“[Trump] became President of the United States in that moment, period.”
Those were Van Jones’ words last night on CNN, when describing the portion of President Trump’s address where he honored fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and his widow, who was present in the chamber.
In one sense, Jones is absolutely right. For many of us, Donald Trump is not our President -- but last night’s address to Congress portrayed a measured, maybe even humbler Trump. But was his performance real or acting? And will it last until his next tweet?
Such descriptions of the former reality TV personality are relative. We have been conditioned to expect self-aggrandizing, incoherent jabbering from the President. His press conference, less than two weeks ago, was unintelligible and adversarial in an extreme extent.
Or consider: He opened his speech denouncing anti-Semitism, yet a few hours before, he met with Pennsylvania's attorney general and blamed the Jews and others — “sometimes it’s the reverse” — for the nationwide anti-Semitic threats and desecration.
Last night, Trump appeared a changed man. But tone and cadence are not substance.
There was a concerted attempt to paint a dark, scary picture of the current state of affairs in this country, one that is untrue and uninformed. The President exclaimed: “94 million people are out of the labor force,” without specifying that many millions of those people are either retired, children, students, parents or disabled.
Further, the Obama administration did spectacularly well in job creation and lowering the unemployment rate. President Obama presided over continuous positive job growth from early 2010 through the end of his presidency. Likewise, the unemployment rate dropped dramatically from over 10% to a low of 4.7%.
Our country was, and is, in good economic shape.
“The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century,” said the President. While Politifact deems this statement “basically correct,” important context is missing. The murder rate from 1993 to 2014 declined by 42% across the country.
Just yesterday, the President signed H.J. Resolution 40, which nullifies a rule that prevented Americans who receive Social Security benefits and have serious mental illness from purchasing a firearm. The chasm between his speech and his actions is stark and alarming.
“My administration wants to work with members in both parties … to promote clean air and clear water,” declared the President. His actions again, however, contradict his policies.
On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order which calls on the EPA to review the Clean Water Act passed in the early 1970s, which gave the Federal government authority to protect the country’s major waterways from pollution. The order puts economic growth and deregulation ahead of the safety of our water.
President Trump decried the horrid international situation he inherited from the previous administration. The facts: When President Barack Obama took office, he inherited wars on two fronts and a devastated economy. In 2009, there were 200,000 American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, now there are less than 14,000.
While, the President only used the word “media” once and didn’t utter the term “press,” his administration’s attacks on the press have violated basic tenets of freedom and democracy.In the end, much of what the President read last night was an attempt to merge acceptable conservatism with deeply nationalistic and xenophobic rhetoric, a strategy that may have pleased Independents, but left die-hard Trump supporters wanting.
“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,” said President Trump. “A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation."
Does he believe what he says? And if so, what are his concrete plans to unify a deeply divided Washington?