Smoke, Mirrors, And The State Of The Union Address [Opinion]

Lofty in its promises, hollow in its substance.

President Trump claps during the State of the Union Address.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Lofty in its promises, hollow in its substance.

Last evening, President Trump delivered his State of the Union Address, with media outlets like CNN quickly publishing its transcript. To be certain, this year saw the continuation of the trend in which an inherently substantive presidential address to the nation, one in which the governing administration’s policy priorities for the coming year are to be broadcast, has devolved into a veritable partisan pep rally complete with awkward standing ovations offered at the conclusion of virtually every sentence.

Distractions in delivery aside, the address was fairly tame for a man in firm possession of a notorious penchant for improvisation. However, it is worth noting that at its core, Trump’s speech amounted to little more than an hour-and-a-half of political back-patting. Without question, he is due some measure of credit for the health of the economy, but one couldn’t help but view the totality of his address as something akin to an off-putting self-congratulatory spectacle like the Grammys or Oscars, albeit of a political stripe and void of any redeeming entertainment value.

In the final analysis, the president’s address did little to bridge an ever-widening divide within American society, and it ultimately failed to deliver hope to a populace in desperate need of optimism. Perhaps even more distressing, it promoted lofty legislative ambitions that are all but doomed by the administration’s chronic dysfunction to never enter the Promised Land of fruition. To that end, I am curious as to how the president intends to keep his bevy of promises.

Republicans deliver a standing ovation.
  Win McNamee / Getty Images

How does he plan to effectively combat the opioid crisis while simultaneously gutting the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s budget, as POLITICO reported. I’d be tickled to know how he’s going to rebuild the military or our crumbling infrastructure when his tax reform bill has already guaranteed a federal budget deficit that will climb well beyond $1 trillion. I’d like to know how, merely in the short-term, he figures that the average American will be able to keep their tax savings when the repeal of the individual mandate is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to increase non-group health insurance premiums by 10 percent annually.

I’d like to know how the president plans to earnestly pursue prison reform—giving former inmates “a second chance” as he put it, while he launches a crusade which aims to ramp-up the life-shattering prosecution of people for non-violent drug offenses, which includes users of legal marijuana, as Time reported. I’d like to know how he plans to rub-out gangs like MS-13—entities which prey on immigrant communities, while strong-arming local law enforcement agencies in the hopes that they’ll serve as de facto agents of ICE, an action that numerous police chiefs have argued will inevitably lead to a loss of police efficacy, as The Guardian reported.

President Trump delivers his first State of the Union Address.
  Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

I’d really like to know how someone can herald America’s shared values and its iconic constitutional system, all while tirelessly denigrating the free press and excoriating those who exercise their right to protest. I’m curious as to how we’re all to join arms as “one American family,” when our nation’s leader sets a tone of intolerance by reflexively hurling insults at those who dissent, and effectively endorsing those who deal in unmitigated hate.

On the world stage, Trump has claimed to be “restoring our strength and standing abroad.” Surely that must have been said in jest. All this administration has done within the international arena is: embolden hostile enemy states such as Russia, provide ample fodder for the propaganda of extremists, draw us closer to a nuclear confrontation with North Korea, alienate and berate our closest allies, forfeit American economic dominance in the Pacific to China, and withdraw the United States from its long-held post at the helm of global leadership.

To be sure, 2017 was a year marked by turmoil and decline, and if last night’s hollow clamoring is any indication, 2018 will be no different.