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Well, that was weird.
I’ve been around long enough to read the secret terrain and hidden texture of presidential speeches and to understand how the competing camps in any administration push and pull the product into its final form.
It’s typically a long path from a date on the calendar to a State of the Union speech, but Tuesday night’s effort showed every sign of being created, destroyed, cut, pasted, rebooted, and then run through an English-Urdu translation program and back again. It felt more like last-minute Sharpie-scribble than wordsmithing. It was long, discursive as hell, and its grace notes felt odd and contrived. Leaving the text aside for a moment, President Donald Trump’s performance was downright Trumpian: He’s always bad on teleprompter, stilted, reluctant, and barely literate; Tuesday night was little different, marked by his usual sniffles, the Il Duce hand gestures, and his tendency to veer between subjects without transition or pause.
It wasn’t just bad. It was downright weird. This was a speech that will go down as a truly strange moment in American political rhetoric. Trump going for uplift seemed so ludicrous that I almost took pity on the White House struggle-bus speechwriting team. Almost.
President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but the state of our union broadly has been important topic of discussion for some time. The Senate in particular has become pretty damn dysfunctional. There have always been moments in history when things were not smooth, but this is a moment when the Senate has quit working the way it has traditionally always worked — the way it was intended to work.
There are really smart, great people in the Senate from both parties. I understand why people are unforgiving of those Republican senators who are not speaking out against some of the egregious things this president has done so far. This does not mean that all hope is lost, because there are a lot of Republicans who, at least on a policy basis, are still working behind the scenes to mitigate the damage. That’s a small silver lining. But there’s also a lot to be worried about.
In my first year in the Senate, we voted on hundreds of amendments. In my last year in the Senate, we voted on a few dozen. What does that show us? Power has been concentrated in the offices of the leaders and big bills are increasingly being written behind closed doors instead of through an open amendment process. Most of this has been motivated by a desire to protect party members, not to serve the American people. When you vote on tough issues, you’re going to make a lot of people mad. If you make it so never have to vote on tough issues, the idea is that you never have to compromise — and somehow that makes you politically stronger.
follow url E. J. Dionne Jr.: Trump delivered the Eddie Haskell State of the Union
One of the memorable characters from the old days of television was Eddie Haskell of “Leave It to Beaver.” President Trump no doubt remembers him. Haskell was sycophantically respectful toward parents to their faces but always plotted and schemed when their backs were turned. To a generation, Haskell symbolized hypocrisy of the most annoying kind.
Trump’s address Tuesday was the Eddie Haskell State of the Union — although Haskell’s performances were more artful because he turned nasty only when the elders weren’t looking. In Trump’s case, his two-faced politics was on display in the very same oration that went on and on and on.
At the outset, Trump tried his mightiest to be a bipartisan unifier in the manner of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future,” Trump said in a line released in advance to showcase that he really, truly wanted to bring us together. “The decision is ours to make.”
But the real meaning of Trumpian solidarity emerged as the address continued: Give in to me on everything and there will be no conflict.
President Trump operates in the moment, where every encounter necessitates that he be perceived as the winner. Insofar as his words have no relation to action and his aversion to facts is so strong, he will say practically anything to get himself out of a jam. Hence, we saw him claim ownership of the shutdown because in that moment, facing adversaries and performing in front of the cameras, he thought that might help him look like a tough guy.
Sometimes Trump’s outbursts are spontaneous and others planned, but they are invariably ill-conceived. He operates in a world of mobster rhetoric and movie-style dialogue in which words only have to sound tough. Logic is immaterial; thinking through the consequences of his threats is unimaginable. [..]
As a preliminary matter, the economy and investigations are unrelated — unless the latter turn up evidence of massive misconduct, fraud or criminality that might temporarily upset the markets. But that, of course, isn’t a reason not to investigate where circumstances warrant. Markets recover, while Trump’s presidency might not in such a situation.
Moreover, how is Trump’s scenario supposed to work? Congress passes a bipartisan infrastructure bill and, what, Trump won’t sign it while the House investigates potentially unconstitutional emoluments? Congress passes a wholly popular drug cost-reduction bill and Trump vetoes it because Congress is investigating his inhumane family-separations policy?
The president lied about abortion in the State of the Union.
The State of the Union address on Tuesday night was, as expected, an interminable farrago of boasting, nativism, saccharine clichés and outright lies. Among the biggest of those lies were Donald Trump’s claims about third-trimester abortion.
“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth,” he said of the state’s recent Reproductive Health Act. He added, “And then we had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”
That governor, Ralph Northam, is not an easy man to defend at the moment, given the vile racist photographs recently discovered in his medical school yearbook, and the way he’s clinging to office despite near-universal Democratic calls for his resignation. Nevertheless, Northam’s words about a proposed change to Virginia abortion law — one with no chance of passing — have been grossly and cynically mischaracterized by the right in the service of ginning up a moral panic.