President Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address can be summed up in three words. In my view, those three words are boring, uninspiring and forgettable.
At this point it’s clear that Trump’s campaign rhetoric was meaningless — and that’s mostly a good thing.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) January 25, 2018
This was a cuckservative speech that President Mike Pence could have given. Far from moving the Overton Window, it was a speech full of based non-Whites who were used as human interest stories to sell mainstream conservative policies. There was the black welder whose life had been changed by a new round of Jack Kemp supply side tax cuts. There was the North Korean defector who was tortured and starved and whose leg had been run over by a train before he hobbled his way to freedom as a cripple. There was the grieving black family who had lost their two girls to MS-13 gangbangers.
Watching this speech, I found myself pining for the days when President Trump talked about Jamiel Shaw and trotted out the Angel Moms on the campaign trail. Of course they were nowhere to be seen tonight because he used the State of the Union address to make the case for his DREAM Act amnesty. In his bid to save Barack Obama’s temporary executive amnesty, President Trump has embraced a permanent legislative amnesty over three times as large which offers a path to citizenship.
It seemed like much of the speech was given over to extolling the wonders of the tax cuts. I suppose that is because nothing else of legislative significance has been accomplished over the past year. The only real news that was made tonight was that President Trump had signed an executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay open and will be pursuing bipartisan criminal justice reform this year which is a cause near and dear to the hearts of Jared Kushner and the Koch Brothers. Both have had a solid year with Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel and Trump’s conversion to supporting this latest incarnation of the DREAM Act which has died a half dozen times in Congress.
In condemning Russia, China and Iran as rogue regimes, calling for a military buildup, boasting about bullying the critics of Israel and threatening evil doers and terrorists around the world who oppose “our values,” the spirit of W. was on display before this joint session of Congress. This was never more evident than when President Trump talked about the “Statue of Freedom” which stands on the dome of the US Capitol and the monument of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a far cry from the days when he didn’t use this boilerplate conservative rhetoric on the campaign trail.
My eyes widened in disbelief as President Trump talked about the foreign automobile companies that were opening new assembly plants in the Deep South. He touted this as an exciting new development even though Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Honda have had plants in Alabama for years now. In declaring “the era of economic surrender is over,” he vowed to “work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones,” which indicates he isn’t planning to withdraw from NAFTA. He said that “America has finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals” even though the trade deficit has surged to a new high and all he has to show for it is a mirror tax on Canadian lumber and some mild targeted tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. This makes George W. Bush who imposed a tariff on steel imports look like a muscular economic nationalist.
The line about lifting “our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity” is a ringing endorsement of Paul Ryan’s Better Way agenda. It seems to foreshadow that the Trump tax cuts will be followed by the Trump entitlement cuts. It reflects the conservative attitude that Americans who don’t live off of capital gains income and who demanded the repeal of the estate tax are all just layabouts on welfare who need to be herded into the workforce. Since the American economy is synonymous with speculators gambling in the stock market rather than crippling student loans, the dying husks of Industrial Age America and the expansion of Dollar General, there is no reason for economic pessimism.
I listened to the postgame analysis from Ricky Vaughn and McFeels and couldn’t help but laugh at the strained notion that President Trump was moving the public in our direction. The plain text and the props that were used to make the key points shows that this was a speech that Mike Pence could have given off the cuff. The reality here is that the Donald Trump of the campaign was a far more interesting, radical, exciting and popular public figure. This is a version of Donald Trump that has been drained and diluted by the swamp and who sounds much more native and pleasing to the Beltway.
If this is President Trump a year into his administration, where do you think he will be a year from now? The Donald Trump of a year ago was at his peak issuing a flurry of executive orders on trade and immigration. The Donald Trump of two years ago was steamrolling into the Republican primaries. This Donald Trump is talking about criminal justice reform, entitlement reform and a DREAM Act amnesty. The only reason anyone is even pretending he is /ourguy/ is because of the wistful memory of the campaign.
Close your eyes. Let a robot deliver the full text of this speech. Tell me this isn’t the sappy, hackneyed rhetoric of the President Mike Pence administration now.