Just before he takes the stage, I ask whether there’s one question that reporters never ask but that he wishes they would. He laughs. “Honestly, at this stage, I think they’ve asked them all.”
Then he stops in his tracks before pulling back the curtain and answers, so quietly that is almost a whisper: “You know, I consider myself to be a nice person. And I am not sure they ever like to talk about that.”
On stage, Trump began by addressing the unrest in Charlotte. He praised police, condemned “violent protestors,” and called for unity. “The people who will suffer the most as a result of these riots are law-abiding African American residents who live in these communities,” he said.
Turning to the subject at hand, Trump proceeded to tell shale-industry executives from around the country about his “America First energy plan” that, he vowed, would sideline the Obama administration’s climate-change blueprint, ease regulations, and support the construction of energy-based infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines.
The plan, he insisted, would revive the slumping shale-oil and -gas industries, beset by low prices for several years, and “unleash massive wealth for American workers and families.”
Troy Roach of Denver, Colorado, has seen how the reversal of fortunes in the shale and natural gas industries affected his own community. The 46-year-old vice president of health, safety and environment at Antero Resources says he was open-minded about voting and thought about Hillary Clinton, but ultimately decided on Trump.
“With her, there is too much uncertainty on how she will work with the industry,” he said. “I look at my company and the impact it has had, not only with jobs but charitable work in the area. Just last week we bought a truck for the local EMS.”
Clinton also was invited to speak at the conference but declined, organizers said. In March, during a town-hall discussion of the transition to “clean energy,” the Democratic nominee declared: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Later, she declared it a “misstatement.” Two weeks ago, she again ignited controversy, describing half of Trump’s supporters as coming from a “basket of deplorables … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.”
Like Barack Obama’s description of his opponent’s supporters—“they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion”—eight years ago in San Francisco, Hillary’s remarks appalled many voters in this region, many of whom work in the energy sector or are affected by it.
One of the things Trump says he wants to accomplish as president is to bring the country together—no small task. He says the first black president has struggled with the issue, one at which he should have excelled.
“First of all, the country is divided, and we have no leadership,” he said. “You would think we would have the perfect leader for that but we don’t.”