Donald Trump managed to get through his State of the Union (delivered late thanks to his spat with Speaker Pelosi and the longest government shutdown in modern history) without going too far off the rails and without succumbing to any acute fits of dry mouth.
So much “winning.”
Jokes aside, he came across as generally relaxed and while there was plenty to criticize, it could have gone much – much – worse. Simply put, the bar was set so low on Tuesday that even Trump managed to clear it.
He succeeded in eliciting bipartisan cheers at various intervals, most notably when he lauded the rising participation of women in government.
He parroted his “economic miracle” narrative and suggested that the only thing standing in the way of the US economy reclaiming lost “greatness” are the myriad investigations into everything with his name attached to it. That got the biggest eye-roll of the night from Pelosi.
She also mocked him with an extremely aggressive hand clap when he tried to pretend “compromise” is a word that’s in his vocabulary. Ocasio-Cortez looked like she was on the verge of losing it.
Speaking of Ocasio-Cortez, Trump took aim at socialism, a response to growing calls for higher taxes on the wealthy and other initiatives that are gathering steam thanks in no small part to the fact that Democrats are now playing catch up to AOC’s rising star. Bernie was not amused.
There was nice moment when Trump recognized 81-year-old Judah Samet, a special guest who survived the Holocaust and the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
Of course Trump’s words on that will ring hollow to critics, who blame his reluctance to disavow white nationalism for the rise of hate crimes in America.
That said, Trump has engendered goodwill in the Jewish community for his hardline stance on Tehran. He lambasted the Iranian regime on Tuesday evening, as expected.
Some in the crowd audibly groaned when he claimed the US would be at war with North Korea were it not for him. To his credit, he was quick to add an emphatic “in my opinion” disclaimer. He then talked up a second summit with Kim on February 27-28 in Vietnam.
He also played the late-term abortion card to cheers from Republicans. Amusingly, the cameras found their way to Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
There was the obligatory wall pitch, albeit a slightly toned-down version that found Trump (again) expounding on the relative merits of a “see-through, steel barrier.”
Although the address was, as mentioned above, generally devoid of blood and gore, Trump did squeeze in the “youman traffickers” spiel. The crowd was clearly uncomfortable.
There was no shortage of eye-rolling and loud groaning when he brought up the caravans.
All of the clips above are presented in no particular order and together capture most of the “high” points (and that depends on your definition of the word “high”).
Trump wrapped things up with some silly pretensions to profundity.
Again, this could have gone far worse. The border pitch was predictable, as was the allusion to the multiple probes into his administration. He rambled – a lot – and he came across as characteristically disingenuous at various intervals.
That said, he genuinely seemed to be having fun at times and relative to the shrill rhetoric emanating from “Twitter Trump” over the past week, this was an exercise in restraint.
And I suppose that speaks volumes about the true “state” of our “union” – we’re now relieved when the President manages to get through a speech without completely embarrassing himself and the country.