By most critics’ accounts, President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union speech was great. He did what he had to do, which satisfied his base, his party and its leadership, some independents and many in the mainstream media. And by “great” we of course mean he didn’t make any materially ignorant, sexist, racist, xenophobic, divisive remarks. Nor did he insult anyone or deride them with juvenile nicknames. Welcome to the low bar for high achievement.
Contrasted against Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s spirited, empowering big-tent rebuttal, Trump delivered his 1:20 speech in a dull, somber, dispassionate, uninspired tone with the animated cadence of a metronome. And, the speech strayed so far from reality that even the most technologically advanced GPS wouldn’t be able to guide him back to the truth.
Whether the subject was the economy, wages, taxes, energy, immigration, crime, immigration or terrorism, the speech was loaded with misrepresentations and blatant lies. It was more like the Shame of the Union speech.
But… he read from a teleprompter like a good boy. He did what he was told to do. Read what was written for him. He fought his overpowering urge to ad lib. He stayed on point. Didn’t drool. Didn’t slur his speech. Didn’t make up any new words like “covfefe” (ok, he did refer to “Opamacare”) or call it his State of the Uniom speech. He didn’t disparage Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And he didn’t scapegoat, blame or malign anyone, especially his counterparts across the aisle. To the contrary, he offered olive-branch messages of bi-partisanship and unity.
But most significantly, and this should really be the only thing that matters about the speech (especially in the rush to judge the ‘awesomeness’ of it), is that Trump didn’t say anything that corresponds to his overall behavior since he tossed his hat into the ring in June of 2016. Nothing he said matches either his actual words or actions, or those of his administration and its policies. Talk about fake news. It would be like Bernie Madoff disingenuously orating about honesty, integrity, transparency and the need to protect peoples’ investments.
There was no mention of Trump’s many offenses, controversies, scandals and legal challenges. No mention of pussy-grabbing and porn stars. No mention of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. No mention of collusion, obstruction of justice or the RussiaGate investigation. No mention of the multiple indictments and guilty pleas so far. No mention of Russia’s attack on our Democracy and the looming threat of yet another meddling in our upcoming election. No mention of the need to combat white nationalism and racism. No mention of his historically low approval rating. No mention of his massive turnover in staff and aides. No mention of our reduced standing in the world, or our dramatically reduced role on climate, trade and human rights.
And even in his desire to project unity, tolerance, inclusiveness and American idealism, Trump still managed to do so in a cold, unfeeling, dire, negative manner. While it lacked the ominously dark “American carnage” rhetoric of his inaugural speech, it offered no sincere rationale for hope and change. We simply got the feeling that he was painfully restrained by his handlers and couldn’t wait to get his tiny little fingers back to Twitter where real Trump can be the great counter-punching ‘street fighter.’
So how ‘bout we wait to see what real Trump does post-speech, because if history repeats itself, last night’s address will likely soon prove to be nothing more than a typically amateurish Trump performance-art piece designed as a break from the daily bombast and bullying.