Before last night’s Presidential Address to Congress, a lot of pundits were saying that Donald Trump had to appear “presidential” and make an appeal to unity and bipartisanship. He did far more than that. Afterward, many liberal pundits grudgingly admitted that he seized the mantle of President with one of the best speeches since Ronald Reagan. Even uber-liberal Van Jones said that last night, Trump “became President” (not to brag, but some of knew that Trump had been President since January 20th.)
From his opening that acknowledged Black History Month and the need to counter racism and anti-Semitism to his closing that urged Americans to come together to embrace the “renewal of the American Spirit” and “believe once more in America,” Trump struck a combination of patriotism, toughness, resolve, confidence and bipartisanship that seemed to make him grow more in statute with each passing minute. Meanwhile, Democrats appeared to shrink to Lilliputian size as they petulantly sat on their hands and glowered even when Trump touted issues they supposedly support (or at least want voters to think they support), like creating American jobs and helping women entrepreneurs. They couldn’t even be moved to applaud bipartisanship. Hey, guys, you do realize that means giving you more say in legislation than you’ve actually earned at the ballot box, right?
But the absolute nadir of the Democrats’ selfish partisanship came when the crowd gave an emotional two-minute standing ovation to the crying widow of fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Keith Ellison, who did at least stand for her intro, were caught on camera during the later, historic ovation, glued to their seats, apparently either unmoved or terrified at what their radical leftist base would say if they actually stood up twice to honor a fallen American hero.
In one bit of political theater, some Democrats brought illegal immigrants as guests. Trump countered with his own guests (a tradition started by Ronald Reagan), who included some family members of murdered victims of the illegal immigrants he’s actually targeting: criminal aliens with multiple deportations who never should have been here in the first place. When he announced the creation of a new office to help Americans victimized by illegal alien criminals (“VOICE” or Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement), Democrats audibly hissed and groaned. Bad move. It must have left millions of law-abiding citizens watching at home to wonder if the Democrats even know who they’re supposed to be representing.
Another Trump quote that elicited silence and eyeball daggers from the donkey side of the aisle was when he said, "My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America." If they disagree with that, then what the heck do they think the President’s job is? Professional golfer? (That would, at least, be an understandable mistake.) They certainly don’t seem to think his job is to protect Americans from radical Islamic terrorism, given the fact that they reacted to that phrase the way a four-year-old reacts to spinach.
Focus groups of viewers found that Republicans gave the speech an A+, even though Trump included some proposals conservatives oppose, such as paid family leave. Independents gave it an A. Democrats gave it a C, but that’s astounding, since they likely started off all ready to give it an F-minus. Maybe after hearing from their leaders for months that Donald Trump was insane, unhinged, deranged and the second coming of Hitler, they finally started to realize they’d been snowed (they should’ve realized that from his gracious acceptance speech on Election Night, or his Inaugural Address, but cognitive dissonance takes time to shake off.) A poll by – yes, CNN! – found that around 70 percent of viewers thought Trump was moving the country in the right direction and they felt more optimistic. Only 21% had a negative reaction, while 57% had a “very positive” reaction. I’ll bet some folks at CNN wish that were “fake news.”
You could tell that Democrats knew their “sit on their rumps and look constipated” strategy had backfired badly when, after Trump wrapped up with a patriotic appeal to our better angels, they didn’t even give him time to leave the chamber before they were out of their seats and bolting for the exits with ashen faces, like a busload of grandparents scurrying off a roller coaster than they’d thought was going to be a merry-go-round.
As for the Democratic response from former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, the best I can say is that he delivered it well, but it seemed to come from a time long past. With his folksy demeanor and country store setting, he embodied a strain of blue collar, rural, Blue Dog Democrats who have long been chased out of the Party by the far-left urban “progressives.” These days, attempts by Democrats to evoke that traditional American image are about as authentic as the robot Abe Lincoln at Disneyland.
The Democratic response was also obviously written and possibly recorded before hearing Trump’s speech, since it accused him of opposing things, such as bipartisanship, that we’d just heard him embrace. It was especially out-of-sync with the times to hear Beshear laud how Obamacare had provided health insurance to 500,000 Kentuckians (his claim that “every American deserved health care they could afford and rely on” had me wondering, “Then why are you defending Obamacare?”) Knowing that Beshear would be giving the response, Trump had used Kentucky to bolster the case against Obamacare. He quoted current Gov. Matt Bevin (a Republican who defied the polls in a surprise win) as saying that Obamacare is unsustainable and collapsing, and said one-third of the state’s counties had only one insurer still offering policies on the exchanges.
Perhaps the most telling (and for Democrats, sobering if not terrifying) aspect of their response was that to find any Democrat with any appeal to working class voters at all, they had to go out of Washington entirely and turn to a former Governor who hadn’t even been in office since 2015. That is one shallow pool of political talent to draw from.
One final note: thanks to Andrew Malcolm for doing the math that illustrated one more yuuuuuge difference between Trump’s speech last night and any Obama speech: Trump referred to the American people 136 times, and to himself only 35 times.
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