Trump’s ‘promise’ land

Herb Boyd | 3/2/2017, midnight
March madness began both in basketball and on Capitol Hill where President Donald Trump delivered his first of eight speeches ...
President Donald Trump delivers his first speech to Congress on February 28, 2017. CNN photo

March madness began both in basketball and on Capitol Hill where President Donald Trump delivered his first of eight speeches before the Joint Congress. Well, the madness we usually expect from the nation’s leader was toned down Tuesday evening and he did his best to make nice, though the venom was still apparent.

In more of a feint than a pivot, as some have described the speech, Trump stunned his opponents with his first words, referencing African-Americans and Jewish people.

“Tonight,” he began, his eyes fixed on the teleprompter, “as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains to be done. Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its ugly forms.”

From these opening salvos, the speech veered downhill and into that promissory terrain devoid of substance, details, as well as the means by which any of these goals would be achieved.

In the president’s address to Congress, particularly someone like Trump whose vitriol has defined him, you are poised to hear what is not said.

While there was no direct mention of his feud with the media, which he defined as the “enemy of the people,” we know this is but a temporary lull in his attacks. He will certainly resume his charges about “fake news” and the inability of the press to treat him fairly as soon as he can get back to his tweets. Blacks and Jews got their shout-outs in the beginning, but immigrants and Muslims got only passing nods, though in a press briefing with television anchors earlier in the day he expressed a softer rhetoric on undocumented immigrants and a possible path toward citizenship.

As expected, there was his declaration against ISIS and “the protection against radical Islamic terrorism.” Last week we learned that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the newly installed national security adviser, took exception to the term radical Islamic terrorism, feeling ISIS and other terrorists had defiled Islam and that the term was too sweeping in its condemnation. Whether this proves to be of any consequence between the president and the general and their relationship is to be seen.

Trump stayed away from any mention of Russia or climate change. Both topics are recurring themes in the news cycle and with Wilbur Ross confirmed as the Secretary of Commerce and Scott Pruitt heading the EPA, there is no reason to believe they are going to disappear. Nor was there any discussion about China.

Rather than having a former governor from Kentucky deliver the Democratic response, the Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer would have been a better choice. Here’s a sample of what he might have said from an interview on CNN. Schumer said that when Trump talks about action, “he goes to hard right. The divergence between the speech-like campaign promises and reality is miles apart. That’s why he had a tough 40 days—and he will have a rough rest of his term until his reality catches up with the speeches. He’s got big trouble.”