BALTIMORE, Maryland — President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry following Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.
The president, first lady, Pence and Pence’s wife stood on stage with their hands over their hearts as country music star Trace Adkins performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Trump didn’t make any comments at the podium, but after the national anthem, he and the first lady greeted people in the audience, chatting with supporters while standing a few feet away.
Pence delivered the evening’s keynote from Fort McHenry, where Americans defended Baltimore Harbor from the British in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Pence used his nomination acceptance speech to unequivocally side with law enforcement, calling for "law and order" at a time when recent shootings and deaths of Black people at the hands of police has led to protests in the streets and boycotts that are rippling through the sports world.
He forcefully defended law enforcement but made no mention of the Black Americans killed by police this year as he addressed Republican convention proceedings that unfolded amid new protests against racial injustice following the latest shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Pence argued that Democratic leaders are allowing lawlessness to prevail from coast to coast. He described cities wracked by violence, though protests in most locations have been largely peaceful.
“The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” he said. He assailed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for saying there is an “implicit bias” against people of color and “systemic racism” in the U.S.
“The hard truth is ... you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Pence said. “Let me be clear: The violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha.”
Absent from Pence’s 37-minute speech: a direct mention of Blake, the Black man who was wounded by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There was also no reference to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or other Black people who have been killed by police this year, spurring a new nationwide protest movement.
The convention keynote gave Pence another opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Trump. The vice president, who is also the chair of the White House coronavirus task force, defended the administration’s handling of the pandemic that is killing more than 1,000 Americans a day, a political liability that was otherwise largely absent from the convention program. He also delivered sober, encouraging words to Gulf Coast residents as Hurricane Laura neared.
“This is a serious storm,” Pence said. “And we urge all those in the affected areas to heed state and local authorities. Stay safe and know that we’ll be with you every step of the way to support, rescue, respond, and recover in the days and weeks ahead.”
Positioning himself as a potential heir to Trump in 2024, Pence delivered sharp attacks against Biden, but also presented an optimistic vision of the country’s future.
"President Donald Trump believes in America and in the goodness of the American people, the boundless potential of every American to live out their dreams in freedom and, every day, President Trump has been fighting to protect the promise of America," Pence said toward the conclusion of his remarks.