Heard on the Hill

Trump basks in glow of ‘big, strong-looking’ LSU champs

‘He’s all man,’ president says of head coach Ed Orgeron

President Donald Trump hosts the LSU Tigers at the White House on Friday. (Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Last year, he served up fast food from McDonald’s. This year, he served up “big strong” compliments.

As the shadow of an impeachment trial looms, Louisiana State University’s newly minted national champion football team provided President Donald Trump a welcome distraction Friday morning at the White House.

“He’s all man. A big, strong-looking guy,” said Trump, describing LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. “I didn’t know if he had laryngitis,” he added, a reference to the coach’s trademark croaky voice. For those who’ve never heard Orgeron talk, imagine an entire army of frogs lodged in a 58-year-old man’s throat speaking in unison with a Cajun accent.

Trump has an obsession with physical attributes. Anyone who’s seen him at these type of events knows he enjoys hanging out with military guys and athletes and describing their physical attributes in detail.

But Trump, who once owned a USFL team but was blocked from purchasing an NFL franchise, isn’t the first president to enjoy hobnobbing with athletes. Barack Obama attended basketball games and even hosted several NBA superstars (including LeBron James) at the White House for a pickup game on his 49th birthday.

Given the liberal leanings of basketball fans, it’s unlikely you’ll catch Trump at a Wizards game anytime soon.

But the president has found respite at Southern college football venues, a place almost like his rallies, in which he is showered with praise and adulation. Despite having to arrive two hours early for security checks, fans erupted in chants of “U-S-A” when Trump attended the college football championship game Monday night in New Orleans. That reception stood in stark contrast to the boos Nationals fans rained down on him when he showed up at Game 5 of last fall’s World Series in Washington.

Friday morning, flanked by Orgeron and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, Trump delighted in recapping the Tigers’ thrilling victory over rival Clemson, a championship team he notoriously welcomed to the White House with fast-food hamburgers the previous year.

"LSU had to beat the reigning champions, a team that was here last year … nice guys, and they were very large. We served them a lot of food,” the president said. “Eating and eating.”

Several members of the Louisiana delegation attended Friday’s reception, including Republicans such as Sen. Bill Cassidy, Rep. Mike Johnson and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, whom Trump called a “special man with a lot of courage.” The audience offered an extended ovation when Trump mentioned LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, whose daughter-in-law died in a plane crash on the way to Atlanta for the Tigers’ first-round playoff game.

With the excitement of a child mimicking both a play-by-play announcer and a color commentator, Trump rattled off stats and highlights by wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, telling the star wideout, “You’re gonna make a lot of money” someday. He also complimented Burrow’s performance, calling him a “young Tom Brady.”

Trump also heaped praise on coach Orgeron, or as the White House announcer called him “coach Orge-ROO.” He seemed to identify with “Coach O,” a man on the older side for his job who’d been dismissed and underestimated, partially because of his speaking style. The president called Orgeron after LSU’s first-round victory over Ohio State University.

The Tigers may have given Trump a welcome distraction from the stress of impeachment, but because it’s Trump, he couldn’t leave without revealing what was really on his mind after inviting the players to the Oval Office.

“So coach, if you like, we can take whoever wants to go to the Oval Office and take pictures behind the Resolute Desk,” Trump said. “You know, a long time, a lot of presidents, some good, some not so good ... you got a good one now even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.