In case you didn’t get a chance to catch the speech, the state of the union in the U.S. is fine thanks. Great, in fact. Couldn’t be better. Never has.
Oh, there are still sore spots. Too many people killing themselves with drugs, and immigration remains a mess. And First Lady Melania Trump is clearly very, very pissed with her husband over the matter of the porn star. Wouldn’t share a limo with him on the way to the Capitol, and to describe her expression as wintry through the evening doesn’t give justice to climate change.
Other than that, Donald Trump is doing a spectacular job of making America great again. Greatness is well on its way. From the moment he took office, he professed, things have been getting better; at this time last year, “a new tide of optimism was already sweeping the land.”
And it’s been growing. “This is our New American Moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream,” he told the assemblage of legislators, military figures, Supreme Court judges and invited guests.
Tax cuts have been passed, and they are beautiful. The regulatory burden has been slashed, more than at any time in history. American “strength and standing” abroad has been restored. People are clamouring to get in on the action. The stock market is way, way up. Trade cheats have been put on notice to wise up, and they are wising.
Thanks to tax changes, money is flooding home. JPMorgan Chase plans to pour $20 billion in tax savings into jobs and investment. Apple Inc. is bringing back $38 billion to pay its taxes and invest $30 billion over five years. Millions of jobs have been created, — and, “something I am very proud of … African American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.” Latinos are also doing well, thanks very much.
Alluding to his pledge to “drain the swamp,” the president assured listeners that “for the last year we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.” Never mind that Roy Moore stuff, or White House efforts to quash the inquiry into Russian meddling, or anything about Stormy Daniels and that $130,000 she allegedly got to keep her trap shut about an affair. It’s all fake, made up, nothing to do with the truth.
Hours before the address, Trump hosted lunch for a group of news anchors, two dozen people he regularly portrays as liars plotting to destroy him. He assured them he’s learned a great deal during his first year in office, particularly the need to govern with “compassion.”
“I’ve really learned a lot,” he said. “In doing what I’m doing now, a lot of it is heart, a lot of it is compassion, a lot of it is far beyond money — such as immigration.” Then he delivered his address, warning Americans that foreigners are out to steal their jobs or murder their offspring, and declaring he still wants to build the wall and turn the border into a no-go zone for millions of outsiders.
That’s the trouble with a Trump speech. While the U.S. media did its best to treat it as a significant moment in the nation’s business — when the head of state and commander-in-chief would address the country on important affairs, rally support for key programs and share his vision for the future — no matter how sober the occasion and critical the issues, when the hour arrived and the announcement was made — “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States” — the man who entered the chamber and made his way to the podium was still Donald J. Trump.
On PBS, the U.S. equivalent of the CBC except for its need to regularly beg viewers for money, an analyst made the point that while most presidents retain at least a modicum of mystery, “we hear from Trump all the time.” Indeed, it was something of a relief that he didn’t break off from his prepared remarks to tweet an update on how great he was doing.
There’s the inconvenience that much of his first year was consumed by confusion, high-level feuds, sudden departures, legislative discord and a sensational tell-all book that portrayed the president as just this side of a nitwit. And not very much this side at that.
Given how much we know about him, how do you give a convincing impression that the moment, and the man, is to be taken seriously? CBS was so worried about the ability of Americans to stay focused that they ran cutesy quiz questions on screen while the president was talking. While pundits were still analyzing his performance, viewers were switching over to catch Stormy on Jimmy Kimmel, where she professed to have no idea who cooked up a statement in which she denied having a tryst with Trump while Melania was pregnant.
“I do not know where it came from,” she said when Kimmel suggested there was something funny about the denial.
No one needs to question whether Melania believes her husband’s claims of innocence. The fact she agreed to show up at all was considered newsworthy, given that she’d spent the last few days staying as far away from Trump as she could get.
While the Bushes and Obamas had always ridden together to the Capitol, the Trumps took separate limos: Melania went with a group of friends she’d invited. It was all part of her determination to “honour her guests for the true heroes they are,” her spokesperson said. The only time the camera caught her with a smile was when Trump introduced Preston Sharp, the 12-year-old kid who organized a campaign to place flags on the graves of U.S. soldiers. It’s obvious the First Lady really loves children, but once Preston sat down, the scowl returned.
Maybe she’ll forgive him in the end. Or maybe, like a lot of people, she’ll just steel herself for the next three years. There’s no sign they’ll differ much from the first. Pro golfer Suzann Pettersen, a regular Trump golfing partner, told an interviewer “he cheats like crazy” and claims spectacular scores she’s never seen him manage in person.
“He has not changed five millimeters since becoming president,” she attested. And likely never will.
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