HOT SPRINGS — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday called it imperative that the U.S. build a stronger border to enforce its immigration laws, knocked Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush as politicians hampered by donor obligations and said he would be "the greatest job-producing president that God ever created."
Trump, speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 Arkansas Republicans at the Reagan-Rockefeller Dinner in Hot Springs, touched on those and other topics in nearly an hour of speaking and answering audience questions. He also spoke to reporters for about 15 minutes beforehand, touching on many of the same themes.
Trump — who called the Hogs and was presented separately with an Arkansas Traveler certificate and a Henry rifle — also likened inner-city crime in the U.S. to "war zones," said Obamacare must be repealed because it's a "disaster" and criticized politicians for being "all talk and no action."
"If Hillary gets in, this country is in big trouble," he said in remarks before his speech. "Because you won't take back our jobs from China. She's totally controlled by people that love China. And if Jeb Bush gets in, it's the same thing. A politician. They put up $100 million for him. They will totally control him, just like a puppet. They will totally control Hillary just like a puppet."
Trump, a businessman who has placed his own wealth at $10 billion, said he would be immune from such influence because of his business success.
"Nobody's controlling me," he said. "If I want Ford to move their plant into the United States, they'll do it. Believe me."
Trump expanded on that scenario in his dinner speech, telling the attendees that he would institute a 35 percent tax on Ford's U.S.-bound products if the automaker refused to put a $2 billion factory in the U.S. and instead located it in Mexico.
He said he expected Ford would choose to relocate within the day rather than pay the hefty tax.
"[The Ford official will] say 'please.' And I'll say drop to your knees," Trump said. "He'll say 'please Mr. President.' And I'll say no. I want the jobs here. He'll say 'Mr. President, we're moving the plant back to the USA.' That's what will happen. 100 percent ... Politicians can't do that. They can't do that. It's not in their blood."
The Iran nuclear deal announced this week by President Barack Obama should have never been agreed to, Trump argued during his speech, saying the U.S. should have stiffened sanctions instead and done a better job negotiating.
He said Secretary of State John Kerry was "out of his league" and had been "out-negotiated."
"It so sad to see that we have such opportunity," he said, "but we have such stupid people representing us."
Trump before and during his speech characterized himself as a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. He referenced the shooting rampage that Thursday left four Marines dead at two military sites in Tennessee and another attack in 2009 that left one soldier dead and another injured in Little Rock. He said soldiers should be armed at such facilities, a stance Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson echoed when he addressed the crowd.
"They would have had a good chance if they would have had a gun," Trump said. "You had the same problem in '09. You had the same thing [in Little Rock] ... You had a problem where you had Islamic terrorism, which the president doesn't want to use the term. He doesn't want to use it at all. To fix the problem, you have to know what the problem is. I'm not sure he even knows what the problem is."
Hutchinson — who said he was "delighted" to welcome Trump and hoped other candidates would visit next — said he on Friday directed the Arkansas National Guard to "make sure our full-time military personnel in National Guard bureaus are able to carry firearms to protect themselves."
Trump said he believed he could win support from Hispanic voters despite backlash over comments he made when he first entered the race likening some immigrants to criminals and "rapists."
He suggested during his speech that his quote had been taken out of context and repeatedly emphasized that he would make securing the border a hallmark of his presidency.
"If you don't have a border, you don't have a country," he said. "And that's what's happening now."
See Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full coverage.