Editorial: ‘Presidential Trump’ takes the stage

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Year one of the Donald Trump administration has been a lot of things, but “refreshingly boring” has not been one of them. That is, until Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address.

At 80 minutes, the speech was almost movie-length, and as a feature film it would fall into the rather bland category of “drama.” That’s a change from the past year, which has been a dizzying mix of genres: reality show, dark comedy, thriller, porn flick, fantasy, mockumentary and horror. The nation has its fingers crossed that he doesn’t add “war” and “disaster” to the list.

Trump’s first State of the Union Address, delivered to a prime-time audience, was not unlike those of previous presidents. There was self congratulation, optimism, jingoism, standing ovations, shout-outs to everyday heroes, eye-rolling among members of the opposition party and proffered dreams of great undertakings that will never come to fruition.

There was a little bit of Classic Donald, too. Two of his favorite obsessions – condemning those who protest racism by kneeling for the national anthem and kinda-sorta suggesting that all darker-skinned immigrants are dangerous criminals – made appearances, as did a few well-worn lies and exaggerations (for the umpteenth time, Mr. President, the visa lottery is not random).

But we have criticized Trump many, many times for his inability to be anything resembling presidential, so we have to give him credit for being more C-SPAN than Bravo on Tuesday night. That said, we don’t expect it to last – and neither should you.

Donald Trump is who he is, and he most certainly is not the warm and fuzzy champion of unity and bipartisanship he painted himself to be (see @realDonaldTrump), and that’s not what his crucial base wants anyway. Barring evidence that the ghost of Jacob Marley paid Trump a visit on Monday night, we feel certain that he is still just as childish, nativistic and narcissistic as he has always been. What he did on Tuesday night was adequately read words written by others and preen at each half-hearted ovation, little more.

Trump did, however, compile an impressive guest list of admirable Americans, but unfortunately in his hands they were little more than props. The boy who planted flags on veterans’ graves, the couple that adopted a baby born to a heroin-addicted mother, the soldier who risked his own life to save his comrade – each possess characteristics that Trump utterly lacks, including selflessness, altruism, compassion and bravery. It wouldn’t be so bad if Trump recognized that fact, but we know that he sees himself as the most selfless, altruistic and bravest of them all. Just ask him.

In the end, Trump’s optimism did prove to be a little contagious. We are now hopeful that this president has a real chance of not derailing the economic recovery that began nine years ago. We believe there’s a possibility that Trump will not tear apart every last one of the nation’s immigrant families of non-European descent. We dare to dream that America will still have a somewhat respectable place on the world stage three years from now. We believe it’s possible that the nation’s nuclear arsenal will remain unlaunched for now. We even hold out a shred of hope that the environmental destruction of the planet won’t be irreversibly hastened by this administration.

Now that we think about it, perhaps Trump’s State of the Union Address was just the feel-good story we needed.