Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress last night and delivered his most coherent, presidential speech to date. He returned to a lot of familiar themes he has throughout the campaign, but generally took a more measured tone than he has in the past, and at times it bordered on optimistic. It was certainly a sharp contrast from his inaugural speech. There were some things about the speech to like, including verbal commitments to support efforts for paid family leave, reductions in prescription drug prices, the deportation of criminal illegal immigrants with the possibility of a path to legal status for those here illegally who have committed no crimes, something like comprehensive immigration reform, cutting the corporate tax rate, and a reaffirmed commitment to school choice.
He was about a week late on condemning attacks on Jewish community centers and a few days late on condemning the attacks in Kansas, but I suppose it’s better late then never.
All that said, there are still some things about the speech that are troubling to me. The establishment of yet another federal office, “the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office” will both waste taxpayer money on something that is essentially a non-issue (immigrants commit crime at a much lower clip than non-immigrants) and will likely serve less as an effective tool and more an outlet for paranoid people to NARC on their brown neighbors. As someone with fairly conservative tendencies, I was not thrilled to hear that we will be undertaking not just the building of the Great Wall of Trump (which we, the taxpayer, appear to be on the hook for) but also a full-scale overhaul of American infrastructure, in addition to an additional $54B in military spending that we don’t totally need (and though I agree that rebuilding the Navy is a fine idea, I bet the Pentagon already has money for that somewhere). It’s easy enough for boomers and other old folks to applaud these moves, because they’ll be dead long before we have to foot the bill for the ballooning national debt (nearly $20 Trillion as of this writing). Trump also persists in his claims that nearly 1/3 of the country is out of the labor force, which might be true only if you include the elderly and children, but is otherwise preposterous, as his claim that violent crime is rampant in society (it’s actually near historical lows nationally, and violent crime is a more localized problem, as we have seen in my current home city). I don’t think it’s too much to ask to just use correct statistics, and the only reason not to is if those stats don’t fit your agenda.
But like I said, on the whole it was a fine speech from Trump, and while I still am still not thrilled that he is in the Oval Office, I think the fact that he was able to act like an adult for an hour and a half is reassuring. If he can keep this up, I might even cease fretting about the possibility of nuclear annihilation (I won’t. This is something I have spent a lot of my adult life thinking about). There are still a lot of things that worry me about Trump, the Russia connections chief among them, his penchant for making up facts coming in a close second. I’m not convinced that this represents a sea-change, but if the Trump presidency ends up being successful, historians will likely look to this moment as when he righted what had to this point been a ship with it’s masts broken and in danger of capsizing, and got it back on track (and to be clear, we are a LONG way from this point).
And of course, there was one truly “Trump” moment, where he acknowledged the widow of the Navy Seal killed in that raid in Yemen a few weeks ago. Trump blamed his generals for the raid going wrong, claimed a lot of intelligence had been gathered, and thanked the widow for her sacrifice. This was met with thunderous applause, as it ought to be, and it was a rare moment where we got to see everyone in Washington agree on something. It was poignant, and real, and human. And of course, because Trump is Trump, he followed up this extended applause by letting the war widow know that her husband was looking down from heaven, and was likely pleased because they had probably just broken the State of the Union applause record. It’s the kind of thing that upsets me, and should shock me, but doesn’t anymore because I’m so used to hearing these things from him. Hopefully we see less of this sort of thing going forward.