Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The State of the Union - fact checks and reactions

Here are links at to the annotated transcripts of Trump’s State of the Union speech and the rebuttal by Stacey Abrams.

The NY Times has a fact-check listing of Trump’s claims - some true, many false, and lots of exaggeration, State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong.

Then, John Cassidy (New Yorker) reacts to Trump’s State of the Union speech: The State of the Union Is Partisan Warfare, and Trump’s Empty Rhetoric Didn’t Change That.

Donald Trump must be getting used to going up to Capitol Hill and reading out pablum about the need for bipartisanship and unity. In his February, 2017, address to a joint session of Congress, he said, “The time for trivial fights is behind us.” In his inaugural State of the Union speech, he called on both parties to “summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.” This year, his speechwriters upped the ante. “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda,” Trump said at the start of his speech. “It is the agenda of the American people.” He went on, “There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage to seize it. Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.”

From there, the speech went all over the place, including Normandy (stand up, three veterans of D-Day); the moon (stand up, Buzz Aldrin); and Alliteration Abaddon. “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution—and embrace the boundless potential of coöperation, compromise, and the common good,” Trump said at one point. “We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance.”

It was all hot air, of course—a gaseous exhalation delivered to a packed House chamber that is now under Democratic control. After about fifteen minutes of making nice and boasting about the economy, Trump reverted to type and warned the Democrats that, if they wanted him to coöperate with them, they would have to drop the many investigations of him and his Administration that they are now busy launching. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way!”

His appeal for unity did not sit well with Democrats. The only time they got enthused was when Trump mentioned newly elected female members of the House.

Trump is nothing if not inconsistent—we all know that. In this instance, the inconsistencies undermined the stated purpose of his speech. About the only time he evoked any real enthusiasm from the Democrats assembled before him was when he hailed the new female members of Congress, many of whom got elected by opposing him personally. (Even Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined her colleagues in applauding that line from the speech. They all knew they were cheering at Trump’s expense.)

That fact is that coöperation and bipartisanship aren’t Trump’s bag: he’s much more comfortable practicing division and aggression. (In an interview with network anchors hours before the speech, he called Joe Biden “dumb” and said that Chuck Schumer “can be a nasty son of a bitch.”) But with the new constellation of power in Washington, he doesn’t have much choice. If he wants to accomplish anything of note, he will have to obtain the agreement of Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting behind him on Tuesday night as he spoke. …

Unfortunately for Trump, the Democratic leaders are in no mood for coöperating with him, certainly not on his terms—and he still hasn’t given any indication that he is willing to move beyond them. On Tuesday morning, Schumer took the unusual step of delivering a prebuttal to Trump’s speech from the floor of the Senate. “The state of the Trump Administration is chaos,” he said. … In delivering the Democratic response to Trump on Tuesday night, Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost in her bid to become America’s first black female governor, last November, also criticized Trump directly, saying, “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people—but our values.”

Schumer and Pelosi are both reacting rationally to the political incentives they face. They know that the Democratic base won’t countenance them supporting anything with Trump’s name attached to it unless it is virtually a Democratic bill. Until the polls demonstrate that a policy of unrelenting resistance and combativeness to the President is hurting Democrats, they will continue to beat Trump like a drum.

Trump, in his gut, probably knows this better than anyone. Through his divisive, ugly rhetoric, his wanton disregard for Presidential norms, and the many bad and cruel policies he has championed, he created the venomous ill-feeling that is now threatening to engulf him; indeed, he has often seemed to revel in it. Nothing in what he said on Tuesday night alters any of that. If history is a guide, he’ll return to his usual belligerent mode within days, perhaps hours.

As his pre-speech interview showed, Trump was already there hours before the speech.

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