MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump said first lady Michelle Obama “must have been talking about the past” when she said there’s no sense of hope after his election.
Trump, speaking Saturday at the final rally of his postelection “thank you” tour, then resisted escalating the spat further, suggesting “she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out.”
But as Trump praised the Obamas for treating him so nicely when he visited the White House shortly after the election, many in the Mobile, Alabama, crowd booed the first family.
Michelle Obama, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air Monday on CBS, said she was now certain that her husband’s victory had inspired people because “now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.”
“What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?” she added.
Trump’s comments about Michelle and President Barack Obama was one of the few conciliatory notes he sounded during a victory tour in which he showed few signs of turning the page from his blustery campaign to focus on uniting a divided nation a month before his inauguration.
At each stop, the Republican gloatingly recapped his election night triumph, reignited some old political feuds while starting some new ones, and did little to quiet the hate-filled chants of “Lock her up!” directed at Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
At the tour’s finale at the same football stadium in Mobile that hosted the biggest rally of his campaign, Trump saluted his supporters as true “patriots” and made little attempt to reach out to the more than half of the electorate that didn’t vote for him.
“We are really the people who love this country,” said Trump.
He reminisced about his campaign announcement and his ride down Trump Tower’s golden escalator. His disputed a newspaper’s account of the size of the crowd at one of his rallies and bashed the press as dishonest. And he joked that he had booked a small ballroom for his election night party so, if he lost, he “could get out!”
He paid homage to the August 2015 rally in the same stadium that he said jump-started his campaign. Though the crowd was not as large on Saturday, it was no less fervid, repeatedly chanting “Build the wall!” when Trump renewed his vow to build an impenetrable border at the Mexican border.
Trump brought his nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, up onstage to receive cheers from his hometown crowd. When Trump’s plane landed, he received a water cannon salute from a pair of fire trucks and was greeted by several Azalea Trail Maids, local women dressed in antebellum Southern Belle outfits.
The raucous rallies, a hallmark of his campaign, are meant to salute supporters who lifted him to the presidency. But these appearances also have been his primary form of communication since the Nov. 8 election.
Trump has eschewed the traditional news conference held by a president-elect within days of winning. He’s done few interviews, announced his Cabinet picks via news release and continues to rely on Twitter to broadcast his thoughts and make public pronouncements.
That continued Saturday morning when Trump turned to social media to weigh in on China’s seizure of a U.S. Navy research drone from international waters, misspelling “unprecedented” when he wrote “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.”
He later corrected the tweet. China said Saturday it intended to return the drone to the U.S.
Within days of beating Clinton, Trump suggested to aides that he resume his campaign-style barnstorming. Though he agreed to hold off until he assembled part of his Cabinet, Trump has repeatedly spoken of his fondness for being on the road. Aides are considering more rallies after he takes office, to help press his agenda with the public — a possibility that Trump embraced from the stage Saturday.
But Trump has also sounded some notes of unity on the tour. In Mobile, he acknowledged that “now the hard work begins” and ended with a plea for all Americans, including those who did not support him, to “never give up.”
After the rally, Trump planned to return to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate. Aides said the president-elect probably would spend Christmas week there and could stay until New Year’s.
Earlier Saturday, he announced the nomination of South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney to head the Office of Management and Budget, choosing a tea partyer and fiscal conservative with no experience assembling a government spending plan.
Mulvaney, a founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, has taken a hard line on budget matters, routinely voting against increasing the government’s borrowing cap and pressing for major cuts to benefit programs as the path to balancing the budget.
Reach Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire