Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Donald Trump's Rope-a-Dope

What if you have spent weeks, even months preparing everyone for the arrival of the Antichrist, and he does not show up? By all rational accounts the demonic Donald Trump was nowhere to be found during last night’s State of the Union address.

Could it be that he had been playing rope-a-dope, colluding with his enemies in crafting the image that they wanted to see, only to wait until they had completely exhausted themselves? Then he could rip away the mask and reveal himself to be sensible and even presidential. It is certain that Trump’s detractors were taken aback by last night’s speech. They were caught off stride and did not know what to do.

They ended up looking petulant and were grasping at straws. Democratic women were dressed in white in order to proclaim their white privilege. Recently elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez opined that the speech was Steve Bannon on steroids. This tells us that the Democratic Party has managed to give its leadership to a complete fool, someone who is as radical as Keith Ellison, but who lacks the wit. If Trump’s speech was anything, it was a repudiation of the bare-knuckles Bannon approach to communication.

If you would rather not believe that Trump had mapped it all out, that his pivot was not part of a grand plan—there is no reason why it should be—it might be that Trump has learned from his rookie mistakes. Everyone believes that Trump cannot change and that he cannot take responsibility for his errors. And yet, in a talk with Fox and Friends hosts two days ago he graded himself a C or C+ for communication. That is not a good grade. It did not signal arrogance.

So, Trump stepped before the nation and looked as though he had worked on the speech, that he had worked on the delivery and that he had wanted to be conciliatory and unifying. He did not stray into irrelevant and distracting asides. He did not wing it. As commentators from Chris Wallace on Fox News to Van Jones on CNN said… Trump was presidential. God only knows whether the speech will usher in a new era or whether it was one-off.

News reports said as much. Janet Hook in the Wall Street Journal:

President Donald Trump, after reaching the White House with fiery rhetorical attacks and a combative message, pitched his agenda to voters and Congress with language that was much more presidential and traditional in tone. He also issued a call for American renewal in stark contrast to the aggressively nationalist posture he outlined at his inauguration just over a month ago.

She continued:

His speech largely avoided his signature attacks on his adversaries and the political establishment. While he once again highlighted the challenges of violent crime in some urban communities and drew attention to crimes committed by illegal immigrants, he didn’t repeat his denunciation of “American carnage” in his inaugural address.


In shifting his tone, Mr. Trump signaled he was willing to set aside campaign-style rhetoric for a less divisive style more conducive to governing—at least for the moment.

In any event, the reviews have been very good. Not from Michael Moore and not from Bill Maher—they do have to play to their malcontents—but even from sensible liberals.

As for liberals, Michael Tomasky offered this:

Trump showed tonight that he can sound like a president. That’s not nothing. It’s something he’s never done before. But can he be a president we can respect, even if we disagree? Each day tells us he can’t, and this speech doesn’t change that at all.

And the polls bear it out:

Most Americans who watched President Donald Trump's first address to Congress gave him an enthusiastic thumbs-up, a poll of speech-watchers showed.

The CNN/ORC survey found 57 percent of viewers had a very positive reaction to the speech – and about 7-in-10 said the speech made them feel more optimistic about the direction of the country.

Everyone is buzzing about the ovation given to Carryn Owens, the wife of Navy Seal Ryan Owens. As you recall, Owens was the sole casualty of a raid into Yemen. His father had made news by refusing to meet with Donald Trump and by denouncing the raid for having produced no serious intelligence. Reports from the Pentagon had suggested as much. Last night, Trump declared that Defense Secretary Mattis had told him otherwise. But the ovation for a tearful and prayerful Carryn Owens was a powerful emotional moment, one that even Democrats could not deny. And one that erased Owens's father's objections.

It’s one thing to get the words right. It’s quite another to get the emotion right.

Van Jones said this:

Donald Trump "became president of the United States" when he recognized the widow of slain Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, CNN commentator Van Jones said Tuesday.

"He became president of the United States in that moment," Jones told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. "Period.

“There are a lot of people who have a lot of reason to be frustrated with him, fearful of him, mad at him.

"But that was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period."

And Jones added:

"He did something extraordinary," Jones told Cooper, "and for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment."

As can be expected, Trump was criticized in the media for not offering specifics and for not explain how his proposals would turn into legislation. One might say that Trump does not really know enough to offer too many specifics. After all, just a few days ago he admitted that health care was far more complex than he had imagined.

And yet, if he had not given the speech that he had given, his presidency would have been damaged, perhaps beyond repair. By finding a way to appear presidential, by rallying the American people to a cause that was less partisan than usual, he threw a lifeline to Congressional Republicans. He made it possible for them to support him. He tied their political futures to him. If he had not done so he would have been done.

For now, Democratic politicians are stunned, roughly as George Foreman was in the Rumble in the Jungle.

Roger Simon put it well:

The Democrats -- the silly ladies dressed in white and all the others -- bet the house that Trump would make a fool of himself and Donald cut the legs out from under them. And when you bet the house and lose, you go home bankrupt.  And without a home to go to.

He cut the Democrats' legs out in the worst way, exposing them for the empty party they are with nothing going for them but identity politics. Yet, it is becoming increasingly obvious that if anyone does anything for the inner cities, it will be Trump the builder, not the Democrats who had a chance for fifty or sixty years and did nothing.  Bye, bye, identity politics.   No wonder Maxine Waters is so apoplectic.

[Addendum: For further press commentary, see this Daily Caller article.]


Ares Olympus said...

I'll grant he sounded more presidential than he has in the past. Having a speech and the ability to read it faithfully is a good sign.

Transcript here.

I see Trump didn't promise Mexico will pay for the wall:
--> "We will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime."

And Trump doesn't seem to expect any tax increases to pay for his wall, in fact the reverse:
"My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class."

And engineering companies like I work for should be cheering for more infrastructure spending, but how is this increase going to be paid for? By more debt of course, and largely the same sort of debt the Democrats under Obama would have been pushing for, although perhaps there will also include infrastructure auctions where we'll privatize more roads and bridges into tolls? That wouldn't be like Eisenhower at least:

---> "Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program --- the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. ... To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States -- financed through both public and private capital --- creating millions of new jobs."

And on healthcare, Trump's two big points are what ACA already does, although obviously insufficiently on tax credits or subsidies for the middle class.

---> "Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans: First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges. Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts --- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government."

And he rejects the unpopular but necessary requirement that everyone be insured. But I suppose the key here is that Trump will allow "lower quality" health care plans that are more affordable premiums, but more useless for what people actually need so death panels.

---> "Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do."

He ends with his "biggest heart" request to dream big, and its "mostly harmless" but also "mostly empty". This is what you used to tell college graduates before they graduated with more debt that the average house cost a couple decades ago.

"I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and -- Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future."

Also we're on the cusp of a $20 trillion dollar national debt. I'm sure it'll be exciting for some to see the cuts that will be coming including jobs, as long as it ain't mine, right?

How much chaos can we carry? And we don't know how much is already baked into the pie.

Dennis said...

If someone gave you a dollar to get a clue you would spend it on someone else's used chewing gum.

Sam L. said...

"Could it be that he had been playing rope-a-dope, colluding with his enemies in crafting the image that they wanted to see, only to wait until they had completely exhausted themselves? "

As Bugs Bunny often said, "Coooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooold be!"

trigger warning said...

SS: "For now, Democratic politicians are stunned..."

The most telling moment, IMO, was when Trump said:

"My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America."

Democrats couldn't clap for that. Tells me everything I need to know about their constituency when I enter the voting booth.

And Nancy Pelosi was kind of sad. She apparently thought she was invited to a Mardi Gras costume party hosted by President Bush, and dressed as a suffragette. Poor old thing. But I see she's still favoring Wilma Flintstone designer beads. They say long term memory is last to go. I hope she's not a patient at the VA and has good care. Be a shame if she wandered off when nobody was watching.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Are Olympus @March 1, 2017 at 6:37 AM:

I eagerly await your answer to the incisive question posed by Dennis in his comment of 7:07 AM.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

There are a lot of dopes in our nation's capital.

Ares Olympus said...

Dennis said... Ares, If someone gave you a dollar to get a clue you would spend it on someone else's used chewing gum.

Dennis, I'm confused. Are you mixing me up with your used-gum salesman president? He already bought it, and you bought him, so that makes you the buyer.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @March 2, 2017 at 12:21 AM:

Another one of your hidden talents, Ares: humor. You should go do open mic night this Monday at a Twin Cities comedy club. I'm sure you'll build as big an audience as you had with your blog.

Why aren't you doing your blog anymore? It needs you, and your legion of readers is despondent at the lack of attention you've been paying them. Make yourself great again.

The punchline: Trump is your president, too, Ares...

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said... The punchline: Trump is your president, too, Ares...

Sure, it's a great experiment, just one I would never choose. I'll continue doing my duty no matter who is the president, paying my taxes, which apparently will soon be lower, so that's a bonus.

But more seriously since I consider Trump the president of chaos, and that the bigger world will soon be swallowed up by the expanding fog of fake news, it suggests all we can really do is try to create as much positive order close to home, and face our own chaos demons and they seem all too happy to keep the focus on the big bad clown.

I'm sure more liberal will see this too pretty soon.

And overall it does seem affluent city folks in general have less to lose under a President Trump. That's where all the money already is, and where all Trump's magical reduced taxes will reside. If only we could slow down the creation of new debt, I'd feel positively safe.

I suppose I should worry what Trump supporters will do when it finally becomes apparent that he scammed them good, but its not like no one was warned. Everyone knew Trump was a scoundrel from day 1, no need for secret tapes to prove it. He was the scoundrel who was supposed to take down the other scoundrels, while of course that never works. Things will fail like we've not seen in 80 years, but it won't be the rich who will pay, or not those who know how to avoid debt.