Which Trump will emerge after State of the Union Address?
It was the best of Trump, it was the worst of Trump.
With the State of Union Address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump delivered his most presidential of speeches yet.
The president sounded the right note in repeatedly calling for bipartisan cooperation and placing the good of the American people above political self-interest. Given that most of the new members of the U.S. House are women and Democrats, he was downright magnanimous in noting, “One century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before.”
Yet Trump was at his worst in again playing the fear card in pursuit of his long promised wall, describing a dire situation on the southern border that does not conform to reality. And while calling for cooperation, the president provided little guidance as to what compromises he is ready to make.
It is this inconsistency in messaging, and the lack of any political coherence, that make it hard for Congress to work effectively with the Trump administration. This problem was in evidence even when Republicans controlled both the Senate and House. There is a reason that during two years of Republican dominance Congress did not fund a border wall and no “beautiful plan” to replace the Affordable Care Act emerged.
This inconsistency was evident within the address. As to be expected, Trump bragged about job creation, historically low unemployment and growing wages. Yet when he wanted to gin up anxiety about illegal immigration, he warned it is causing “reduced jobs, lower wages.”
Which is it? The facts are that border apprehensions are at their lowest levels in decades and the number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined by more than 1 million since 2007.
Yes, rag-tag groups of migrants from Central America have made their way north hoping to make a case for political asylum, but there is no “tremendous onslaught,” no “lawless state” on the southern border and no need to dispatch another 3,750 Army troops there, as Trump announced Tuesday.
It is the same alarmist rhetoric and the same twisted evidence that Trump tried to use to get Republicans elected in the November election, only to fail spectacularly. This president seems unable or unwilling to recognize when he is playing a losing hand.
Most egregious was Trump’s attempt to save his own hide by suggesting that Congress, if it wants to do what is best for the nation and accomplish anything, must halt investigations of the executive branch and, more particularly, the probe of Russian interference in our politics.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way. We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad,” Trump said.
Well, the investigations aren’t going away and the Trump administration will have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time by dealing with congressional probes and carrying out domestic and foreign policy.
Can Trump follow up on the more virtuous aspects of his address, work with Congress and avoid another partial government shutdown? It is always difficult to make predictions with this president, but the “good Trump” sent some positive signals.
Trump referenced “a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier … deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need.” That’s much different from the border-long concrete barrier Trump once demanded. Maybe the Democratic House can provide some funding for border security without being seen as backing down on the wall, perhaps in return for permanent protection for the so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented residents brought here as children.
The president referenced a need for major investment in infrastructure, on which both parties should agree. He also noted the bipartisan work that led to passing significant criminal-justice reform last year, suggesting further collaboration is possible.
You never know. Maybe a Republican Senate, Democratic House and Trump can work effectively together on vital matters such as infrastructure and health care policy, also referenced in the address.
Or Trump could blow everything up with his next tweet.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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