No one with any federal authority will say it, but the real state of the union is bad and getting worse. But as articulated by President Donald J. Trump in his first State of the Union address, it was as fanciful and exaggerated as much of his administration has been during his first year in office.
Dude’s speech was overrun with the introduction of his “guests” who were used like props on a reality TV show. The Donald took credit for having led the country to a “new American moment,” and he called for “the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.”
Then came the precipitous largest single-day, point-drop in stock market history. He didn’t have anything to say about that one.
Democratic members of Congress participated in the dog-and-pony-show-atmosphere, sitting through the speech stony-faced, many wearing Kente-cloth accessories. Female congress members wore black to protest Trump policies. It was a spectacle, full of responses and reactions from every imaginable source.
As they say on Capitol Hill: “Everything has already been said. Everybody just hasn’t said it yet.” Well now, it’s all been said.
Trump went on to later attack Democratic lawmakers who did not applaud him during the address, calling them “un-American” and “treasonous.” So, do we call Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who violated every protocol norm when he shouted “you lie,” twice, during the first State of the Union by President Barack Obama, do we call him traitor?
“The state of the nation is weak,” Dr. Gerald Horne, Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, told me in an interview. “The United States faces unprecedented challenges, in terms of its present leading role as the leader of the global economy. Obviously China is in the passing lane.”
“He is a false populist,” Katrina van den Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, told “Democracy Now!” “He ran as an ethno-reactionary populist, but a populist. And last night was littered with broken promises, even as he promised more.”
Many of those promises were in the arena of foreign policy.
“Mr. Trump raised the specter of inflicting a bloody nose on North Korea,” Horne said. “Which has caused his ambassador-designate to South Korea — Victor Cha — to be withdrawn because supposedly he opposed that dangerous maneuver which would fundamentally open the gates of hell.”
Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan predicted before his election that, in office, Trump would “take America to hell on a rocket.” The guy actually entered his first State of the Union with the lowest approval rating of any president in modern U.S. history at the beginning of his second year in office.
Mr. Trump threatened to send more — what he called earlier “bad news” — to Guantánamo, which will only enflame public opinion worldwide. Mr. Trump also shook his saber at both Cuba and Venezuela.
“Mr. Trump suggested that he’s going to try to overthrow the multi-lateral accord on nuclear energy in Iran, but that will be difficult because he cannot do that bilaterally,” Horne said. “He has to get the approval of the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany.”
Trump also celebrated his massive tax overhaul.
“He has scammed the American people with a tax cut,” said van den Heuvel, “Which was essentially a handout to the very rich and the big corporations and to his own family. And last night he tried to boast that this was a tax cut for the American people.
“It is looting our future, what this tax cut does,” she said. “It fails to invest in a future, which, if the Democrats were wise, they would put out a bold, bold plan in the next few days about what they would do specifically on these issues of jobs, of infrastructure — privatized infrastructure plan — of real health care, Medicare for all, of tuition-free higher ed, and get real specific about what they are going to do for working people in this country — and working people, by the way, of all colors, because there’s too often pitting class versus identity, when, in fact, the working class is brown, black, yellow, white.”
He also promised to improve the nation’s infrastructure and to alleviate the worsening opioid drug crisis. Ha!
“The infrastructure plan: that was a bad joke,” Horne said. “At best it will mean more toll highways, and at worst, I think your readers may have to get used depositing a dollar every time they flush the toilet. That’s how you can make a sewage plant a profit center. And don’t laugh, that may be underway.
“So, the state of the union is weak,” Horne said. “It is destined to become weaker, and Mr. Trump accidentally exposed this very important reality.”