The American political theatrics continued as Trump stoked the usual angst amongst all those that listened to him intone the tele-prompted State of the Union ('SOTU') address and acted ‘Presidential’ for the occasion.
After this SOTU, Trump’s handlers, Republican law-makers of both Houses, and his supporters, all collectively breathed a sigh of relief and beamed their approval, because their President managed to stay on script, stuck to reading the teleprompter, didn’t flub too many lines, sounded conciliatory but stuck to the hard-line while getting the digs in to opponents, immigrants, black athletes that protest by kneeling, and foreign enemies, particularly North Korea and Iran. All-in-all, a commendable performance from their man, who normally is the equivalent of a human wreaking ball.
The day Trump can be just a bit normal (Presidential) is a great day for his backers, and a win!
It’s an exercise in futility to analyze Trump’s speech to search for meaning and policy direction, because most of it will be forgotten by him almost immediately. For Donald Trump, every moment in the public eye is an opportunity to be a Reality-TV star, the role this time being the President of the United States, and then in private, to revert back to the actual Donald Trump, the self-obsessed, mean-spirited, ethically-challenged, principles-devoid, grudge-bearing narcissist, who is of whatever political or social stripe is convenient at the moment, glimpses of whom are then conveyed to the outside World by his tweets, which usually are in stark contrast to his public posturing and his publicly stated policy statements.
His initial professing of ‘love’ for the ‘Dreamers’ and later the labeling of them as illegal immigrants, and the insinuation in the SOTU of them being gang members is a case in point. For Donald Trump to stay true to a policy statement is as difficult as staying true to his past wives, or the oft publicly humiliated (Hollywood Access Tapes - Stormy Daniels) current one.
This speech, and this ‘American moment’ will be no different than the past months of his Presidency, a lot of posturing, staged ‘Ronald Reaganesque’ heart-tugging acknowledgments of ‘American heroes’, statements of good intentions, half-hearted, cynically calculated extensions of good will and offers of reconciliation, followed immediately by hard-line dogma, divisive digs and taunts to the opposition, and of course the perennial effort to erase the Obama legacy, which is a true obsession with Trump.
What Trump cannot get past is the World’s, and majority of Americans’, admiration and affection for Barack Hussein Obama. The fact that after the two disastrous terms of the Republican George W. Bush, the Democrat Barack Obama, made ‘America Great Again’ in the eyes of the World is too much for the morally and politically neutered Trump to handle.
He is still tortured by his stubbornly low approval rating while Obama had left with some of the highest. And that just sticks in Donald Trump’s ‘I am the greatest’ craw.
Obama rescued the crippled American economy and the collapsing industries like the banks and the auto manufacturers, brought the highest unemployment to its lowest levels, grew the economy steadily for 8 years and triggered a record setting trend in the Stock and Bond Markets that continues today, and for all of which Trump takes unabashed credit for and is the most ungrateful beneficiary. Obama received the Noble Peace Prize, scaled back and wound down irresponsible and utterly wasteful wars, brought home troops, negotiated the Iran Nuclear Deal, and brought millions of Americans healthcare coverage they didn’t have before; and Obama did all that in spite of the most shameless, racist and relentless opposition from the Republican law-makers that for most of his two terms controlled the Congress and the Senate. Now that is greatness, and Trump simply cannot handle it.
His compulsion is to erase Obama’s legacy, not realizing that unless he can also somehow alter the past and magically erase global memory, Obama’s accomplishments are already enshrined in history. Apart from his Obama obsession doing a lot of damage to America by unwinding protective and beneficial legislation, it also makes Trump come across as an incredibly insecure, petty, vindictive man.
So the SOTU continued in the familiar vein of Trump-speak. Great economy, record setting stock markets, lowest unemployment (mostly Obama’s legacy), greatest tax cuts in history (Reagan’s were bigger as per percentage of the size of the economy), eradication of ISIS by America and its coalition (even though Russian bombing coupled with its partners on the ground, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Syrian Army played an equally effective part, if not greater), and the containment of North Korea due to his tougher stance, which is pure wishful thinking. Just ask Kim Jong-un.
Additionally Trump’s policy announcements about building Trillion dollar plus infrastructure, fixing healthcare, immigration, DACA, Border Security and Walls, and lowering ridiculously high drug prices, and winning every battle in law enforcement or foreign engagements were predictably vague, without concrete details on execution or funding. Here is a President that just passed Tax Cuts for the wealthy and Corporations, without any surety of increased revenues except for hopes of the continuation of a galloping economy 9 years in the gallop, now proposing a $1.5 Trillion spend on infrastructure when there is no money and massive borrowing is the only option, for the greatest debtor nation in the World. Oh well.
So has Trump set the stage for greater cooperation between the Republicans and the Democrats for this year? Absolutely not.
Is he on track to make America Great Again? Probably not.