Before commenting on the speech, it may be useful to briefly evaluate media reaction. Besides the speech, itself, I scanned the pre and post-speech coverage on the four major cable news outlets, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and OAN.
Although OAN is clearly a conservative station in terms of the personality programs, they lived up to their reputation for dishing out straightforward news coverage. They said what the President had to say without a lot of editorializing. OAN leaves the spinning to their opinion shows.
FOX and CNN were point and counterpoint in that FOX leaned right, emphasizing the more positive points while covering some criticism. CNN leaned left with greater negative analysis but offered up some panelists representing legitimate balance.
MSNBC continued their tradition of being a disgrace to journalism and news coverage. The station has once again proved itself to be the propaganda outlet for the radical left. They are wholly into the never Trump resistance movement. Their panelists and guests were unanimous in their hyperbolic, agonizingly emotional and largely inaccurate over-the-edge analysis. In an attempt at faux window-dressing balance, they relied on Steve Schmidt in the evening and Elise Jordan in the morning – two false-flag Republicans who spew virulent and dishonest attacks on Trump and Republicans. Their purchased opinions often exceed the most hardcore MSNBC leftist personalities. The only Republican legislator in the post-speech segment was dependable Trump critic Senator Jeff Flake – and he was not even asked his reaction to the speech but was pumped with leading questions by discredited news anchor Brian Williams designed to evoke anti-Trump statements.
So, what about the speech?
Political speeches can be judged on three levels – content, style and impact. Overall, I give Trump a B-minus.
For content, he gets an A-minus. Trump fell short of the coveted A-plus by both omission and presentation of some points. In terms of omission, I would like to have heard some explanation of why he is holding back on Russian sanctions. His inaction and lack of explanation allow those folks on MSNBC to speculate wildly.
He could have covered some of his more popular Executive Orders, such as prohibiting legislators from taking up lobbying jobs after leaving public office. He did not touch upon the administration’s support for school choice – a concept that is very popular in the impoverished segregated communities in Democrat-run cities. In that regard, Trump could have made a much stronger case for addressing the institutional racial problems in those same cities.
Trump should have clarified his concept of THE WALL in this forum as he has privately. It is a barrier, using different protective means at different points – not a 1900-mile solid stone structure. In referring only to a wall, Trump allows his adversaries to use their mythical edifice as a straw man argument.
In terms of style, I give the President a C-minus. For a speech that was billed to be a bring Democrats into a common ground of bipartisanship, it was a bit too … well … policy partisan. This is not to suggest that I graded him down for taking a hard line on the issues. That is a plus in my class. I just think he could have used language that did not have Democrats reaching for their battle armor. It is that same old personality problem.
Because of his stern pugnacious personality, Trump does not have the most compelling speaking style. Despite his self-view, he is not the greatest salesman for himself or his policies. His style also tends to undercut his all-important credibility – an Achilles Heel that Democrats are skilled at targeting.
In terms of impact, Trump gets an incomplete. We will see that develop over the next few weeks. Does he get a bump up in public opinion, and how long will it last? Somewhere between the right and left spins, there will come a public consensus. At this time, we can only conjecture. So, I will.
Though the left believes, or at least claims, that they represent most Americans, the only hard evidence – elections – suggests otherwise. I say this with the longer post-2010 history of elections that have almost put the left-leaning Democratic Party on the edge of national irrelevancy. The reality of the filibuster and the false image of national relevancy produced by a supportive media have created a paper tiger to supplant a once powerful political organization. It will take the 2018 election to determine if Democrats are on the road to recovery. It is my personal judgment that the Trump speech will resonate fairly well despite the best efforts of the far left to spin public opinion against Trump specifically and Republicans/conservatives generally.
In many ways, grading the President’s speech will again reveal the partisan dichotomy. The never Trump folks will be damning his personality while supporters of the President will be ignoring his personality – paraphrasing James Carville’s famous admonition with “It’s the policies, stupid.”
Trump made a pretty good description of the impact of his most important legislative achievement – tax reform. The reality is putting the lie to all that Democrat fear-mongering, class warfare rhetoric that preceded passage. The Democrats’ duo claims that all the economic good news is because of Obama policies and all the financial benefits for the people are – as Nancy Pelosi described – “crumbs.” I think most people understand that the peddle-car economic policies of Obama have been replaced by Trump’s economic Maserati.
I believe the specific policy points in the speech are all highly favored by most Americans. Making it as difficult as possible for people to enter our country illegally should be a unifying goal. It is so popular that Democrats are forced to pretend that they believe in that, too. However, their record proves otherwise. Limiting the immigration chain to immediate family seems sensible. Unless you are into left wing identity politics, the idea of lottery visas is just plain silly. Trump says they do not get vetted and the Democrats say they do. In fact, there is vetting, but it is not very intense or effective.
In his speech, Trump reminded America of something that has fallen off the front pages and the breaking news reports. It was less than two years ago when the media was filled with ubiquitous reports of the most horrendous acts of depraved human violence carried out by ISIS and other terrorist groups. In ending the limited “terms of engagement” imposed by Obama, Trump gave the generals the authority to do what they do well – wage successful warfare. Those graphic executions that appeared in photographs and on videos have all but disappeared from the news. Instead, those hopelessly fanatical terrorists are now fighting for – and losing — their own lives. The nightmare of a Jihadist Caliphate is all but gone. This is not the kind of good news for Trump that the elitist media likes to report.
President Reagan broke tradition when he used his State of the Union speech to single out the achievement of an average American. Since then, honoring average Americans achieving or suffering in an exceptional way has been a State of the Union speech mainstay. To my recollection, Trump used that opportunity more times and in more locations of the speech than any predecessor. The effectiveness of these human-interest stories was evident in the fact that they provided the few occasions in which the posterior planted Democrats were forced (reluctantly) to their feet.
Among the most emotional moments was when Trump introduced the parents of two young ladies murdered by illegal alien members of the violent MS-13 gang. In stunning response, both CNN and MSNBC seized on that moment to claim that Trump was equating all illegal aliens – nay, all immigrants – with the murderous MS-13 members. This was a nasty spin that was totally outrageous and obviously untrue.
During his speech, Trump called for a path to citizenship for more than double the number of Dreamers proposed by Obama and the Democrats. This is most certainly not that action of a man who considers all illegal aliens to be criminals. Trump was rightfully criticizing an open border system that does allow more than a few bad people into this country – and that they commit horrendous crimes against innocent citizens, visitors and even other illegal aliens.
I suppose a B-minus is not bad for a guy who the elitist press predetermined was not even fit to take the course. You will find my thoughts on the Democrats response to the State of the Union speech in a separate commentary today.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at email@example.com.