And, the state of the union is ……divided. In my opinion, there is one inescapable fact that applies whether you are a liberal, a moderate or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, a Trump supporter or a Trump hater, white, black or Hispanic, young or old, male or female, or rich or poor. Two years into the Trump presidency, this country is DIVIDED, as never before in my lifetime.
Who is to blame? Dems? GOP? Obama? Trump? The media? All of the above? The answer is simple; it depends on one’s political point of view. Watching the president’s SOTU speech Tuesday night and the various rebuttals and political commentators on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, how could one think otherwise?
The Constitution requires the President to inform Congress on the “state of the union” annually. The time of the year is not specified, but traditionally, Presidents have given the address in January or February. This year, the acrimony and the divisiveness over border security and the resulting government shut-down led to the SOTU being delayed. This was not the first time a SOTU was postponed. In 1986 president Reagan postponed the SOTU for one week due to the explosion of the Space Shuttle “Challenger.”
George Washington gave the initial one, in person, in 1790, but that is not a requirement. In fact, during the 19th century most of them were actually delivered to Congress in handwritten form. Apparently, they were not viewed as that significant.
With the advent of radio, however, Presidents began to see an opportunity to disseminate their policies directly to the people. Hence, they were broadcast on the radio and, later, telecast on TV. Down through the years, most of them have been rather mundane, however, a few of the notable announcements were:
1. President Monroe announced the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.
2. FDR described the famous “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear) in 1941.
3. LBJ outlined his War on Poverty in 1964.
In my opinion, as is usually the case, the evaluation of this year’s SOTU depends on one’s political preferences. Trump supporters will mostly view it as a positive, unifying speech; his detractors will view it as divisive, self-serving, and disingenuous. I, being a Trump supporter, lean toward the former.
Some general observations:
1. I liked the show of unity of most of the women wearing white. (I’ll have to ask my wife if it was “winter white” or “regular white.”)
2. The audience’s decorum was polite and professional. Not everybody applauded many of Mr. Trump’s points, but that is normal. At least no one booed or walked out that I am aware of. However, it was a little distracting to see Pelosi sitting directly behind the president periodically shuffling papers.
3. Of course, Mr. Trump summarized and defended his policies and accomplishments, such as job growth, low unemployment (particularly among women and minorities), what he called the “unprecedented booming economy,” support for the military, and decimation of ISIS.
4. The two biggest controversial comments were regarding the “lawlessness” of the southern border (I liked his chiding many of the people who criticize his border wall policy while they live behind “walls, gates, and guards,” although those with a different view might consider it to be a low blow.), and late term/partial birth abortions. The latter could be a devastating issue for Dems, prospectively.
5. Without a doubt, the biggest highlights came when Mr. Trump introduced the three D-Day survivors, the Dachau survivor, the military veteran and survivor of the shooting in Pittsburgh, and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin. What were the odds that one of the D-Day survivors would also have been one of the Dachau liberators? Also, the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to the Pittsburgh survivor was a really nice gesture.
As I said, one’s opinion of the SOTU is in the eye of the beholder. One may disagree with the substance, but at least Mr. Trump delivered it in a calm, rational, presidential manner, not at all like his normal “stump” speech.
The rebuttal was delivered by Sheri Abrams, who had lost a close race for governor of Georgia. She blamed Mr. Trump for the government shutdown and was generally critical of all things Trump. Dems loved the speech. One commentator on CNN called it the “best rebuttal ever.” Trump supporters, not so much.
Media opinions followed along party lines. CNN commentator, Van Jones, was particularly acerbic, denigrating the speech as “psychologically incoherent.” Remind me where he got his medical degree. Interestingly, Chuck Schumer criticized the speech even before it was given. How prescient. Maybe I should hire him as my new financial advisor.
CNN’s instant poll disclosed that 76% of respondents approved of the SOTU speech. CBS’s poll disclosed 72% approved of the president’s immigration policy, including the wall. I’m not sure what that augurs for the long run as a Rasmussen poll disclosed his approval rating was only 48%, roughly where it’s been.
One final note: Hopefully, independents and moderates who don’t normally get unbiased news from a biased media watched it and will be edified.
As I write this, a conference committee is meeting in an attempt to reach a compromise regarding border security issues. Let’s hope it is successful.