A Normal Speech for an Abnormal Nation


Over at The Atlantic, David Graham warns us about getting too sucked-in to the normalcy of Trump’s first State of the Union Address.  The state of the union is not normal.  Here is a taste of Graham’s piece: “The State of the Union is Unrecognizable“:

The strangest thing about watching President Donald Trump deliver a State of the Union address was how normal it seemed. Tuesday night, in his first State of the Union, the president offered a workmanlike speech that seemed worlds away from the tumultuous, gridlocked lived reality of American politics over the past year—and the likely reality in the year to come.

Looking back to his speech to a joint session of Congress last February, Trump recalled, “A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land. Each day since, we have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission—to make America great again for all Americans.” He added, “Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success.”

The reality is somewhat less rosy: By a wide margin, Americans believe that the nation is on the wrong track, and the president’s approval rating is historically low. Trump has struggled to push his agenda through Congress, just squeaking a big tax cut in at the end of last year. That presents three challenges for the president, and his speechwriters: How do you boast about victories you haven’t had? How do you present new proposals when many of the old ones are still on the table? And how do you handle the Russia story that seems to consume most of politics each week?

The answer from Trump was simply to conjure his own reality, outlining a set of some accomplishments, delivering the standard list of policy proposals, and ignoring the Russia probe altogether. The speech was long, and there was little in the way of thematic unity, though he spoke of a “new American moment”—a concept borrowed from Hillary Clinton, of all people. This president is not often good at hiding his emotions, but he did so Tuesday. As a result, not only was the picture he painted of America removed from reality, but Trump himself was also practically unrecognizable. The speech somehow managed to render Trump the one thing he almost never is: boring.

Read the rest here.