Hollywood, eat your hearts out. President Trump’s first-ever State of the Union Address delivered more drama, passion and feel-good patriotism than his critics in Tinseltown delivered all year. My guess – his ratings will top the Oscars and the Grammys, combined.
Pundits expected to hear from a kinder, gentler President Trump who would reach across the aisle to enlist the aid of Democrats in pursuing his agenda. While the tone of the president’s address was surely more positive and upbeat than his dark and combative inaugural address, he did not stoop to conquer.
He asked for Congress to come together, to serve the people of the nation, but on his terms.
He did not attempt to topple the Resistance by backing away from his campaign promises; instead, he reaffirmed his dedication to border security, to a strong military, to religious freedom, to protecting the second amendment and to upholding our veterans and our law enforcement, seemingly challenging Democrats to deny the reasonableness and popularity of these bedrock commitments.
The sour faces of his critics suggested this: they fear his success.
Pundits expected to hear from a kinder, gentler Trump who would reach across the aisle to enlist the aid of Democrats in pursuing his agenda. While the tone of the president’s address was surely more positive and upbeat than his dark and combative inaugural address, he did not stoop to conquer.
As Trump reviewed his administration’s accomplishments of the past year, Americans listening in might applaud the tax cuts that will save families thousands of dollars. They might welcome the bonuses and raises being handed out by corporations because of the GOP tax bill, and cheer the new investments by Apple and others encouraged by the tax reforms. They might rejoice that – finally – wages have started to rise.
Trump proudly ticked off data points on the strong economy, including unemployment among African-Americans falling to the lowest level ever recorded. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus failed to stand and applaud; how foolish does that look?
Trump celebrated the buoyant economy, saying, “There has never been a better time to live the American dream,” and promising the country that “You can be anything” and that “Together we can achieve anything.” But while he stressed that the nation should move forward together, since we “share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny and the same flag,” he was clear that he wanted Americans to join him on the path he has laid out.
Emphasizing that the government serves the people, and not the other way around, he touted moves to make agencies more responsive to the needs of our citizens. He said he would ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire government employees, and noted that because of the VA Accountability Act that he signed into law, his administration had been able to remove 1,500 employees who “failed to give vets the care they deserve.” He did not pledge to drain the swamp, but you could just tell he wanted to.
He celebrated his numerous efforts to protect and help American workers. Trump tiptoed past the graveyard of climate change, saying he had “ended the war on American energy and the war on beautiful clean coal.” He touted the revving up of car manufacturing in the U.S., and also the accelerated approval of drugs flowing from the FDA.
He claimed to have turned the page on “unfair trade deals,” reiterating that future pacts must be fair and reciprocal and that his government will work to protect workers as well as our intellectual property.
He asked Democrats to partner with his administration in delivering an infrastructure program, asking Congress to create a bill designed to unlock $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investment, leveraging federal funds with money from state governments and private funding. In particular, he demanded that the permitting process be streamlined. Getting the required permissions to build a “simple road” can take up to ten years; he wants that cut down to two.
And then there was immigration. The president has already proposed a four-part compromise on immigration reform, and in particular on resolving the fate of the Dreamers. He offered no new concessions, and instead took a hard stand on the security aspect of immigration policy. He personalized the real threat from gang members in the country illegally by introducing two Long Island families grieving for their daughters who were murdered by members of MS-13. Cory Booker looked like he was sucking on a prune.
The president also reviewed his America First foreign policy, and suggested he would ask Congress to ensure that our foreign aid will be increasingly handed out only to America’s friends. He celebrated the success in taking back nearly all the lands so recently held by ISIS, and vowed to continue the fight, declaring that terrorists will be treated as enemy combatants, and not criminals. Lest anyone misunderstand that distinction, he vowed to keep Guantanamo open.
And he talked about the dangers of North Korea, recounting the horrible imprisonment and death of Otto Wambier, a college student who was released to his family shortly before he died, presumably succumbing to months of torture and hardship at the hands of Kim Jong Un. Wambier’s parents made a tearful salute to the assembled crowd.
President Trump’s speech will likely not have won over any Democrats, only 11 percent of whom approve of him, according to the latest Fox News poll. But he may have shored up his support amongst independents, some of whom have moved away from him in recent months. His strong, clear-eyed message of American empowerment appeals. It is hard to deny that our government should put our people first. It is tough to argue that the bureaucracy functions as well as it should, or that security should not be the uppermost concern of our leaders.
Most important, Trump has a good story to tell. A story of accomplishment, of lower taxes, better jobs and higher wages. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke earlier in the day, attempting to deny Mr. Trump credit for the improving economy and instead arguing that President Obama was responsible for the brightening picture.
Sorry Charlie; the experts say this is Trump’s economy, and come the fall voters may well agree.