About Last Night: Trump Brings out the Personal Polish but Little Policy Substance in Address to Joint Session

As Republican Strategist Ana Navarro tweeted last night, “You can disagree w/ him on policy, but this is the most Presidential Donald Trump has ever sounded …”


We happen to agree with Ms Navarro—who happens to be one of Trump’s fiercest critics from the right—on her assessment of Trump’s performance. On the sole measure of coming across “presidential”, Trump may have actually given one of the best speeches, in terms of form and poetry, in that chamber. Period. The hands down biggest moment of the night came when he address Caryn Owens, widow of Navy Chief William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed during what some have said was a botched military raid in Yemen ordered by Trump. Left wing political analyst Van Jones, during a panel discussion after the Joint Session address, called it, “the moment Trump became president.”

However, Owens’ father, Bill Owens, has refused to meet with Trump and has called for an investigation into the raid. So, in spite of the illustriousness and inarguable appropriateness of his tribute to Ryan Owens service, his lack of acknowledgement of Bill Owens’ pain and displeasure did come across a little cold, for lack of a better term.

But form and posture notwithstanding and in light of his history divisive rhetoric, one does have to wonder was last night’s speech just that, a speech? And really, we are glad that the president did nothing to disgrace that sacred chamber such as bringing up unsubstantiated voter fraud allegations, talking about his “huge” electoral win or demonizing our intelligence agencies and system of free press.

As far as the actual policy substance of the speech, there really wasn’t much there. Indeed he expressed in respectable detail what he wanted to do as president, but he didn’t delve much, if at all, into how he planned to bring those things about. Here’s a few of the policy points where we believe lacked substance:

His vision for healthcare in America actually sounded quite appealing, lowering costs of medicine, giving people the freedom to choose their healthcare provider and being able to do so across state lines. However, there wasn’t a single solitary mention of how he would keep healthcare in tact for the 20 million+ Americans who are currently insured under Obamacare. So those fears still remain. And the overall sense in political circles is that he couldn’t go much into how to repeal Obamacare because Republicans simply don’t have a plan just yet.

Trump promised “big” cuts to the corporate tax rate as well as tax relief to middle America but didn’t give so much as a glimpse as to how it would be paid for. A $1 trillion infrastructure program (which former President Barack Obama tried to wrangle from the right for a great deal of his presidency) with nary clue as to its funding. 

Um … so this, as CNN White House Chief Correspondent John King said during a panel discussion after the speech, was the equivalent of Trump pulling a pin out of the proverbial grenade. Before his Joint Session speech, Trump called for a compromise on immigration reform quietly upending the right wing political establishment on Capitol Hill. But in the speech, he avoided the subject altogether, giving the nation no sense of direction on the matter.

So in all actuality, there was really no substance in terms of solutions; as far as how to get from “here” to “there” he put no meat on the policy bone whatsoever. Essentially, what Trump achieved last night was the much needed re-vamping of his political image, can’t take that away from the man. But to that point we have to ask ourselves this: what kind of world are we in when we feel a sense of relief and compelled to congratulatory sentiment because the leader of the free world finally stopped conducting himself like a petulant child on the world stage? Trump definitely raised his personal bar but in terms of being a president, his demeanor was simply what one should expect. And being all giddy about it is the equivalent of throwing a party for a grown ass man who’s finally decided to stop shitting the bed. Nevertheless, it is a turn in the right direction for the 45th President and we can only hope he will continue his posture going forward.

Think Passionately. Disrupt Strategically.
-A. Lawrence Haskins

United States Congress: (202) 225-3121

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