Kinder, Gentler, Savage, Vicious Donald

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Donald Trump arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill. 

Word is, Donald Trump’s speechwriters have never met one another or Trump himself, which is why his State of the Union addresses resemble nothing so much as the proverbial blind men describing an elephant. In one room (clearly much the biggest, for his section of the speech is the longest, requiring the tallest tales), a writer pens invective against immigrants at the border. In a smaller chamber, another writer comes up with an attack on abortion, putting in the president’s mouth the words that America must always be “a culture that cherishes innocent life.” You might think that this doesn’t quite describe Trump’s policy of snatching small children away from their parents at the border, but no effort is made in assembling Trump’s SOTU to square its various points or look for its gaping pitfalls. Ms. Abortion Deplorer and Mr. Immigration Vilifier have never met, haven’t even heard that the other is at work. 

Or take the guy who wrote the line about devoting $500 million over ten years—that’s $50 million over one year—to fight childhood cancer, and the gal who wrote that the next budget will contain a one-year commitment of $700 billion to Pentagon spending. That means Trump is asking us to spend a little less than one one-hundredth of one percent—if you prefer, one ten-thousandth—on childhood cancer than we’ll spend on the Pentagon and its latest socko versions of space wars. 

So how does the childhood cancer writer make the relatively meager appropriation he’s writing up seem bigger? That’s why God invented the gallery. There, a beautiful ten-year-old girl who’s gone through cancer treatment and even raised money to fight other children’s cancers will all unknowingly serve to make the cause of childhood cancer appear more important to the president than his forthcoming budget indicates it actually is.  

Can we talk about the gallery as such? I didn’t time the various sections of last night’s speech by topic (though as threats to the nation go, those nefarious immigrant caravans took up a lot more of the president’s time than, say, China, or his BFF madman in North Korea), but I think we may have reached a SOTU tipping point. It’s quite possible that Trump spent more time saluting and talking about people in the gallery than he devoted to the rest of his speech. Indeed, most of his text, with his passing references to infrastructure and taxes (the less said about taxes, someone in the White House must have realized, the better), was perfunctory, and perfunctorily delivered. (And despite all those writers working on their separate sections, it’s also clear that the White House forgot to hire someone to work on transitions. There weren’t any.) 

On the other hand, there were a couple of passages, I must admit, that really got Trump going. One was his salute to our all-time-high oil production, the other was his assertion that whatever might befall us, we’d never become socialist. These were notable chiefly because I can only surmise that the first will persuade young climate activists to work even harder, and the second will make socialism—whose appeal has been rising in this country beyond all expectation—even more popular. Marx believed capitalism was doomed, but it may require a full-blown defense from Trump to finally bring it down.  

Though each of the many different writers wrote the different parts of the speech cloistered in his or her own sealed chamber, they clearly were all housed in just two separate buildings. The Era-of-Good-Feelings “repudiate revenge” writers were set to work across the Potomac in Virginia, where the minimum wage is lower than it is in Washington or Maryland, saving the White House needed dollars. The immigrant vilifiers, by contrast, were able to work in the White House itself. 

And one brief passage of the speech had to have been written in the president’s bedroom while Fox & Friends played on. I refer, of course, to the line declaring that the only thing that could stop our beautiful economic expansion would be “a ridiculous partisan investigation.” 

That was obviously written by Trump himself. Or Alan Dershowitz.          

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