David: That was one of the most presidential speeches of Donald Trump’s presidency, if only for the fact that somehow Trump managed to stick to the script without any of his typical rambling exclamations. But there’s little hope it will amount to much because we already know all too well just what kind of president this man is.
Trump was more right than he knew when he said tonight that “America is a nation that believes in redemption.” What is true of the drug criminals the president highlighted in the House gallery is also true of presidents.
Like all Americans who hope for the best for our nation, I want to believe that Donald Trump is redeemable, but he has to want redemption, too. And he couldn’t even set the Twitter squabbling aside for a day as he prepared his speech on bipartisanship and the need for Washington to “embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.”
Tuesday night, Trump tried to unite our nation around the shopworn, but potent, themes of World War II heroism and Space Age optimism. When the words come out of his mouth, however, it is obvious just how unworthy Trump is to weave himself into the pageant of our national story. If we’ve learned anything from his truth-challenged, ethically heedless presidency is that he understands nothing of the sacrifices and bravery that made World War II victory and the moon landing possible. He understands even less about compromise and the common good.
Jill: Trump truly is President Brigadoon, emerging for one night each winter as a full-blown chief executive only to disappear for the next year. (For the younger set or anyone unfamiliar with Broadway history, “Brigadoon” was a 1947 musical about a Scottish village that appears for one day every hundred years.)
I couldn’t agree with you more about Trump’s calls to a higher purpose. So many times Trump in Brigadoon mode said things that contradict every other day of his presidency.
Victory is winning for our country, not our party, he said, but he has never tried to be president of more than his base. Working for the common good, in his worldview, means his way or the highway. Even if it’s a border wall many in his own party don’t think we need.
When Trump urged Democrats to compromise, what came to mind were the many bipartisan deals he has rejected. When he ad libbed that he wants immigrants to come into our country legally “in the largest numbers ever,” it’s impossible to forget his determination to block immigrants and refugees from coming to live or even visit here.
And when he talks about D-Day and saving civilization from tyranny, when he introduces World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors, does he really see no connection at all between between those events, strong U.S. leadership and the stabilizing effect of NATO, which he devalues and undercuts at every turn?
The only way to get through these set pieces is to view them as performance art. In fact I was disoriented for a few seconds at the start, because Trump sounded so much like Alec Baldwin.
David: You’re right about the disconnect between Trump’s words and themes Tuesday night and the actions of his administration, most glaring in his praise for the heroes of World War II and contempt for NATO, which grew out of the hard, bloody lessons of that war.
More than once Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked like she was trying to suppress a laugh. That’s the right way to approach our profoundly unserious president.
But let’s step back for a second and maybe take a look at the serious politics behind some of what he said. In one part that jumped out at me, he threw out three bombs in quick succession that might roil the waters in Washington if he follows through: “To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children. I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave. … To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
Could a Republican Senate unite around the idea of letting kids in failing schools, disproportionately minorities, take federal education dollars with them when they flee public monopolies for private educations; creating a business-friendly but well-funded paid family leave plan; and outlawing third-trimester abortions without threatening the more popular parts of the pro-choice agenda? Would they fall apart in internal bickering or could Trump lead them to do something actually popular?
This is the kind of thing Republicans should have been doing when they controlled both chambers of Congress. In a more divided Washington, it is impossible.
Jill: I must say I am thrilled that those policy ideas did not come to fruition under an all-GOP government. Even with their gains, this was a tough night for Democrats. I can’t be the only “center left” person who could barely breathe at the sight of Justices Brett Kavanaugh (beaming) and Neil Gorsuch (who should have been Merrick Garland).
The antidote was Pelosi in the frame holding that gavel and the Democratic women sitting together, a sea of white in their outfits meant to recall the suffragists. When Trump bragged about women filling 58 percent of the new jobs created in the past year, they all rose, laughing and clapping, to “thank” him for helping them get elected.
“You weren’t supposed to do that,” Trump told them. “Thank you very much. Don’t sit yet, you’re going to like this.” He read the next line of his speech: “We also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before.” They did like it and showed it with cheers and applause. “That’s great, very great, and congratulations,” Trump said.
The inconvenient truth is that with Trump leading the GOP, Republican women in Congress were decimated last fall, and the gender gap between the parties has never been more cavernous. But that was a nice moment, even if it was fleeting. And it was.
Trump set a contentious tone when he referred to a “Democrat” agenda rather than Democratic agenda, and suggested that the Democrats’ “ridiculous partisan investigations” would impede national progress. “It just doesn’t work that way,” he said. Well, actually, it does, if you want to preserve the rule of law. And you can pass bills, too.
Comity Central it was not, but at least no Democrat yelled “You lie!” at the president of the United States. Though the temptation must have been great.
This article provided by NewsEdge.