Donald Trump presented his second State of the Union speech tonight and it was a phantasmagoria of Trumpian grandeur, and not in a good way. For future generations, it should be used as a model for what not to do when preparing and delivering such an address. It was significant both for what it included and what it excluded, among which were climate change, #MeToo, racism, or social justice. If you were a space alien coming to earth for the first time you’d think there were only two critical issues facing America: immigration and border security. As far as Trump was concerned, there were no other issues. Sure he made nods to the economy, anti-Semitism, and the pro-life movement. But they were tips of the hat and not substantive discussions. As for foreign policy, you’d hardly know we had one. All references to this subject were reserved for the end of a hellishly long, 5,000 word, speech.
One of the strangest lines in the entire speech attempts to pre-empt the looming avalanche of federal and state investigations against Trump himself, his real estate company, his foundation, and his family:
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”
As always, it’s a bit hard to parse what he meant. But I take it that he’s priding himself on bringing American boys home from war, and leading what he sees as ongoing march toward American prosperity. Thus, all of his economic policies and legislative initiatives (such as they are) are the record he stands on. While the Democrats, in his view, represent war, that is American troops stuck in quagmires like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Alongside these “Democrat wars,” as Republicans call them, there is the intent of the new Democratically-controlled House of Representatives to investigate the hell out of Trump.
Beyond the lunacy of Trump’s formulation, there is the odd juxtaposition of legislation and investigation. It’s as if he’s saying that Congress is mandated to legislate, but not to investigate; which, of course, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Congress as one of the three branches of government. It is the legislature which is empowered to investigate misdeeds and call out officials of the judicial and executive branch for corruption or malfeasance. There is no way to separate the act of passing laws and investigating wrongdoing.
Trump also took a swing at Bernie Sanders and the progressive insurgency in the Democratic Party, which played a major role in the Blue Wave of the 2018 Congressional elections. He called out “socialism” by name as if it were a dreaded scourge:
Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
As he said this, the TV camera panned, showing the scowling face of Sanders, who looked like steam was pouring from his ears. In a sense, this is an early preview of the 2020 election campaign, in which Sanders promises to be one of the strongest candidates.
Another irony of the attack on socialism is that the entire Trump real estate enterprise was founded on government programs and benefits. After World War II, Fred Trump built his empire of building housing for returning GIs and their growing families. Such housing was heavily subsidized by the federal government and builders earned generous tax credits for projects. Without the government’s hand encouraging such development Trump would not have built his fortune and America’s returning GIs would never have found the needed housing for their families. Trump’s son seems to have conveniently forgotten this.
Trump, known as a serial philanderer who’s been accused of serial counts of sexual assault, had to give a sop to women in his speech. So he boasted of how many women are taking the hundreds of thousands of new jobs he’s claiming to have created:
No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year. All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before…
But he didn’t bargain for the fact that the white-clad (in tribute to the suffragettes) new female members of the House would jump to their feet, raising their arms high in the air and celebrating as if they’d just won a heavyweight prize-fight. They were laying claim to Trump’s self-praise and taunting him with it by saying: “we are the women who’ve taken these new jobs here in this House; and we plan to make your life miserable.”
Trump’s abortion rhetoric was typically hyperbolic:
Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth.
The idea that any abortion law would permit a doctor to rip a baby from its mother’s womb “moments before birth” is not only grotesque, but an out and out lie. The notion that support for late-term abortions is equivalent to “execution” is ridiculous. Further, a late term abortion would happen before birth, not after. Trump, enjoyed his fair share of sex both licit and illicit, apparently knows quite a lot less about child-birth.
Trump only mentioned Iran twice. But the passages dedicated to Iran were deeply inflammatory:
To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country.
We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people. We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.
Ironically, the JCPOA which he’s boasting about abandoning was designed to delay or eliminate the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Without the agreement, it’s entirely possible that Iran too will renounce it and resume a nuclear program it suspended in 2003, according to U.S. intelligence estimates. That could lead to an Iranian nuclear weapons capability far earlier than the JCPOA would have permitted.
There is one flagrant lie in the above passage. It is a calumny to claim Iran has threatened genocide against the Jewish people. It has never done that. Nor has it even threatened genocide against Israel. What it has done is warned Israel that it would defend itself in the event it was attacked. Even harsh statements by Ayatollah Khomeini concerning Israel never directly threatened that Iran would attack Israel.
It was despicable of Trump to invite a survivor of the Tree of Life massacre as his guest at the speech. Trump took days after the tragedy before he made any statement about it. He never went to Pittsburgh to mourn with the victims, nor was he invited to do so. Welcoming the survivor and shining a spotlight on this man was the worst sort of cynicism. It may fool Sheldon Adelson and the Jewish corporate fatcats of the Republican Jewish Coalition. But it will not fool the overwhelming majority of American Jews, who no doubt felt slightly sick to their stomachs when he did that tonight.
This post originally appeared on Richard’s blog.
5 thoughts on ““There are Lies, Lies, Lies, and More Lies, There are Damned Lies” – Trump’s SotU Speach”
Wow, where to begin? I will strive mightily to be concise. Since I don’t subject myself to SOTU speeches, to avoid risk of hurling a hard object at my TV, this is my first exposure to some of the language Trump employed. I suspect very strongly that the private Trump is fine with abortion, but of course he must keep his base energized for outlawing it. To say nothing about the greatest menace facing the planet, climate change, was to be expected. At least he didn’t call it a hoax, in this particular speech. Trump’s hypocrisy on Jews, since he insisted there were “some very fine people” among the Nazis in Charlottesville, doesn’t need further underlining by me. And as for “our brave fighting men and women” [boilerplate POTUS lingo], how many has he ACTUALLY withdrawn from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan? Absolutely none, to my knowledge. And of course the War Lobby, which includes most Establishment Democrats, will continue to push back hard against any such undertaking. The thriving economy? Yeah, a lot of folks are working–multiple jobs, desperately living paycheck to paycheck. God bless America! The land of opportunity, that will never embrace Socialism! Wow, was it really necessary to state that? This was a truly dumbed-down speech! How dumb a society have we become? I will close by mentioning the response of some online wingnuts: they likened the white garments of the young Turk women Members of Congress to…wait for it…KKK robes!! What more can I say? What more need I say? The “optics” say it all!
I try never to watch these predictably tawdry presidential dog-and-pony shows, except on rare occasions when I feel idly curious about the latest-edition corporate bullshit designed to inflame the American viewing public and distract them from the wholesale looting of the nation’s (and much of the world’s) wealth by a relatively tiny global oligarchy who treat ostensible nation-states as little more than marketing territories and population containment zones. So, I looked around on the Internet for some reasonable and reality-based analysis and came upon this: Trump’s State of Union Stokes Fear With Nationalist Rhetoric, The Real News Network (February 6, 2019) Synopsis:
“The President’s State of the Union speech demanded an end to investigations, while demonizing immigrants and Venezuela, and attacking abortion rights.”
After scanning the comments by the various program contributors, I settled on the following as probably most germane to the true economic plight of probably half the US population:
EUGENE PURYEAR: Yeah, I mean, I thought the biggest irony was that he tried to, you know, paint this horrible picture of human trafficking across the border, and counterposed that to the issue of the caravan. But this is exactly why people are organizing caravans to travel as a community, and to travel safely on the route. So I mean, a little factual inaccuracy yet again in the piece. But I think that, as has already been said, I mean, obviously a significant percentage of the hundreds of millions of workers in America are people of color. Many of them are immigrants.
But I think this is deliberately trying to obfuscate the issue, because obviously the biggest issue between the political class and the elite class and the working class is income inequality, wage inequality, the access to resources and capital [emphasis added]. I mean, it’s not immigrants’ fault that there’s been $1 trillion in share buybacks since the tax bill, the Republican tax bill. So, $1 trillion. Didn’t go to invest in creating jobs and building factories and reopening things; it just went to line the pockets of wealthy shareholders and investors. You know, there was a recent article that came out that said Apple was unable to effectively really build the MacBook Pro in the United States because there was no factory in the country that could build custom screws at scale. I mean, this kind of hollowing out of America’s infrastructure and manufacturing infrastructure that Trump often talks about is certainly not the fault of immigrants. It really is the fault of the elite class, the political class; the people who decided to globalize the labor chain and to force tens of millions of workers to move across borders and within countries in order to compete over a smaller number of lower-wage jobs [emphasis added].
And so I think that [what] really [lies] at the heart of this rhetoric is absolutely crucial. Trump is on a smash and grab raid for the ultra rich. They’re repealing every single regulation. They’re pumping trillions of dollars into their pockets. And the only way they can get away with that is to throw up a massive smokescreen that no one can see through, and that’s what this immigration rhetoric is to me. It’s a smokescreen and it’s designed to have us flailing around, stabbing each other in the dark, not knowing what’s going on while they laugh all the way to the bank [emphasis added].
That, I think, probably encapsulates the economic significance of whatever President Trump said in his speech. As always: Follow the Money to the Global Corporate Oligarchy who live exceedingly well following the ancient dictum of the ultra rich: namely, “Rob the future now, because no one ever heard the Future scream, ‘Stop! Thief!'”
Continuing my brief search of various Internet venues for additional views regarding the most recent State of the Onion cable-tv show, I found this brief article by someone who admittedly fell asleep a third of the way through the ordeal: The State of the Union is a Fraud and Should Be Canceled, by Andrew J. Bacevich, Information Clearing House (February 8, 2019). Bottom line:
“Get rid of this vapid charade, perpetrated each year at the expense of the American people.”
The author, a retired US Army Colonel and current university professor, begins by saying: “Let me confess to dozing off during President Trump’s interminable State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. The offense is one that I vow never to repeat. To ensure that I keep that vow, henceforth, I’ll just skip the event altogether. In doing so, this much is for certain: I won’t be missing anything.”
Obviously. But I wonder what took professor Bacevich so long to reach this conclusion about vapid, meaningless presidential pronouncements. He began his military career in the US Army during the last stages of the disastrous American War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), about the same time that I found myself serving out the final years of my enlistment as a US Navy electrician/advisor to the now-defunct Republic of South Vietnam. Surely he must recall the horrifically dishonest and belligerent harangues of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Anyone whose credulity could survive listening to those two certifiable maniacs has a far greater tolerance for unadulterated bullshit than I do.
Back in 1967-68 when I served for a year aboard the USS Sperry, a submarine tender moored at Balast Point near San Diego, a shipmate had rented a dilapidated house boat at a nearby marina where the two of us would spend a few hours several nights during the week after knocking off ship’s work for the day. We would shed our work dungarees, change into civilian clothes, sit down for a few beers, put some tunes on the stereo phonograph, or do a little tv-viewing. On the occasions when President Johnson would come on the tube with his mournful hound-dog expression and dreadfully drawn-out delivery, moaning about how much he really hated sending “American boys” to fight and die in Vietnam (after winning election promising specifically not to do that), my friend would turn down the volume on the tv set, put a record by The Fugs on the stereo, and crank up the volume to maximum. Then, with Johnson’s lying lips flapping soundlessly on the tv-screen, the little houseboat would pulsate with the raucous refrain: “NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING!” Back in those days, we didn’t have accompanying video, but I recently found an updated version of the song, published on youtube October 24, 2008: The Fugs – Nothing. I recommend playing it as accompanying soundtrack to any televised speech by an American president, cabinet official, senior military officer, or other official purveyor of those three kinds of lies taught to first-year students of college economics: namely, lies, damned lies, and statistics.
To recapitulate, I found professor Bacevich’s brief article worth reading but I really have to wonder why it took him so many decades to realize what a couple of lowly enlisted sailors and some hippy musicians could so easily discern a half-century ago.
I usually find the people closest to the street have the quickest understanding of the powers that be.
I also try to be somewhat generous to people who get reality lately in life and try to be glad they finally got there. You know, better late than never.
As for listening to Trump? I avoid it like a disease; he is really just too toxic. However, given the MSM’s penchant for pumping their ruling elite mantra thoroughly throughout our country, I figure I will be subjected to the speech and be able to gain enough info without having to actually try to listen to it.
Personally, I have been avoiding SotU speeches thru many a recent presidency. As the story filtered down to me via the media, this speech was markedly short on concrete proposals (yet managed to drag on for 82 minutes!). The important work–of screwing us “little guys”!–goes on behind the scenes, anyway. Day in, day out, Republican or Democratic administration. How marvelous! Find a flag and wave it vigorously!! :-)