Trump’s speech last night is getting pretty good reviews. That is primarily because he didn’t sound like the Trump we witnessed during his last press conference or on twitter. As some are reporting, he took a “softer” tone. But that is a perfect example of how far we’ve normalized this president and lowered the bar of expectations for him.
In deconstructing the speech, I saw three parts. In the beginning, Trump finally acknowledged the threats targeting Jewish community centers, vandalism at cemeteries and the shooting in Kansas last week. This opening felt a bit disjointed and was likely a more recent add-on in response to some of the criticism Trump has gotten for remaining silent on these issues. There was no point in the rest of the speech where addressing this would have fit in to the flow of what he was saying, so his speech-writers simply tacked it on to the beginning.
The second part was something that we’ve heard before – a recitation of what Trump has accomplished in his first 38 days. His introduction to this portion is what stood out to me.
It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.
He referred to “the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.” In one sense he’s right. Because Congress hasn’t been able to pass any real legislation, the only accomplishments come from what the president has done. But it was reminiscent of that time during his speech to the Republican Convention when he said, “I’m the only one who can fix it.”
The third part of the speech laid out what Trump wants to accomplish going forward. What struck me was how small-minded his vision is for this country. I suppose that if you think that immigration, trade deficits, corporate taxes, Obamacare and a hallowed out military are the biggest challenges we face, you will like what the president had to say. But other than a throw-away line about clean air and water, the threat posed by climate change wasn’t mentioned and Trump didn’t say anything about income inequality. Those are actually the two challenges we face that require big thinking and a bold vision.
At the end of the speech Trump said this:
The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.
That was belied by the fact that the entire speech was dedicated to “small thinking” – especially coming from the man who just recently engaged in a days-long trivial fight over how many people attended his inauguration.
One can only wish that this president actually believed his own words.
From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears, inspired by the future, not bound by failures of the past, and guided by a vision, not blinded by our doubts.
The issues Trump chose to focus on are all either motivated by fear or greed. That represents a very small vision for this country’s future.