President Trump’s State of the Union brag fest was an insult to your intelligence and mine. It was also a sign of bad character.
That’s not a fact. That’s my opinion. I can tell the difference. But it often seems that the current leaseholder on the Oval Office cannot.
It’s obvious by now to readers of this space that I don’t have a high opinion of Donald Trump. But I’ll offer my take and below I’ll quote from the instant post-speech analysis on television of at least one thought leader who liked the speech much better. And here is a transcript of the speech.
My take: The president is roughly incapable of acknowledging anything that is getting worse under his tenure, and certainly incapable of taking any responsibility for it. Last night was a celebration of his exaggerated “successes” and a denial of the opposite. Bad character, IMHO.
Trump expressed the overall view that everything in America is better than it has ever been and that this is largely the result of his leadership. The economy is generally healthy, and he believes he deserves, and openly asserts, that this is almost entirely the result his leadership.
In fact, Trump inherited a growing economy and a rising stock market from his predecessor, Barack Obama. (Obama inherited an economic disaster from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and it turned around under Obama.) But Trump trashes Obama and takes credit for the growth that was already under way when he took over. I find that ridiculous. And a sign of bad character. Feel free to disagree.
Early in the speech, Trump did say, to Democrats: “I stand here ready to work with you.” Maybe that was his gesture of open-mindedness. But he also said: “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.”
Surprise: He made a pitch for a southern border wall. It had nothing new in it. He just got humiliated in the shutdown because of his insistence on it, which turned out not to be real insistent. He tried again last night. He talked about another “tremendous onslaught” of dangerous Latino gang members headed this way. He said we could call it a “barrier” if we didn’t like the word “wall,” as if he believes the terminology is the key to buying down the opposition.
Actually, the speech was almost entirely and specifically the wish list of Trump and what we usually call his base, spiced with a lot of false braggadocio. I suspect he knows that, but maybe not. I don’t claim to understand how he thinks or what portion of what he says he actually believes.
The shout-outs to invited guests, who had either committed acts of personal heroism or lived through great misfortunes, were excellent.
Trump seems to think (or acts as though he thinks) he has already made America great again but needs to build a wall and do a couple of other things to make it even greater. I give him one hand clapping for avoiding any unctuous false humility about his greatness.
I used the term “brag fest” at the top, which was my overwhelming impression while watching and listening. Toward the end, as I tried to imagine what I would write about it, I jotted down: “A stunning tour de force of self-aggrandizement, self-congratulation, and self-love.”
I tuned to Fox right after the speech. Sean Hannity said the speech reviewed “a list of successes over a two-year period under his leadership that was unprecedented. …”
CNN had a slightly more balanced panel (at least there were two Republicans on it). Former Sen. Rick Santorum praised Trump’s speech, but Van Jones called it “a psychotically incoherent speech, put together with cookies and dog poop.”
My last thought: Trump’s Republican Party took a shellacking in November, which cost his party control of the House and many governorships. They managed to make a small gain in the U.S. Senate, but Democrats actually won most of the Senate races that were on the ballot. (That’s because Democrats had more seats up.)
A Washington Post midterm election summary said: “Rational observers declared the results to be an unmitigated disaster for the White House and Trumpism in general. The president’s party was routed in safe political havens around the country as the GOP lost the congressional midterm popular vote by the largest margin in the United States’ 240-year history.”
This was his first big national address since then. Did Trump take any responsibility last night (or ever) for the shellacking, which could easily be viewed as a referendum on his first years in office or on his ideas for our nation? No.
Bad character? Lack of contact with the realities? Lack of understanding? Signs of his secret genius? You tell me.