Wednesday, March 1, 2017

#Trump's best speech ever - to Congress, February 28, 2017



The instant reviews of President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday night are in, and some of them are raves. Trump had scarcely left the House chamber when Fox News’s Chris Wallace credited him with reinventing the art of giving speeches to joint sessions of Congress. “I feel like, tonight, Donald Trump became the President of the United States,” Wallace opined. His colleague Dana Perino didn’t go quite that far, but she did rate the performance “the best speech he”—Trump—“has ever given.”

To be sure, these were two Fox News analysts speaking, albeit two of the more independent-minded ones. But the praise for Trump’s performance wasn’t confined to the conservative media. Over on CNN—the President’s least favorite “fake news” network—David Axelrod, the former Obama adviser, commented, “If I’m on the Trump team, I’m very, very happy with this speech. . . . There will be an afterglow from this speech. He should get a bump in the polls.”

Eyeing these Christians offering praise to the lion that is out to devour them, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg remarked on Twitter, “Enemies of the people giving Trump positive reviews for not sounding like a ranting dictator.” It certainly seemed that way. If there was anything fresh about what Trump said to Congress, it was largely stylistic. He didn’t pivot, he merely pirouetted, and then he dug into the same political ground he has already claimed.

About all that happened was that Trump, perhaps feeling saddled by low approval ratings, caved to the normal conventions of political communication. These rules dictate that, on august occasions such as a speech to Congress, Presidents talk politely and try to avoid giving offense. They leaven the heavy fare they are bearing with moments of optimism and humanity, promise the viewers some goodies, and offer up some notes of inclusion. Trump did all these things, and he even deployed some uplifting prose. If his Inauguration speech sounded like it had been written by Steve Bannon suffering from a migraine, Tuesday’s appeared to have been the work of a professional speechwriter.

Rather than starting things off with his dystopian world view, Trump began the speech with a reference to Black History Month, saying, “We are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains to be done.” He condemned the recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents, and he also mentioned the shooting of two Indian immigrants last week, in Kansas, which, hitherto, he had shamefully ignored. His message, he said, was one “of unity and strength.” Channelling Ronald Reagan, he added, “A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning.”

This was a markedly different tone to the one Trump had struck as recently as last week, at the cpac conference, and the television pundits swallowed it whole. In substantive terms, however, Trump didn’t give an inch, or even a millimetre. The soft opening quickly transitioned into a reiteration of Trump’s harsh “America First” agenda, and once he got there his language got considerably darker.

Take immigration, an issue to which Trump returned repeatedly on Tuesday. After pointing out that he has already ordered the rounding up and deportation of large numbers of undocumented aliens, he boasted, “Bad ones are going out as I speak.” Further promoting the myth that America is bedevilled by an immigrant crime wave, he said that he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to set up a new office to support the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

http://nangalama.blogspot.com/2017/03/trumps-best-speech-ever-to-congress.html

As Will Wilkinson, the policy analyst and blogger, pointed out during the speech, “The point of Trump’s lies is to create a widespread sense that an open, pluralistic, multicultural society is dangerous.” To justify his many illiberal proposals, as well as his authoritarian instincts, Trump needs to persuade people that everything is going to hell, and that only he can save things. Nowhere in his speech did he depart from this doleful and deceptive script.

Trump spoke of a world where terrorists are clamoring to get into the United States to blow us up. Ignoring the advice of his new national-security adviser, H. R. McMaster, the President used—and emphasized—the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” and promised to roll out a new version of his anti-Muslim travel ban, which the courts have frozen. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America,” he declared. “And we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.” As for isis, Trump said that America and its allies would work “to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”

In this and other areas, details of how he would bring about his ambitious goals were lacking. But rhetoric wasn’t. “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways, gleaming across our very, very beautiful land,” he promised. He also pledged “massive tax relief for the middle class,” and much lower corporate taxes, too. He also said, “I am going to bring back millions of jobs,” and that he would work with Congress to create “a better health-care system for all Americans.”

Absent from Trump’s discussion of these issues was any proper explanation of how any of his proposals would be paid for. He did say his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan would be “financed through both public and private capital,” but he didn’t provide any details, and the words “budget deficit” didn’t once cross his lips.

Nor did he mention Russia or climate change or the robust job growth he inherited. His only use of the word “environment” came in reference to the violent crime wave that he falsely claims is sweeping the nation. “We want all Americans to succeed,” he said, “but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos.”

To the political pros, these omissions provided more evidence that Trump might be learning on the job. But the moment that really stood out for them was the tribute Trump paid to William (Ryan) Owens, the Navy seal who was killed in the first counterterrorism attack Trump authorized as President, a raid on an Al Qaeda target in Yemen. After pointing out Owens’s widow, Carryn, who was sitting in the spectators’ gallery, Trump claimed that the raid had been a success, and, reading from the teleprompter, he added, “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.” Then, after the audience had delivered a lengthy standing ovation for Carryn, Trump ad-libbed, “And Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”

It is safe to assume that most of the viewers watching Trump’s speech didn’t know that Owens’s father has demanded an investigation into the mission that led to his son’s death, or that he refused to meet with the President at Dover Air Force Base when his son’s body was returned to the United States. Perhaps one of the talking heads pointed this out in the post-speech commentary. If they did, I missed it.

THE NEW YORKER 
Don't Be Fooled, Donald Trump Didn't Pivot

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