President Trump spent time in Wisconsin Thursday. His first stop was Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport where he taped a town hall meeting. Then, Trump helicoptered 60 miles north to Marinette, where he visited a shipbuilder that won a big contract with the Navy.
An estimated 700 workers, many wearing bright red Fincantieri Marinette Marine T-shirts, waited under a blistering summer sun for President Trump’s arrival. A huge ship-in-the-making stood as a striking backdrop for the event, which CEO Jan Allan kicked off.
“The shipyard began in 1942 with one goal in mind: support our country during the war. So we rolled up our sleeves, built barges for the Navy, and here were are, 78 years later, some 1,500 ships,” Allan says. “With the same partner at the center of our mission — the world’s greatest navy.”
Some might have seen President Trump’s visit — touting a $5.5 billion contract that's fueling projects and jobs at Fincantieri Marinette Marine — as part of his reelection strategy. But Allan acknowledged the support of both Democrats and Republicans at the state and federal level for helping her shipyard.
Trump then made his way out to address the crowd. He says he's restoring a fundamental principle: economic security is national security.
“As long as I’m your president, America will never lose that excellence or the expertise of the men and the women of Marinette Marine,” Trump says. “We’ll never lose that.”
Trump described the country’s military before he assumed office as depleted and tired. But now, the president says, “We have the strongest military in the world, by far, to take American justice to any foe if necessary on air, land or sea.”
Trump doled out heaps of praise for the workers before him, saying they're leading the country to victory at sea.
“You’re all working and doing something that you love. ... Most of you, you can’t wait to get to work. That’s the way I feel – and your job is much more pleasant than mine. That I can guarantee,” Trump says.
Democrats, the president says, are much more difficult to deal with than China, North Korea or Russia. "They’re far more unreasonable, and actually they’re a little crazy,” Trump says.
Trump left the crowd forecasting financial stability – a great third quarter and an even greater 2021.
Jon Baumgarten was among the sea of Fincantieri Marinette Marine workers. A shipfitter for 22 years, Baumgarten says he believes Trump is bringing the country together.
“I go live a normal life like everybody else. Everything is good, people are happy. Every store I go into, every restaurant I go into, I don’t see society stoking fear, I don’t see hate being stoked, but I see it in the media. So, why? Why does the media continue to stoke the fire and stoke fear into society? We are united, we are one country together. It’s that simple,” Baumgarten says.
WUWM didn’t run across any protesters in Marinette Thursday. Many people lined its main street hoping for a glimpse of the president as his motorcade went by.
Amy Schwaba is not a Trump fan. She and a handful of volunteers — with supersized blue letters spelling out JOE behind them — handed out voting registration information and yard signs.
Schwaba says she loves her hometown, “In setting up here, we wanted to make sure that we're not showing any disrespect to the presidency, we certainly love Marinette Marine. But this is such an important election, it’s really not just about a single issue or issues, it’s really about the soul of our country."
Andi Rich grew up in Marinette. She says she’s all for hardworking shipbuilders being recognized by their president, but not in the middle of a pandemic.
“The whole nature of a pandemic is the more it spreads, the faster it spreads, the easier it spreads and the harder becomes to contain. So, the best thing to do in my mind would be to prevent these outbreaks from happening … people who would normally be trying to stay home are now going out and gathering because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for so many people,” Rich says. “I just feel like it’s complicating an already complicated situation.”
Rich wasn’t there to hear it, but President Trump told the shipyard full of employees that the U.S. has the greatest testing program in the world, almost 30 million tests have been administered and COVID-19 deaths, the president said, are down.