And the mainstream media swooned, because Donald Trump uttered all his depraved fantasies in such a normal, reasonable tone of voice. Trump is finally acting "presidential." He abandoned the dark rhetoric of his inauguration, and magically morphed into the heir of that sunny sadist himself, Ronald Reagan. He even managed an echo of Barack Obama's own "adult in the room" glib, bipartisan doubletalk.
Among the group-think headlines:
Trump Offers Up a More Hopeful Vision; In Optimistic Address, Asks Congress to End Trivial Fights (New York Times)Now, about that mealy-mouthed condemnation. There is a strong case to be made that Donald Trump himself has unleashed the spate of attacks on religious and ethnic groups as well as the virulent increase of hate speech all across the country and the entire world.
How Trump's Disciplined Speech Came Together (Politico)
Trump Address: President Lays Out Bold Vision With Softer Tone (NBC News)
President Trump Strikes Softer Tone In Outlining Ambitious Vision (CNN)
Trump Seeks To Move Forward After Well-Received Speech (USA Today.)
President Began His Address To Congress By Condemning Hate Crimes (Time)
But to hear Trump bloviate to Congress on Tuesday night, he himself has had nothing to do with Making America Hate Again. And it took him only one paragraph to gloss right over it before immediately pivoting to a nationalistic mythology which bears an unsettling resemblance to 1930s-style nationalistic rhetoric.
Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.That introduction appears to have been inspired, if not written, by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, members of the Jewish faith and recently registered Democrats who are said to have a soothing effect on Trump and at least some veto power on his cruelty. But the next part -- obviously the original introduction -- has neo-fascist adviser's Steve Bannon's fingerprints all over it:
Trump goes on to bemoan the drugs "pouring over our borders" and the trillions of dollars wasted on foreign aid and nation-building. He forgot all about the opioids being manufactured and marketed within our own borders by such companies as Purdue Pharma and dispensed by the ubiquitous pill mills you can see wherever the middle class has been carved out.Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice, in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present. That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world.I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart. A new chapter ...(APPLAUSE)... of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit. Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.(APPLAUSE)All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free. In nine years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding, 250 years since the day we declared our independence. It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.
And then he describes his squeaker of an electoral victory in outlandishly cataclysmic, revolutionary terms. According to TrumpBannon, citizens of America apparently shook the world as one unified blob by overwhelmingly annointing Donald Trump as our true leader:
If you really want to get into the true spirit of things, try listening to this optional soundtrack alongside Trump's actual address. It certainly enhanced my own experience.Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds, families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus, as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.Finally, the chorus became an earthquake, and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first, because only then can we truly make America great again.
On the other hand, if you prefer the fake conciliatory nicey-nice spirit being foisted upon you by the mainstream media, just skip the Wagnerian music and click on the headlines above.
But I digress. While I don't have the stamina to parse and annotate Trump's whole hour-plus of mutterings, here are a few of the really scary nasty bits:
The stock market has gained almost $3 trillion in value since the election on November 8, a record. We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of fantastic — and it is a fantastic - new, F-35 jet fighter, and we will be saving billions more on contracts all across our government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential federal workers.It's happy days for the oligarchy, and the average worker in the gig economy should also rejoice that Trump is saving her some of her lousy take-home pay by negotiating down the price of a horrendous piece of military hardware to kill more Others. And since Big Business is good, and the Public Good is bad, let's only hire those federal workers whose job description is blowing up stuff and killing a whole bunch of people.
We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every government agency.Because breathing clean air and drinking clean water and making sure our food and medicines are safe stands in the way of profits for Trump and his cronies. If they don't kill you over there with their jet fighters, they'll kill you over here with their greed.
We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.Tens of thousands is such a phony outlandish number that sounds almost as good as a thousand-year reich, doesn't it? And it's so good and patriotic if we can destroy the environment with tar sands oil flowing through only good, clean, pure Amerikan-made steel.
(applause)Thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs, and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.
And with the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a counsel with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.This nugget has Business Everywoman Ivanka Trump's fingerprints all over it. Forget equal pay for equal work. Ivanka is the consummate neoliberal: branding, entrepreneurship and networking take precedence over wages, hours and workplace protections in the new gig economy.
To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a task force on reducing violent crime. I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread all across our nation.This sounds ominously all of a piece with Trump's recent "gaffe" announcing that ICE is now part of the military. The surveillance state will be granted new powers to crack down on "criminal cartels" (Trumpian dog whistle for people who exist while brown or black.) Trump's Department of Homeland Security is also establishing an assistance bureau specifically limited to helping victims of crimes committed by undocumented refugees and migrants. This program, known as VOICE, further demonizes Latinos and Muslims as being somehow more guilty than white criminal suspects lucky enough and politically correct enough to have been born within our borders. It insinuates that being mugged by a foreign-born person is more painful and deserving of extra help than being mugged by a white person. This is institutionalized racism, pure and simple.
As we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out, as I speak, and as I promised throughout the campaign. To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?Ask not about white people committing crimes. Blame everything on non-white people. Above all, blame none of your economic problems on members of the Neoliberal Thought Collective, whose policies instigated the worst wealth inequality in recent history, and in turn spawned reactionary nationalistic demagogues like Donald Trump.
According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offense since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home, from Boston to San Bernardino, to the Pentagon, and yes, even the World Trade Center. We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany, and all over the world. It is not compassion but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.Trump just lied again, in that newly reasonable and much-admired softer tone of voice. As NPR notes in its own annotated transcript of the speech, "in the 16 years since Sept. 11, 94 people have been killed in the U.S. by what Trump would describe as "radical Islamic terrorism," according to a policy analyst with the International Security Program at New America, a think tank that tracks terrorist attacks in the U.S. Each of those deaths is a tragedy, but more than six times as many Americans have been killed in that time by lightning strikes. Of the 12 terrorists behind those attacks, seven were from the United States and none came from the countries targeted in Trump's original travel ban. By focusing on preventing foreign infiltration, Trump may be neglecting the challenge of domestic radicalization."
Furthermore,"although Trump has cited the danger of attacks by people traveling from the countries affected by his travel restrictions, all the lethal attacks by radicalized Muslims in the U.S. since 2001 have been carried out by U.S. citizens or people who were in the country lawfully."
And now we come to another dog-whistle threat to the nation's most vulnerable citizens, an announcement that visibly excited Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan, seated just to the rear of the Trump of Doom:
We should give our state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.Translation: Trump supports Ryan's initiative of taking Medicaid funding and control out of the federal government, and transforming the program into block grants to the states. This ploy has a built-in expiration date for assistance, limits benefits, and seems designed to ensure that the poorest and sickest among us themselves expire sooner rather than later.
Like all modern presidents addressing a joint session of Congress, Donald Trump finally paraded out the requisite gallery of victims, human shields for his draconian antisocial programs and war policies designed to make us feel guilty and sympathetic enough to be cowed into compliance with our own destruction.
The star of the human prop show in this year's edition was the widow of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, who died in a botched raid in Yemen last month. Without mentioning the women and children who were also killed in an impoverished country with which we're not even at war, Trump brayed that it was "a highly successful raid," in the vein of the operation was a success, just so sad that the patient died.
Gazing up at Mrs Owens with all the rehearsed reverence he could conjure up on a moment's notice, Trump smirked:
I just spoke to our great Gen. Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you. Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he is very happy because I think he just broke a record.Trump, whose own need for constant adulation is a full-blown addiction, projected his pathology upon the dead Navy man and his surviving wife. The surviving wife obliged by gazing up at the ceiling, eyes overflowing and hands clasped together in prayer. She even enjoyed a few curtain calls to sustained and thunderous applause from the Congress which unblinkingly funds all the wars, declared or not, proxified or direct.
Basking in the glory of the drama, Trump was certainly very happy. His opinion of himself as national lord and savior was validated Tuesday night. His performance as president is getting rounds of applause and glowing reviews from the same media establishment that he so recently castigated as the enemy of the American people.
The ratings so important to Trump broke records. It was the speech and the face that launched three million Tweets.
He is the consummate salesman whose acting skills would qualify him for an Oscar if Hollywood ever changed its mind and decided to like him after all. Never say never.
As a testament to his never-ending neediness and quest for attention, Trump sent out a morning-after email survey which asks his fans to rate his performance on a scale of 1 to 5. (No perfect 10 available, so I guess Trump is figuring out that even a special president like him has to be realistic and adult during these fraught times.)