By Ed Rollins
Published January 10, 2019
President Donald Trump didn't want to do it (give an Oval Office speech) and Chuck and Nancy shouldn't have done it.
President Trump's first-ever Oval Office speech, which was broadcast on all the news and cable channels, was short and sweet. It was just 9 minutes start to finish. No one ever boos a short speech.
The anticipation of the speech exceeded the performance. At first, the networks didn't want to give the president the time. They objected to cutting into their high quality nightly editions of "reality stars" competing against each other or some other silly thing they try to pass off as entertainment these days. They said they wouldn't clear the time unless it was "news." They forgot that airtime is free and controlled by the Federal Communications Commission, and how would they like to have their shows be measured by whether they were entertaining or newsworthy?
Back to the speech. There was nothing new in the speech -- but reminding the American public what a mess the border situation is was at least a worthwhile effort. Sitting in the Oval Office reading from a teleprompter is a tough act for the most skilled performer. As of now, it's not Trump's best forum. He needs a crowd yelling and cheering.
My old boss President Ronald Reagan did it best. President Barack Obama didn't do it much at all. Trump will get better. Practice, practice, practice.
It was a speech for the base. His base wanted it, needed it, to be reassured that he's not going to cut a deal and move on.
I have to laugh a little when I hear the pundits and presidential historians comment that an Oval Office speech has to be something special. "Like I am not a crook!" or "I did not have sex with that intern," or all the lies about we are winning the war (fill in the blank for which war).
It's President Trump's office and he can speak from it anytime he wants. As I said above, he may not want to though.
The "Chuck and Nancy show" was a visual diaster and certainly didn't provide the gravitas they thought they deserved. It was the same old talking points and both of them looked tired and bored. Their performance was for the elected Democrats who usually work in the Capitol and the buildings in and around it.
One day one of those buildings will be named after Speaker Pelosi, like the other three House buildings that are named after three men who were also Speakers -- Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn, all dead long ago.
I hope Nancy gets hers while still here and presiding. They will have to build another building to do that, but don't worry, the Democrats can always spend taxpayers' money for more offices and staff. None for border security though.
Trump came to power with his own buildings named after him, including the fanciest and most expensive hotel in D.C., the Trump International Hotel. Technically, the U.S. government owns it and the Trump Organization gets to lease and operate it until long after we've all left this Earth. Trump's name is more valuable than the GSA (Government Services Administration) International Hotel.
Sorry Chuck. There will be no buildings named after you. Maybe a New York bridge or tunnel across the Hudson if you can get President Trump to fund one for you.
Going back to the "Chuck and Nancy show," the power twosome would work better as single acts. She had her best day, the day she got sworn in for her second tour as speaker, last week. Now she has to run a House with the most divergent and inexperienced group in history.
Chuck is the minority leader and may hold that title for life.
The missing man on Tuesday night was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He is now the most powerful man in D.C. other than the president. The fact that he was missing shows he may also be one of the smartest. Who needed to a part of this extravaganza?
Someone asked me why Chuck and Nancy didn't thave two podiums -- why they stood behind a podium made for one? I answered saying they can have anything they want. The Capitol is their building. One half is all in her control, and Mitch McConnell will let Chuck sit or stand anywhere he wants. He might not let him get his bills on the floor of the Senate for a vote though, and that really was what the show was about.
Usually, or actually always, the president gets to make his speeches (except for State of the Unions) without a TV rebuttal from the other side.
The rebuttal went like this: We don't like your wall, it's immoral, and we don't like your statistics. Lies, lies, lies. They also said: Open up the government and we will deal with the border issues later and we promise you'll get a fair hearing. That again is on the wall, which Democrats say we don't want and won't spend a penny on and it's also immoral.
The president, on the other hand, is reminded of two former Republican presidents. The first being Ronald Reagan who signed a bill giving amnesty in 1986 to millions with the promise of additional border security later. The later never came. The second president was the recently deceased George H.W. Bush who promised "no new taxes" when running in 1988. He broke that promise and 27 percent of Republicans (his base) didn't vote for his reelection.
Ronald Reagan got 59 percent of the vote in 1984 in his reelction bid. President Bush got 37 percent when he tried to get reelected in 1992.
President Trump promised the wall on nearly every campaign visit he made in 2016 and 2018. He believes in a promise made, a promise kept.
His party and his conservative base want a wall. That's the promise. That's what Tuesday night's speech was about.