Part of Donald Trump’s presidency didn’t seem real to me. Not that I don’t proffer the president the honor he’s due; I just hadn’t yet fully wrapped my brain around the idea that a dude who likes himself so much that he once put his own face on bottled water had jumped off the game-show circuit and smacked the political establishment upside the head.
And then, he delivered Tuesday night’s address to a joint session of Congress. Consider me disabused of any further haziness over who’s running the show in the White House. It wasn’t lost on me that Trump’s lifetime of showmanship would shine in a captive space like the House chamber; and he didn’t disappoint. Not only did the president manage to avoid wandering off into the tangents which often derail his train of thought, he delivered an organized speech in a brilliantly well-paced tone. His phrasing often left Democrats struggling visibly with the choice of applauding things everyone can agree on, thereby risking the wrath of their party führers, or sitting on their hands, thereby letting everyone see them refusing to acknowledge — among other things — a Navy SEAL’s widow. (I see you, Reps. Ellison (D-MN) and Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL)). And I’m awarding him bonus points for using his applause lines to stare down the Democrats like a kindergarten schoolmarm.
Lest anyone accuse me of squeeing over his performance like abortionists at a Kermit Gosnell autograph session, I am far from the only person who noticed that Trump pitched a game for the ages. CNN analyst Van Jones called the magnificent tribute to fallen Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens and his wife Carryn “…one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics;” adding “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.” For those of you scoring at home, Jones is the same guy who was considered too far out in left field to serve in the Obama administration. Complimenting Trump must have stung worse than watching him torpedo Hillary last fall.
Even CNN’s own poll, taken after the address, showed 7 in 10 Americans believe Trump’s policies will move the country in a positive direction. The other three people are wandering the woods of southeastern New York, hoping for a chance hiking encounter with the ghost of Hillary Clinton.
About 48 million people tuned in to watch him lay down the law. Contrast that with the 32 million people who watched the Academy Awards. Hollywood players like to dismiss Trump as an actor. Perhaps they should be taking lessons. At least Trump didn’t get confused about who won the election.
There were some holes in the president’s cape, however, and those shouldn’t be ignored just because his speech rocked the house like a hair metal band in the mid-80s. I have no idea what his plan to bring the federal government’s considerable might to bear on childcare will entail, but I do know that the same guys responsible for the Department of Education probably shouldn’t be high on anyone’s list for date night babysitters.
I also raised an eyebrow at his long narrative about the drug epidemic in this country. The war on drugs has been an unmitigated disaster, but that certainly hasn’t been for lack of funding. U.S. drug enforcement agencies operate at a level which rivals some pretty decent middle-weight countries’ armed forces, and yet, our nation is still mired in a “war” which makes Vietnam look like a Saturday afternoon street fight.
It was only an address, and a lot of Trump’s words on issues from immigration to Obamacare to the IRS sounded nifty, but words aren’t actions. The old boss didn’t know the difference. Let’s hope the new boss does.
— Ben Crystal