Some reactions to President Trump’s speech to Congress:
Donald Trump is not particularly good at reading from a teleprompter. Most other recent presidents were better, although this is hardly the key qualification for the job. But, compared to the things that come out of Trump’s mouth when he is improvising (and only compared to that) last night’s address to Congress seemed Churchillian.
Compared to what we normally expect from a major address by an American president, Trump’s speech was lame, riddled with errors, and, with apologies to Gertrude Stein, there was very little there there. With apologies to someone else (I can’t seem to locate the source of this quote), “what was new was not interesting; what was interesting was not new.”
The big moment, by a mile, was the tribute to the dead soldier’s wife. I hope Carryn Owens found some comfort in it. To me, Mr. Trump’s decision to milk her public grief, to prompt the audience to keep clapping while Owens fought for composure – so he could claim afterward that the ovation had “set a record” – felt exploitative. Glenn Greenwald analyzed the moment, saying it captured “all the key ingredients of U.S. war propaganda.”
Trump also came out against racism and anti-Semitism. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker delivered a withering analysis of the dismissive way he did so.
Pundits are giving the speech pretty good reviews, but only because they have lowered the bar by comparing it to previous Trump speeches, where he goes off script and improvises from his self-centered vision in which he alone can fix things. He didn’t use the false and hideous word “carnage” (which he used in his Inaugural Address) ” to describe the situation he inherited from his predecessor, but he can’t seem to stop lying about the horrors of life in America in the immediate pre-Trump era.
For example, he described the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as “a disaster” and “failing.” Then he listed the provisions of that law that must be preserved (like mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions, for example), then listed some of the features he favors for Trumpcare, but not with enough details that anyone can tell whether they will end up with better access to affordable care, or not.
This has been going on for a long time. When will we see an outline with enough specifics that the costs and benefits can be reasonably scored? During the campaign, Promise Keeper Trump said that under his plan “I’m going to take care of everybody” and “the government’s gonna pay for it.” He needs to provide specifics (preferably in legislative language) on how that, and everything else he promised to do, is gonna work.
If you missed it from this morning, MinnPost’s Washington correspondent, Sam Brodey, got lots of reaction to the speech from Minnesota’s congressional delegation. The first two paragraphs:
Rep. Tom Emmer was on his feet, clapping and cheering, for most of Donald Trump’s first address to Congress as president. Rep. Keith Ellison spent nearly all of it in his seat, stone-faced.
That’s the image that sums up Trump’s speech, which found Republicans repeatedly roaring their approval of the new president, and Democrats largely sitting in silence and disbelief.