Wednesday, January 31, 2018

More analysis of Trump's State of the Union speech

Here are a couple of dissections of what the president said (NY Times’ Frank Bruni) and what he didn’t say (Huffington Post), and one report on the aftermath (New Yorker Satirist Andy Borowitz).

Frank Bruni writing in the New York Times provides a pretty good summary of Trump’s State of the Uniom Union address last night: The Fictitious State of Trump’s Fantastical Union

The word that came to mind most often as I watched Donald Trump deliver his first State of the Union address was “pretend.”

He pretends to be a statesman, and we’re supposed to pretend that hundreds of vulgar and recklessly divisive moments before this — thousands, if we’re adding tweets — don’t negate that claim.

We’re supposed to pretend that he gives a fig about decorum, though it disappears almost as soon as the teleprompter does. Above all, we’re supposed to pretend that what he says today has any bearing on what he’ll say tomorrow, when what he said yesterday contradicted it.

Our president lives in a world of sand and wind and make-believe, where the merest gust can alter the shape of everything, and Tuesday night’s remarks — especially his appeal for “common ground” and his vision of “all of us together” as “one American family” — should be seen in that shifting, swirling, fantastical context.

Bruni summarizes several instances of the disconnect between what Trump said and what he has done, discrepancies between what he says and what he next does.

The distance between Trump when he’s controlled and Trump when he’s unbound makes a speech like Tuesday night’s an especially hollow charade. And the orchestrated news in it can’t erase the messier developments beforehand, including the escalation of his assault on the F.B.I. and reports of his lawyers’ panic about his offer to be interviewed by the special counsel Robert Mueller. Jonathan Swan wrote in Axios that one of Trump’s intimates “believes the president would be incapable of avoiding perjuring himself. ‘Trump doesn’t deal in reality,’ the source said. ‘He creates his own reality.’ ”

His speech was such a creation, and to treat it any other way is to launder his entire political history and see a leader who has never been there.

I’m not that good at pretend.

All that was about what Trump did say. Here, from the Huffington Post, is more about what Trump did not say. The Hidden Extremism Of Trump’s State Of The Union. The most important part of Trump’s State of the Union address is what he didn’t say.

President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was competently delivered and — for him — relatively inoffensive. The mainstream media and the television pundits will surely deem it to be a presidential moment, representative of yet another pivot to the center.

But one speech does not erase Trump’s record. The speech’s banality — its embrace of optimism and platitude — is a mask. Do not be fooled: Political extremism, divisive rhetoric and bizarre behavior have characterized the first year of Trump’s presidency and underlie many of the harmless-sounding proposals he talked about Tuesday night.

This is the president, recall, who rose to political power on the racist lie that his predecessor was born in Kenya, and he ran for president while calling to ban all Muslims from the country and deriding Mexican immigrants as rapists. He was slow to denounce white nationalists, who have looked to him as a leader and marched openly in the streets of this country. And since last summer, this president has launched an all-out war on the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a war that continued to rage this week.

Trump mentioned none of those facts in his State of the Union address. Indeed, the speech was most notable for all of the policies and initiatives of his administration that he downplayed or left out entirely.

Here are two examples. “On the economy, Trump bragged about job growth and the Republican tax cut bill, but he didn’t mention that those tax cuts were overwhelmingly tilted toward the wealthy and corporations.” “On immigration, his signature issue, the president called for compromise on the status of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. But he failed to mention that the crisis that has beset these immigrants, known as Dreamers, is one of his own making.”

The mood in the chamber ― at least on the GOP side ― resembled a monster truck rally. Republicans said they loved the speech. They enthusiastically cheered the many applause lines. They hooted. They hollered. They chanted “U-S-A,” with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) pumping his fist to the rhythm of the cheer and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) holding up a red “Make America great again” hat.

But on the Democratic side, many sat when Trump entered the chamber. Many others spent a considerable amount of time on their phones as the speech became the third-longest State of the Union ever delivered, at one hour, 20 minutes and 34 seconds.

Democrats hissed during some of Trump’s claims. One line that will likely stick in memory will be his assertion that “a single immigrant” could bring in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives” through family reunification. And the only reason it will be remembered is because it is so brazenly dishonest in a speech that contained a number of misleading claims, such as the GOP tax cut being the largest of all time. (It’s not.)

Hanging over the whole speech, but never acknowledged, was special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and what role Trump and his associates played in any sort of collusion.

The Russia investigation is a constant in the White House. Mueller has already indicted four people connected to Trump, and the probe gets closer and closer to the president and whether he tried to obstruct justice by firing the FBI director. And it continues to shape, and undermine, the other actions Trump takes as president.

Trump said a lot — his speech was one of the longest State of the Union addresses ever. But what he didn’t say tells you everything.

Last night, in Scriber’s opinion, was bluster, bullshit, and (soon to come more) bad behavior.

Finally, New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz weighs in, observing that Trump Collapses From Exhaustion After Ninety Minutes of Faking Empathy.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump collapsed from exhaustion after approximately ninety minutes of pretending to be a human being with empathy, the White House doctor has confirmed.

“In all my years of practicing medicine, I have never met a patient as healthy and vigorous as President Trump,” Dr. Ronny Jackson said. “But the sustained effort of simulating compassion proved too much for someone who has never exercised that part of his brain before.”

Shortly after Trump spent a gruelling ninety minutes pretending to care about immigrants, the unemployed, and other people whom he normally dismisses as losers, aides noticed that he was turning from a bright orange to a slightly paler orange before crumpling to the ground in a giant heap.

“If you have never spent a moment thinking about a human being besides yourself, imagine trying to pretend you are doing that for a solid ninety minutes,” Jackson said. “It’s physically punishing.”

Immediately following his collapse, Trump was rushed to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where a brain scan showed that his brush with human feelings did no permanent damage.

“I just visited with him, and he was sitting up in his bed, trashing Jay-Z on Twitter,” Dr. Jackson said. “It was such a relief to see that.”

Vice-President Mike Pence, who reportedly reacted to Trump’s collapse by leaping to his feet and exclaiming, “Am I President now?,” was not available for comment.

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