Op-ed: The state of President Trump

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Monday, February 5, 2018 11:42am
  • Opinion

President Trump’s first State of the Union address set a new standard. For himself. If he lives up to that standard in future speeches, he may go far in changing his image from a blustering, ad-libbing “entertainer,” to someone who looks and sounds, shall I say it, more “presidential.”

The speech was well-crafted, delivered in a mostly low-key manner and timed perfectly to link themes with flesh-and-blood guests in the balcony. It didn’t hurt that first lady Melania Trump looked stunning in an all-white suit and caused jaws to drop as she descended the balcony stairs to her seat.

The president appealed to Democrats to find “common ground” on important issues, but the TV cameras showed members on the Democratic side of the aisle with facial expressions that looked like they were in after-school detention. Never has there been a more morose image presented to the American public.

Mr. Trump had better be careful about reaching out to Democrats. When George H.W. Bush extended his hand to then-Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas), Wright and his fellow Democrats effectively cut it off by proposing tax increases and forcing Bush into a compromised 1990 budget agreement. It cost Mr. “read my lips” the 1992 election.

When it comes to the Democrats, too many Republicans have the notion expressed in the film “Chicago” where Queen Latifah sings, “When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you.” Better to win the argument and defeat the other side’s ideas than to play nice and have your pocket picked.

In what could be the most memorable line of the evening, President Trump countered the label used by the left to describe the children of immigrants whose parents broke the law to come to America. He said, “Americans are dreamers, too.”

Some of his strongest supporters might be irked that the president offered a “path to citizenship” for the children of undocumented immigrants. He put their number at 1.8 million. Conditions include a good education, ability to work and good moral character. After 12 years, he said, they can apply for citizenship. Democrats are likely to oppose that. They want their votes now.

At a small gathering of pundits at the White House on Monday, the president said he picked the 1.8 million figure believing Democrats would reject it, and that he would return to the original 700,000 if they did. He also would end chain migration, allowing only spouses and the children of those already here to enter the country. And he would end the visa lottery, which he said “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.” The promise of a “wall” was mentioned again.

The president promised to keep Guantanamo open. He promised future foreign aid would go “only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.” And he promised “maximum pressure” on North Korea because of its nuclear program and pledged support for Iranians, who want to take their country back from clerics.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) delivered the Democratic response from Fall River, Massachusetts. Kennedy had a small audience that tried to replicate some of the applause and standing ovations the president received. His youth made him appear as though he were delivering a college valedictorian speech.

Kennedy dragged out the usual victims (Democrats are the party of victims, not overcomers), including evil corporations, racism, denial of civil rights, white supremacists marching in the streets, “anxious, angry and afraid” Americans, transgender individuals and the failure to give “workers” their “fair share.” Wait until money from the tax cuts shows up in their paychecks and then ask “workers” how they feel.

The president was optimistic and forward-looking, while Kennedy was mostly negative and looked backward. Advantage Trump. If he maintains the discipline he demonstrated Monday, Trump’s approval ratings and his chances of getting some of his agenda passed in Congress may quickly improve.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

Charlie Franz.
Point of View: Election integrity is not anti-democratic

The federalization of elections by the Freedom to Vote Act infringes on the constitutional right of states to regulate elections.

Snow blows off Mt. Roberts high above the Thane avalanche chute, where an avalanche blew across the road during a major snowstorm. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
An Alaska winter of discontent

It’s been a hard winter throughout the state.

A Uncruise Adventures cruise ship, with a fleet of kayaks in the water behind it, in the Tongass National Forest. Uncruise, a boutique local cruise ship operator, has been vocal about the importance of the intact Tongass National Forest, or SeaBank, to its business. (Photo by Ben Hamilton/courtesy Salmon State)
Alaska Voices: The dividends paid by Southeast Alaska’s ‘Seabank’ are the state’s untold secrets

Southeast Alaska’s natural capital produces economic outputs from the seafood and visitor products industries worth several billion dollars a year

Opinion: The pulse of fealty

Let’s be honest. Trump’s demands go beyond his one stated condition.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Alaska Voices: Permanent fund integrity in peril?

Alaskans need to be kept informed of what the trustees are doing with their money.

A cast member holds up a cue card in Soldotna High School’s production of "Annie" on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Is theater dead?

“It will not be an easy task, performing CPR on this theater, but imagine the joy that you could bring to the students.”

Bjørn Olson (Photo provided)
Point of View: Homer Drawdown moves forward with climate-change solutions

Two years ago, a small group of concerned citizens decided to use this book as a guiding document

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21 in Kenai, Alaska.
Voices of the Peninsula: Fight for democracy

When the Insurrection occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, it was a direct attack on our democratic rule of law.

Most Read