Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. I have said many times that the best thing to do with President Trump is to ignore his antics. His address to Congress is the chance to redeem it all and make something happen.
In keeping with what passes for press today, here is my live commentary.
Hitting racism right away was a very good move. He had to distance himself from the rising tide of nonsense. Being silent had nothing good one way or another. It sets up the theme of “renewing the American spirit” well.
Generally speaking, this was a carefully scripted Reagan kind of speech. It sounds tough but actually doesn’t say very much at all. This is more like the kind of president we had reason to expect in the first place, which is to say one much more concerned with image than actual policy. For example, it’s always good to talk about rebuilding infrastructure whether you do it or not.
A focus on “America First” is also a good move for anyone in the office, left or right. Saying you will create jobs, for example, makes it possible for you to take credit you (or any president) doesn’t actually deserve when things work out.
Generally, we have an extended Reagan moment here. Conservatism with a purpose is always going to sell better than rule by force.
Most importantly, someone was able to get to him and explain that doing everything completely off the cuff, unprepared, is not the way to go. He has to appear to be in charge, which is to say articulate. The rest of the world knew this a long time ago, but the message finally got through to him.
Skipping from one subject to another doesn’t help him sound like he knows what he is really doing, however. There isn’t one bit of actual meat in this address which we haven’t heard before. We can conclude that this is more of an acknowledgment that something has to change – that being presidential is critical. That’s really all that we have here.
While a welcome change from what we had, it’s really a sign that the last month was just a stupid waste. All the same, putting it behind us would be a good thing for everyone.
The litany of supposed problems, along with the platitudes, suggests that Trump feels a need to shore up his conservative base and show them that he is worthy of their support. This is interesting by itself. We have seen eroding poll numbers which suggest that concern with his antics is cutting into is base, but Trump himself seemed oblivious. Someone in the White House who has his ear was paying attention. It’s critical to find out who is behind all of this largely because it will probably work. The odds of them being rewarded by a more popular Trump, a man obsessed with popularity, are high.
The idea that globalism is a system of isolating and punishing the US is always a good one for any demagogue because it’s easy to go after non citizens and other nations. No one who actually counts will complain, at least in the short run. It’s the dark side of an America First policy, a side that doesn’t actually have to be there in terms of actually getting things done, but it does buy you some space to maneuver.
Walking back on mandated insurance is going to make everything more difficult. How do they propose to lower cost? Again, no details. It’s something everyone wants but no one has been willing to be bold enough to actually do. The rest of it? It sounds like the replacement for Obamacare will be an awful lot like Obamacare, except with more Health Savings Accounts. That’s a good idea all around, for sure, but hardly “repeal and replace”. The sign tonight is that this is all going to be fudged badly.
The difference between the parties? Largely how much is spent on Defense and who gets credit, at least if you listen to the rhetoric. Let’s see what happens in reality.
Choice in education is another issue where every politician promises something but nothing of any real substance is ever delivered. It’s not even worth spending any time on without specifics. We’ve heard all of this before.
Dragging out the “anecdote from Hell” of people killed by undocumented immigrants is a classic move. You can find someone to support any position in a nation of 320 million, so it’s a cheap ploy. Whether it goes anywhere is something we’ll have to see.
Spending more on defense? Utterly stupid. The most pointless thing we can do. He’s talking about something on the order of $50 per month for every household in the US. I think that there are much better things which can be done with that money. Contrasting this with a genuine “America First” policy is too easy – and we can only hope it will be made. It’s also utterly shameless to use people who gave their life for our adventures around the world – but of course all presidents do it so there is again nothing new here.
Support for NATO is new. Good to hear that come back. I think Putin is going to start wondering what he got for his money.
Overall, it looks like we have an actual president. There is still a lot to oppose him on, but less reason to fear that something really stupid is about to happen. Again, this is an appeal to the conservative base and an appeal for Republican support. It may be about heading off a revolt in the Republican Party more than anything.
Will he stay with it? We’ve seen this Trump before, however briefly. Tomorrow will tell us if this time the sane one is going to stick around longer than usual.