Reaction to the First Trump Address to Congress

What to make of Tuesday’s Joint Address to Congress by President Trump?

It was arguably the most Presidential he has sounded since…. Well it really was the first time he sounded like a President. In style, it was measured and unifying; aspirational; line drawing; and pragmatic. This is the first speech he has given as President where, when it is read, you hear his cadence and speech patterns. The folks writing his speeches are starting to get a grasp on how Trump speaks. And that will help him better communicate. This is the type of speech that tends to do well with Americans who are not hyper-partisan or who do not eat, drink and breathe politics.

He hit the right notes on condemning the recent spate of Anti-Semitic attacks and threats as well as decrying the shooting of Indian-Americans in Kansas City. He did a good job of defining the issues and suggesting he is inheriting a mess, much like his predecessor did in his Joint Address eight years ago. His pointing out his guests was done tactfully, especially when he spoke about Carryn Owens, widow of US Navy Seal William Owens.

The framing device for his speech was interesting: the upcoming 250th Anniversary of the United States. As the president noted, it will occur in 9 years. If Trump wins reelection, the anniversary will occur the year after he leaves office. President Trump projected a confidence in the future that Candidate Trump, with his calls to make America Great Again, never exuded.

In the end, folks who hated Trump will still hate Trump. People who venerate Trump will still venerate Trump. But for those who do neither, the speech’s style will make them

As for the substance… it was meh. Promising to rid the country of illegal immigrants committing crimes and defeating/stopping terrorist attacks in this country was standard Presidential Pablum. The fact Democrats couldn’t even stand and applaud these basic concepts may very well come back and bite them in the ass. When I was in college, I recall a Professor mocking the standard political ads of the time where a politician promised to tough on crime. Has any candidate, he mused, ever come out and said they were for being soft on crime? Apparently modern democrats have decided such an approach is a winning one. I doubt the American public will agree.

Though Democrats shouldn’t have been that upset listening to the speech. When Trump discussed his economic policies, I’m curious if Dick Gephardt realized Trump stole his early 90s talking points. The democrats, post-Dukakis and pre-Clinton, always discussed “Fair Trade” and “Creating a Level Playing Field”. It was Democrats who insisted on “Buy American” provisions on Federal Contracting, thus driving up prices of the goods and services the government used. Once upon a time Republicans stood for Free Trade, realizing that if a pipeline was created using foreign steel that cost less than American steel, the people paying for the pipes would have extra money that could be used to finance other projects. Fair Trade was seen as coddling Unions by protecting them from competition.

Democrats were the ones inviting the Federal government to subsidize day care and mandate maternity leave. It was the democrats who always complained about Drug prices, never realizing it was government regulations and actions that drove up prices here. Once upon a time, Republicans decried such actions, calling them Social Engineering.

Eight years ago we had a massive infrastructure bill passed. Remember “shovel ready”? I believe we are still waiting for the “Summer of Recovery.” The Tea Party was created, in part, due to opposition from such needless pork barrel spending.  And the GOP took control of the House thanks to those people. Now the Republican president is asking those same people to back his “shovel ready” proposal.

I will give the President credit: he campaigned on these ruinous economic policies and he intends to do everything he can to enact them. It was a nice touch to portray Harley Davidson as being sufferers of some form of economic Stockholm Syndrome:

I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate.

That is a brilliant rhetorical touch to justify his economic plans, “I have to save you from yourself

He is calling for a massive increase in defense spending and blaming the Sequester for harming the military despite there being no evidence to support. In fact, we have evidence the military is wasting the money it already receives.

His proposals on immigration reform are intriguing. He really seems to think there is going to be a Wall built. And that this “great, great wall” will somehow stop drugs and crime. Which is utter nonsense. You want to cut down on drug crime, legalize marijuana, don’t crack down on it. And despite his pointing out family members of people who were killed by illegal immigrants, the data does not support his assertions that illegals are some sort of crime wave.

What’s more fascinating is his plans for legal immigration. It is interesting not because they would actually help, but because the President is demanding the United States adopt the same type of immigration system that Canada has. You remember Canada? America’s hat. The country to our north currently being led by Prime Minister McDreamy? How can progressives possibly rail against the injustices of President Trump’s immigration reforms without calling out Canada for its racist policies? The Cognitive Dissonance this will create will probably have its own section in the DSM VI

But give President Trump credit: he has effectively neutered the democrats ‘opposition to his economic policies by co-opting their traditional talking points. Poor Bernie Sanders was left to sputter that President Trump didn’t spend any time discussing Climate Change. When that’s the best you can muster, the Democrats are in deep doo-doo.

The problem is, by adopting the Democrats’ talking points, Trump has vitiated the last thirty years of the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp have no place in Trump’s GOP. The GOP is now the Party of Trump. It is anti-Trade, anti-Free market, anti-capitalist. And since that’s the best they can muster, the Republicans are in deep doo-doo.

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