WASHINGTON — When Donald Trump made his entrance to the packed Verizon Center on Monday night, the applause from the 18,000 AIPAC conference participants was polite, even warm, but certainly not overwhelming. There was a half roar from the higher reaches of the stadium, and a few isolated cheers.
Unlike the previous speaker, Paul Ryan, Trump did not bound onto the stage. He approached the microphone slowly, even hesitantly. Was the indomitable Republican front-runner perhaps a little nervous about addressing what CNN had described as arguably his most challenging audience?
As it quickly turned out, not a bit.
Trump delivered a river of emphatically pro-Israel sound bites to a crowd that applauded with increasing enthusiasm as he progressed. Soon he was having to pause for brief standing ovations. Then he was giving the thumbs-up signal. Now he was waiting, lips pursed, shoulders shrugging, palms out, as if to say: You know I’m right, and I’m the only one with the guts to say it.