- Rosie O’Donnell
Trump’s famous feud with the comedienne and friend of Madonna ended up as an inadvertent debate answer to a searing question asked by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Kelly’s pointed attack, in which she started to needle Trump for his supposed misogyny and poor treatment of women went like this: “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals’…”
Trump’s carefully judged three-word interruption of the question, “— only Rosie O’Donnell,” set the crowd alight and dissolved the harshness of Kelly’s query with humor — a perfect retort to such a clear attempt at provocation. Left out of the debate was the fact that O’Donnell has in the past called Trump “a snake oil salesman on Little House on the Prairie” among other insults — more than enough reason for Trump to castigate her.
- The Border Wall
To many, Trump’s promise to build a wall on the southern border of the U.S. to keep out illegal immigrants is a masterstroke — a construction to physically manifest his position on the scourge of illegal migrants who come into the country and commit crimes.
It’s a way he can combine three of his passions — his love of building, his dedication to greater American security and wage growth. When Mexican leaders denied that their country would pay for the wall that Trump promised, Trump doubled down at a Tampa rally, vowing, “The wall just got 10 feet higher.” The crowd couldn’t applaud loudly enough.
- Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathy Shelton
In the face of the release of a damning tape made secretly by Access Hollywood host Billy Bush (the cousin of 2016 Republican candidate Jeb Bush and former President George W. Bush), Trump called a press conference several hours before the second presidential debate.
His plan was to have Bill and Hillary Clinton accusers Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathy Shelton air their grievances against the former president and his wife, who was running as the 2016 Democratic nominee.
The timing was vintage Trump — instead of trying to play defense for the Access Hollywood tape, Trump went on the offense and scored points against his opponent before the debate got started. Trump even threatened to seat the accusers in the front row at the event, but this was not allowed by debate officials.
To use a word popularized by a controversial Hollywood actor who can’t seem to stay out of the headlines, Trump declared that “winning” would be America’s new modus operandi, and that, indeed, Americans would “win at every level.
“We’re going to win economically, and we’re going to win with the economy. We’re going to win with the military. We’re going to win with health care and for our veterans. We’re going to win with every single facet. We’re going to win so much you may even get tired of winning. And you’ll say ‘Please, please it’s too much winning. We can’t take it anymore. Mr. President, it’s too much!’ And I’ll say ‘No, it isn’t, we have to keep winning! We have to win more! We’re going to win more!’”
And as agreements with manufacturers Carrier and Boeing have already shown, Trump means what he says.
- Trump Magazine, Trump Airlines, Trump Water and Trump Steaks
When Mitt Romney, the failed 2012 GOP candidate who wasn’t able to stop Barack Obama from winning a second term in office, took aim at Trump’s self-branded products during the 2016 campaign, Trump fought back by holding a press conference in which he touted his products and showed them off.
Far from being ashamed of his association with them, Trump was clearly proud of his accomplishments and once again turned an adverse situation to his advantage.
As for Mitt Romney, the two-time presidential candidate looked even more like a loser for his petty insults and support of the #NeverTrump movement, which never coalesced to the point of even being able to field a candidate in the 2016 contest.
- Meeting the Mexican President
With so much talk about Mexico, immigration and his proposed border wall, Trump took the opportunity to make a high-profile visit south of the border — even as competitor Hillary Clinton refused to do the same thing — to meet personally with Mexican President Peña Nieto.
Their brief meeting was a demonstration that Trump could not only talk the talk of a presidential candidate; he could walk the walk as well. Critics grudgingly admitted that the trip boosted Trump in the polls and confirmed that Trump could appear with a world leader and look every much that person’s equal or superior — a proud feat for someone who had been so critical of the Mexican administration in the past.
- Inner-city Detroit
Not one to shy away from the country’s hardcore economic woes, Trump made a campaign visit to the Great Faith Ministries International Church in downtown Detroit with his advisor and former 2016 campaign rival Dr. Ben Carson in tow. Trump made clear his commitment to helping African-Americans.
“Our nation is too divided. We talk past each other, not to each other, and those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what is going on,” Trump stated.
“They don’t know. They have no clue. I’m here today to learn. So that we can together remedy injustice, in any form. And so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways.” The crowd responded vigorously to Trump’s remarks.
- Lindsey Graham
The senior South Carolina senator, who’s been a Republican Party stalwart for the last 20-odd years — but has been seen as too liberal at times for his positions on immigration and global warming — was initially critical of Trump’s campaign and called Trump “a jackass.”
As payback, Trump recounted a story in which Graham had called the candidate four years earlier to ask for a plug on Fox News. Trump wrote down the senator’s cell phone number at the time and read it aloud to a laughing crowd in Graham’s home state.
In response, Graham released a video in which he’s seen destroying his cell phone in several different ways, including using it as a golf ball, dropping it from the roof of a building and chopping it with a meat cleaver.
In the end, Trump’s campaign was revolutionary. Trump promised to actually deliver the hope and change Barack Obama campaigned on but failed to provide voters for the last eight years.
Trump’s use of the Beatles’ famous song of the Sixties after his first primary win in New Hampshire captured the spirit of the times and the country’s feelings as he was able to ride to victory and the White House a year later. The next four years should prove revolutionary indeed as Trump continues to prove his critics wrong and make the country proud of his policies.