Heading into this State of the Union address, I strongly believed this was President Trump's opportunity to somehow clear the air and
change slow the growing perspective he's been claiming as "fake news". For a guy whose strength in politics has been refuting claims, attacking others, tweeting without control, and giving informal and fiery speeches in the form of rallies, having a blank canvas to unite, to control the perspective, and to give his mission is indeed foreign.
Last night was his chance. And in my opinion, it was the "must win" in the political spectrum, especially considering the midterm election season we are upon.
Again, im not a "must win" kind of person, but his message tonight is just that in the political spectrum. Has to deliver. Has to.— Dome Pondering (@DomePondering) January 30, 2018
Overall, I thought the President did well. I'm being fair and just. And as a former college debater and an absolute junkie for rhetoric and speeches, he did alright.
Trump's speech embodied a much different tone than his first SOTU, which again, was fiery, divisive, and bordered on the fear mongering that made him popular amongst a core base. Now, a touch out of his wheelhouse, the President tempered his tone, attempted to control his cadence (albeit it was still awkward), and tempo'ed the pace of the speech for effectiveness. He tried. It wasn't great. But it delivered.
Regardless of his ability, he got his messages across, strengthened his stances on the issues he's been honing in on as of late, and delivered a heavy dosage of pathos throughout the night in his attempt to unify and to humanize his points. The rhetoric and writing of the speech was fantastic.
Unfortunately, again, the President isn't a great orator, and it was clear this style of speech, and this kind of communicative intentions aren't in his toolkit. There were some rough moments from a speech spectrum, and of course, there is also what this means politically as well.
But again, overall, it was good enough.
Here are a few other thoughts from tonight's State of the Union address:
- Finishing up on the oration skills opinion, for me, coming off the skill and charisma of President Obama's run, these Trump speeches have been rough and incredibly awkward. Honestly, of the four Presidents I can say I've been politically aware of in my lifetime, Trump is the worst of them all.
By the way, if I was ranking them, it would be: 1. Obama 2. Clinton 3. Bush 4. Trump
Bush was sneaky good. Had such a weird and unique cadence to his delivery that was engaging. But that's for another post...
A strong example of Trump's struggles was his closing, which he attempted by carrying - and forcing - a slower cadence for dramatic effect, but simply did not deliver correctly. The flub caused a really awkward moment in him missing the landing of a strong statement regarding the Capital dome and segueing into a strong America. So. Incredibly. Bad.
And it's the little moments like that in a speech that can take it to another gear and really get an audience fired up and behind your message. It was really, a stumbling and bumbling with ill-pauses and a strange cadence as we crashed into the final sentence. Really rough stuff.
But again, these speeches aren't his strong suit.
- It was obvious the President and his team went hard on the pathos tonight. That may be an understatement. It was pathos overload on a lot of topics. SO MUCH PATHOS! There literally was a story for every point of contention the President wanted to get over - job creation, immigration, Military, and yes, a few for the North Korean conflict. But, you know what? It was effective, but in a few ways, I thought it was also manipulative (see: immigration).
The speech dove immediately into pathos which for a nerd like me, tipped his hand on where the rhetoric for the night would go. I just wonder if this was his way of unifying the nation - through emotion - on many already sensitive topics. Attempting to use deep-feeling to displace already strong feelings sounds great, but isn't a strong long-term strategy, and I'm not sure if unity and unifying the nation came across after it was all said and done.
- The MAGA line still drives me crazy. It really does. Some day I'll get over it.
- The speech hit hard on the economy. And Trump touched on many topics that I honestly felt were applaudable moments - especially when talking about the returning of jobs to America. It's a strong suit in his first year and it's one that should be commended.
However, this latest trend we've seen from republicans of touting statistics showing job improvement for blacks and hispanics is laughable. Look, the majority of blacks and hispanics in America aren't fond of the GOP for many reasons especially when much of the improvement was under President Obama. These latest, and constant, numbers come off as something for the GOP that screams, "look we like blacks and hispanics". But it comes across even worst when black and hispanic unemployment is still twice as much as most Americans. It's disingenuous in making it seem like we should be happy with mediocrity. A historical context often displaced on blacks.
You know what was funny though - the reactions of the congressional black caucus who didn't even budge, but rather looked unimpressed when Trump attempted to pander to them. Too funny. But at the same time, it was an eerie "womp, womp" following the President's line, and of course, his awkward pause for affirmation didn't help the cause.
The black unemployment rate fell from 16.5% to 7.8% from January 2011 –January 2017. Now it’s 6.8%. Thank President Obama – not @realDonaldTrump. #ThanksObama #AYearofTrump— Black Caucus (@OfficialCBC) January 30, 2018
- Somehow, I don't believe the people of Puerto Rico care much about Trump's inclusion of well wishes to them post-natural disaster.
- Look, I'll admit, the "Americans are Dreamers too" line was a damn strong one. And it's one that carries some heavy blow, because he's right. He's so right. Even this guy who stands for the dreamers can acknowledge that. I'll say it again, the President had a point, and I think it's one both parties need to iron out moving forward.
However, as mentioned briefly earlier, the slippery slope imagery of painting all immigrants as MS-13 members, or close to it, was disgraceful. Again, it seems we only seem to broadly stroke immigrants of color with these negative stigmas. I guess it matters which shithole you come from.
- Prison reform?! I literally raised my eyebrows when he mentioned this. I'm on board and I'll take it! I honestly found this to be great, and is a bipartisan project that hopefully can spark some other issues as well. Again, much props on this to the President if he's going to act on it.
- I'm also on board with the vocational school reform. As a practitioner in higher education, this is essential and necessary for our young people. And one that will help create jobs and boost local economies.
Speaking of education, I was thoroughly disappointed to not hear anything else on the topic. Considering that most educators and education practitioners aren't Betsy DeVos fans, I'm sure he left that out of the speech on purpose.
PS - I still find it humorous a man who stripped and robbed so many students of their savings for education with a phony University is trying to offer reform. Sorry, had to say it. One of the reasons and strikes I had against Trump when he announced his candidacy to run for office. I care about education, and it's one of my important political topics.
Whenever I have discussed this with most Trump-enthusiasts, they typically give some mumbling half-assed response about Trump University. Ahhhhhh, well, you know, he's tried a ton of entrepreneurships. Hmmm, right.
- It's so amazing how bothered white America is with the kneeling during the national anthem protests. Because: 1. IT is being sold as being directly tied to supporting our country and/or disrespecting the military, 2. It's this again perceived notion of what "being a Patriot" entails, and there is precise way in which that looks, 3. In doing research, you'll see it's once again the same rhetoric we saw throughout the 1950's, 60's, and even 70's when blacks protested in ways that made white America uncomfortable - it's Un-American, dammnit!; and finally, 4. Complete refusal to acknowledge the point of it all - inequality and injustice.
But you know, whatevs.
- Speaking of white America, "chain immigration" is not a real thing. Like, for real. Let's stop. Stop the xenophobia on steroids. Take it from someone with parents who came here and tried to bring others along, it ain't that easy, bruh.
It is amazing to me when descendants of European countries - the Irish, the Italians, and other Western Euro countries - try to tell others about merit based immigration and other "pathways" as if they endured some lawful rite-to-passage to get here.
Talk about ballsy privilege.
- While I am fired up about immigration, I did enjoy the President's four pillar plan. Again, not in love with it, but I found it to be a step in the right direction, and one of the few times he's given the public something to work off of in terms of political positioning and overall direction. I'm all for a pathway to citizenship and ending the visa lottery. Spare me the wall. Ugh.
- Melania looked so disinterested. Just an observation.
- I was a big fan of this line, "Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation." A tremendous line that really strengthens his stance on ISIS and a few other foreign issues.
- I thought it was interesting that the President never addressed the issue of White Supremacy (a driving force in the divide in this country). This surely may pop up down the road and continue to feed what many believe - that he does not care about people of color. It's a missed opportunity...of course, if he does indeed care. Honestly, I don't think he does...or, I get the impression from his previous actions that he doesn't. Theres been too much evidence on that.
Also, I thought the speech had a glaring omission of the recent school shootings and gun violence across the country. I'm sure it undermines his attempt to tout a strong first year, but the issue is clearly at hand. Especially when he barely acknowledged the Las Vegas shooting as well.
And finally, some other quick random post-SOTU thoughts:
- The Democratic response was a good one as well. The speech carried much more energy than that of Trump's, and of course, centralized an inclusion theme that was strong.
- I'm also begging - like, BEGGING! - the Dems to have someone speak on behalf of the party who isn't a Clinton or a Kennedy. My goodness...
- Kudos to CNN for an amazing post-show that carried various views and perspectives. The back-and-forth between Rick Santorum and Van Jones carried so many thoughtful elements and dialogues, including some they agreed on (!) - that made for good TV, that included some harmony following the speech.
I'm glad that was provided - I shifted over to FOX News for a different outlook and got Hannity and Trump Jr. tripping over their words to unconditionally praise the President - yeah, not biased at all.
Again, through it all, President Trump did a nice job tonight. It's probably the best speech he's made in my opinion since entering the White House.