Trump’s State of the Union, another kick in the head

February 7, 2019 11:39 am

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence looking on, delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Doug Mills | Pool/Getty Images

To paraphrase a certain red-faced, golden-haired president with a gift for Orwellian rhetoric who delivered a State of the Union address Tuesday night, what you saw and what he said was not what was happening.

Okay, what you saw actually did happen. It’s the part about what he said that’s highly dubious.

After two years and what The Washington Post has tabulated as 8,500 “false or misleading claims” (some people call them lies) since he took office, Trump has lost all credibility, at least with anyone who still cares about credibility.

That’s why, when Trump declared, “The state of our union is strong!”, I thought to myself, “He may not be the best source on that.”

What is the state of our union? Two-thirds of the country think we’re headed in the wrong direction. But things could be a lot worse. Look at Venezuela, where the most incompetent president in that nation’s history (remind you of anyone?) has managed to drive what was once one of the wealthiest economies in the hemisphere straight into the ground.

The United States isn’t Venezuela, by a longshot. So far, our economy has managed to weather Trumponomics pretty well. But the lesson of Venezuela to anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of history should be that nothing, not even the greatest of democracies, lasts forever.

Back to the State of the Union. The President claimed ahead of his speech that he would be preaching unity, presumably because he thinks we should all love and respect each other and build up America together, while not bullying each other, and preferably while holding hands, but not with a transsexual member of the military or a brown immigrant.

In other words, the rumored death of Trump’s hate speech was greatly exaggerated.

Ultimately, the president stuck to the same divisive policy agenda he’s been hawking since he hit the campaign trail. His speechwriters tried to sugarcoat Trump’s bad medicine with touching stories about victims of violence and wartime heroism, but the president’s dripping insincerity gave it all a perversely contrived tinge.

Okay, I’m being too cynical. Trump really seemed to mean it when he congratulated the 10-year-girl who had faced cancer and yet managed to muster the strength and selfless tenacity to raise $40,000 to help other cancer victims. Trump meant it when he said hi to her.

Beyond that, I didn’t bite. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might say, I’ve been kicked in the head by that mule one too many times.

As one pundit put it last night, Trump spent a lot of time spotlighting the achievements of everyday people who had “risen to the occasion” to do extraordinary things, while he’s failed miserably to rise to the historic grandeur of his post. Instead, time and again he’s proven how low he’s willing to go no matter how much it denigrates the presidency.

Last night was no exception. Like clockwork, Trump pulled out all the usual racist, right-wing tropes on immigration. “As we speak” once again, dangerous “caravans” – not just one, but “several” of them – are on the cusp of invading the United States.

Total bullshit. The caravans have become his go-to boogeyman. But the imagery offered him the perfect segue to talk about the 3,000 additional active-duty troops he’s sending to the U.S.-Mexico border to block the “onslaught” (his word) of brown invaders (my words) who he claims commit countless murders and rapes and all form of other “bad, bad” stuff because they’re “bad, bad” people.

The truth: There are some bad people crossing our border, but the vast and overwhelming majority are good people who want nothing more than to work hard and better their lives and the lives of their families.

On the other hand, there are a lot of bad people who happen to be U.S. citizens, who sometimes kill nearly 60 people at a Las Vegas country music concert or 50 people in a gay bar in Florida or 26 people at a church in Texas or 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. But the president isn’t sending troops to stop the country’s onslaught of mass murders. Why? Because addressing that issue doesn’t get him the votes he wants, but fabricating stories about an imaginary army of violent brown-folk storming the U.S.-Mexico border does.

Oh, by the way, Trump “sheepishly” pleaded last night, stop with the investigations already!

In what may have been the most heavy-handed piece of, well, writing I’ve heard in a State of the Union, Trump actually uttered these words: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigations.”

It’s as if Trump was possessed by a white, inarticulate version of Johnny Cochran. The first sign of lunacy is when you say things that only a lunatic would say but you don’t realize you’re the lunatic.

Did he expect Speaker Pelosi to stand up and yell, “Hey, everyone! Can we all just agree that the nearly 20 investigations President Trump and his friends and family are facing (the latest one, involving his inauguration, having been announced just this week) is why we can’t seem to get the budget passed. It’s not Trump’s stupid wall that’s the problem. It’s those doggone investigations. So, whattaya say, let’s pass a resolution demanding Congress and Special Counsel Mueller get off his back before he shuts down the government again or launches a crazy war or something. Sound good?! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Pelosi wouldn’t say that. That would be crazy. But not as crazy as what you saw and he said at the State of the Union, which was a whole other kind of crazy unto its own.

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James E. Garcia
James E. Garcia

James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona, which covers Latino news statewide, and the weekly newsletter Vanguardia America. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught writing, ethnic studies, theater and Latino politics at ASU. He is the producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co. and the author of more than 30 plays.