Going into tonight’s State of the Union speech, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Given all of the developments over the past several days, I really didn’t know what Trump would say, or the tone he’d try to strike. “Would he, in an attempt completely reboot his presidency, dial back on the rambling insanity we’ve come to expect and take a conciliatory tone, or would he double down on the authoritarian doublespeak, accusing the Democrats and the ‘globalist international media’ of conspiring against him?”, I wondered. One thing I was pretty certain of, though, was that, whatever the tone, he’d take responsibility for the things that have gone well this past month, regardless of his involvement, while blaming others for the bad things that happened thus far during his tenure as President…. Regardless of what he might say, or how he might say it, that’s a constant.
Remember how, just yesterday, we were debating the extent to which the Trump administration might be responsible for setting the tone that brought about this recent wave of anti-Semitic acts that we’ve been experiencing? Well, the story took yet another strange twist today, before the State of the Union, when Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the press about something Trump had said to him and other state attorneys this morning at the White House. Trump, Shapiro said, seemed to indicate that 90-some bomb threats that have been reported against Jewish Community Centers since he took office one month ago, could well have been perpetrated by either Jews or progressives who are out to paint his administration as pro-white nationalist. According to Shapiro, Trump, speaking about the bomb threats, said, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people, or to make others, look bad.” Shapiro, for what it’s worth, also said that Trump had called the threats “reprehensible,” before veering off script and suggesting that these threats could be part of a larger false flag operation meant to delegitimize his presidency.
Also of note, speaking of passing the buck and sidestepping responsibility, Trump told his friends at Fox News this morning that he thinks Obama is somehow responsible for the leaks that have plagued his administration. Yes, there was news yesterday that White House press secretary Sean Spicer had demanded to check the phones of his aides, in hopes of determining which of them might be leaking information to the press, but it’s easier to just blame Obama. [When all else fails, blame the black guy, right?] Furthermore, Trump said that it wasn’t his fault that Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens died during a raid in Yemen last month. “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” Trump said, speaking of the generals who planned the raid. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.” Yes, “they lost Ryan.” [Oh, how far we’ve gone from the days of Harry Truman, when the buck stopped with the President.]
Speaking of Ryan, his death played a prominent role in Trump’s State of the Union speech tonight… Near the end of his remarks, Trump pointed out the deceased man’s widow in the audience and spoke of his sacrifice on behalf of the nation. It would have been a poignant moment, had Trump allowed himself to stay on script. Instead, though, he decided to take the opportunity to tell this woman that her dead husband is happy in heaven right now, knowing that his death got the biggest round of applause of the night. [Just think about that for a minute. We know that Trump is obsessed by applause and ratings, but there’s apparently no fucking end to his obsession. It even resonates in death.]
To Trump’s credit, he didn’t take the opportunity to remind everyone, yet once again, that the young man’s death was the fault of the previous administration and the generals who planned the raid, and not his. [For what it’s worth, Trump has an excuse. As we know now, he was tweeting as the raid went down.]
As for tonight’s speech, I thought it started well. I liked that Trump noted the recent bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, and the shooting of three Indian men in what appears to be a racially motivated hate crime in Kansas, and actually said that such actions should not be tolerated. [I believe my exact words on Twitter were, “Someone’s got himself a new speechwriter.”] It was refreshing. As he’s made it a practice to only talk about crimes committed by non-whites, I thought it showed some evolution in the right direction. Unfortunately, though, things fell apart pretty quickly after those first few sentences left his pursed lips. [While he stay glued to the teleprompter for all but a few seconds, showing considerable restraint, the speech that had been prepared for him moved rapidly to the authoritarian right, with mentions of the deadly immigrants who walk among us, and the need to spend more on our police and military forces.] And, of course, he wrapped things up by announcing that he’d be launching a new governmental agency, called VOICE, charged with recording incidents of crime carried out by immigrants. [As someone else noted on Twitter, it’s worth remembering that Nazi Institute for Research on the Jewish Question kept files on “crimes committed by Jews.”]
As for how this new department will work, I’m not sure. He didn’t offer a great deal of detail. I’m imagining, however, that it’ll be like the department of motor vehicles, and there will be a little office in every American town where people can go in and vent about immigrant auto mechanics who they think overcharged them, and immigrant maids who may have helped themselves to a can of Pringles or a half pound of lunchmeat. Or may there will just be kiosks around where people are encouraged to talk shit about people of color, snitch on their neighbors, etc.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, Trump, as I noted at the top of the post, didn’t just pass the buck this week. He also took credit for things that he had absolutely nothing to do with. In a tweet sent out a few days ago, for instance, he claimed that, since taking office, he’d brought the nation debt down by $12 billion, despite the fact that he’s yet to propose a budget, or, for that matter, pass any financial legislation. No, just like his personal fortune, Trump inherited this.
Sorry for the jumbled nature of tonight’s post. I’m having a hard time focusing. There’s just too much to talk about… I want to talk about the fact that Trump brought one successful charter school graduate with him to make the case that it’s public education that’s holding our children of color back, but I just can’t seem to keep my eyes open.
One last thing before I pass out. I loved the enthusiastic applause Trump got when he called for aggressive spending in order to improve our aging infrastructure. I wonder, though, where all this Republican support was for the idea when it was Obama calling for the same thing. I hate to be cynical, but I’m starting to think that maybe they didn’t want to pursue it under the previous administration, even though they knew it would be good for the country, because they didn’t want the previous administration to get credit for putting people to work, improving the economy, and fixing our bridges, tunnels and highways.
And, as you made it all the way to the end of the post, here’s my big takeaway from the speech… Trump has apparently been convinced to play the part of President, which, if he can keep it up, will make him harder to fight. Fortunately, though, I don’t think he’s going to be able to stay on script. I don’t think he can help himself. Even though it would make things exponentially easier for him and the Republicans to get their agenda enacted if he were to keep giving speeches like this, I can’t see him doing it. I think the thrill of the big lie, and the applause is too great. I think, when all is said and done, it’s more about ratings for him than it is agenda. And that may be the thing that, in the end, saves us.