Donald Trump, the one-man national emergency, preached a message of clemency, cooperation and low, low drug prices Tuesday night in his third and possibly last throne speech to the Congress of a country that 60-40 doesn’t like him and 40-60 hopes he goes to jail. News flashes were absent during the ritual oration: the president did not declare his unilateral intention to erect the Huge Wall of Mexico. But these may come soon.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate,” Trump baited the Democrats who soon may combine to destroy him. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.” But the opposition was in no mood to accommodate.
“What To Watch,” offered CNN in an online guide to the 98th consecutive in-person State of the Union address. (Under the Constitution, the speech also may be submitted in writing, which was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.)
“None of it,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of the Bronx and Trump’s natal Queens.
As it was in Barack Obama’s time with moderate Republicans, any Democrat who would work with Trump will be enfiladed from the left in 2020. Hence the spectre of another shutdown of the U.S. government in less than 10 days, absent abject surrender on the Wall from either side.
Seated regally behind the century’s Greatest Showman was Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi, twice-crowned as the only female Speaker of the House in U.S. history—the 78-year-old grandmother who either will condemn a 72-year-old grandfather to impeachment and trial by the Senate or grant the electorate its own chance to impose sentence, 21 months from now. Before Trump, in suffragette white in the 100th year of Caucasian female voting rights, were a record number of women legislators, five-sixths of them from a party pledged to Trump’s emasculation and/or obliteration.
Last year, many of the lady Democrats wore widow’s weeds. Next year at this time, these same women already may be scheming to overthrow President Mike Pence. All depends on the longevity of the junk-food executive, and the hole-cards held by the unelected shamus, Robert Mueller.
“I’m tired of hearing about this president,” Rep. Lois Frankel, Democrat of Florida, told Maclean’s, but the president’s tolerance for his own smooth tenor never wanes.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump said—and drew a laugh. “It just doesn’t work that way!” But this will be Nancy Pelosi’s decision, not Donald Trump’s.
“Impeach the (you-know-what)!” yelled none of the sisters on Tuesday—so there was at least this little ray of sunshine. But even after all these years with Trump and his, um, factual inventiveness, no one muster the outrage to holler “You lie!” as a Carolinian Republican cried to Obama in the same circumstances, a decade ago. Only formulaic partisan applause interrupted the liturgy.
“In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science and redefined the middle class standard of living for the entire world to see. Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this Great American Adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century,” the president limned—or recited—inspiringly Tuesday night, but the majority of representatives whose sanctum he invaded still heard only, as one Congresswoman described it, “bigotry, xenophobia, and hatred.”
“A tantrum in a sandbox,” sneered rookie Rep. Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania.
“He attacks because he’s afraid,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Democrat of California and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
As he has done each winter since his improbable inauguration, Trump listed the indisputable highlights of his tenure: a sizzling economy—“the envy of the world”—rock-bottom unemployment, 157,000,000 people with a job, incomes gradually rising, calm—or false calm—abroad, the near-obliteration of the ISIS Caliphate and a possible accommodation on tariffs with behemoth, un-free China.
But there was more work to be done: “It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place,’ he said. “This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it.”
And, of course, the southern border.
“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s WORKING CLASS and America’s POLITICAL CLASS than illegal immigration,” Trump said, and the White House sent the transcript in capital letters. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.” And this he would know from Mar-A-Lago and his gilded fortress of solitude that pierces the New York sky.
“Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement—or USMCA—will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers,” Trump said in his only reference to Canada. “Bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with four beautiful words: Made in the USA.”
“America is winning each and every day,” Trump said, just as he had prophesied in 2016. This was not a lie. Household by household, tens of millions of his subjects felt the same way as February began, at least in private.
Earlier on Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute reported that a three-fourths majority of Americans are far more content with their lives, homes, and prospects than the Cassandras of cable television and the patrician press of the metropolises would have the world believe.
In the AEI survey, 73 per cent of respondents—across all age groups, races, and income levels—said that they felt satisfied with the state of their own communities, yet only two-fifths were equally positive about their country as a whole. (In this stat, the Yanks resemble the Ottawa Senators, who have a winning record at home but who are 7-17-1 on the road.)
These are, for many or most Americans, good or very good times, yet the noxiousness and noise that surrounds them from the breakfast Barney to the sign-off prayer—is there still a sign-off prayer?—never has been angrier, meaner, louder. If you do the dissection—if you scrape away the scab of anger from the body of prosperity—what remains, of course, is Donald Trump.
“I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet,” Trump tweeted Tuesday of his old New York comrade, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Cryin’ Chuck.
“Dems do nothing,” the president fingered on. “If there is no Wall, there is no Security. Human Trafficking, Drugs and Criminals of all dimensions – KEEP OUT!”
Keep out, lock her up, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, travel ban, enemy of the people.
Year of the Pig.
In the padded seats of the House chamber, Donald Trump could look down and see the men whom he elevated, by a whisker, to the Supreme Court—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh—the men whom he demeaned and defeated in 2016 —Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham—and the women and men who will slash and slander each other for the next year and a half for the privilege of contesting The Donald’s final battle: Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Bernard Sanders, perhaps more.
Yet here in the U.S. Capitol, in the front row of the balcony with the mysterious and mischievous Melania Trump, was a 12-year-old boy named Joshua from Claymont, Delaware whose presence spoke more words than a windy president could utter about the true state of the American union.
Last fall, Megan Trump Berto, an online cosmetics salesperson and self-described “Disney fanatic” and the mother of Josh and a younger sister named Aria—and unrelated to the immigrant Drumphs—went public with the family’s anguish at how her son had been heckled, bullied and tormented on his school bus and at school because of his name —and because the name conjured the arrogance and insolence of the self-obsessed old man in the long red necktie.
“Dump Trump,” the other kids were chanting on the bright yellow bus. What Donald Trump had gifted his country had come home to roost in a little boy’s pain.
“He said he hates himself, and he hates his last name, and he feels sad all the time, and he doesn’t want to live feeling like that anymore, and as a parent that’s scary,” Megan Berto told a Philadelphia television channel
The story had gone global, and now the White House had invited the Trump-Berto family to the State of the Union as an exemplar of Mrs. Trump’s “Be Best” initiative, her sincere, delicious attempt to inspire a generation of young Americans not to be at all like the man she married.
So here was Joshua in a white shirt and tie and Megan sitting next to the last first moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin—and behind them were the veterans of the Second World War, and the survivor of Auschwitz and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, and the first lady—who had worn suffragette white last year—in a dark suit this time, applauding on cue and stroking her perfect hair.
“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution—and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good,” her man was saying from the rostrum as the ceremonial clock behind him ticked down to what may be—in this same room—his doomsday.
“Can he survive?” a reporter in the Rotunda asked Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, a mainstay of the new majority.
“I don’t know yet,” she answered. “It depends what the Special Counsel reports.”
“Can America survive HIM?”
“Of course,” said the woman in white. “Of course we can.”