The Almost State of the Union Address

President Trump’s address to Congress last night was a dull affair. That is because he was trying to sound Presidential and so gave his standard stump speech without the insults and so came across as a dullard, the speech without any rousing rhetoric or programmatic weight. The talking heads that afterwards opined on the speech caught its gist quickly. Trump had drawn back from the offer of legalization to undocumented immigrants that he had hinted at earlier in the day and had pinched some of Paul Ryan’s talking points about what the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare would look like, but was hardly committed to that. Nor had Trump specified how to pay for an infrastructure program when the key issue there is whether to fund it through what would be very low interest bonds, which the Democrats would support, or through tax breaks to financiers, which the Democrats would not support. Trump could not bring himself to avoid telling lies, as when he said that the money from the European countries to pay for their own defense is just rolling in, because such money would not be payments to the United States but increases in their own defense budgets. Maybe Trump, as is his wont, was just speaking loosely, and so was not so much lying as misunderstanding the issue. Commentators mistake him by thinking there is much more there than there is. Chuck Schumer says Trump says one thing, his Populist message, and delivers another, which is a right wing program, but that is to mistake him as having a message at all rather than just a set of slogans that he endlessly repeats, those tied together only by Trump’s own meanness, not any ideological cogency. That’s all there is, folks. Stop expecting more.