Watching Donald J Trump deliver his first State of the Union address, his voice sing-song as he read from the Prompter, his jaw jutted skyward in awkward imitation of Benito Mussolini, my poor addled brain suddenly began to play some music from the musical Evita as Che set the stage for the show:
“Oh, what a circus
Oh, what a show…
We’ve all gone crazy.”
Trump’s show before the Joint Session of Congress was spectacular, exciting, great theater.
But terrifying– beginning with his call to jingoism:
“The State of our Union is strong because our people are strong,”
“This is our new American moment – this is your time.”
“We proudly stand for the national anthem”
“My pledge is to sign a bill (on immigration) that puts America First.”
The speechwriters had written in the line “Tonight I call on all of us to set aside our differences” and Trump dutifully read it but then, as Republicans erupted in round after round of vigorous applause and Democrats sat stonily and glumly sat on their hands, Trump played hard to his “base” and thumbed his nose at the rest of the World.
He assured the “base” that he would not let traditional American values of justice deter him from fighting terrorists.
“Terrorists are not merely criminals, they are unlawful enemy combatants and when captured overseas they should be treated as the terrorists they are.”
“I just signed an order directing Secretary (of Defense) Mattis…to keep open the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay.”
And his “base” must have been thrilled by his response to the near unanimous World disagreement with his decision to move the U S Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
After noting that a huge number of nations had voted in the U N to condemn his move, Trump said he is asking Congress to see to it that from now on our foreign aid dollars only go to those who “support American interests.”
Here was Donald J Trump complaining about “chain migration,” the American system of allowing new citizens to bring in family members when his own family came to America in the same way.
Here was Donald J Trump praising American war veterans as such heroes (they are) “we love our veterans “ but when given his chance to fight for his Country in Vietnam, found enough deferments so that he didn’t have to do so.
He praised himself for “eliminating the most regulations in the first year than any administration in our Country…” not mentioning that among those regulations were many protecting the environment, the parks and monuments set aside for all Americans use and those protecting the food we eat and the water we drink.
And he praised himself for “ending the war on clean coal” apparently still not understanding that the term “clean coal” does not refer to actually “cleaning” the coal with soap or other detergent. And apparently not understanding that coal and its miners are doomed by the rapid transfer away from fossil fuels to new forms of energy.
But never mind the substance for whatever it was. This speech was designed as a show and the theatrical staging was impressive.
Beginning with Ronald Reagan, presidents have paid a nod to “heroes” invited to sit in their presidential boxes.
Reagan invited Lenny Skutnik who had jumped into the Potomac to save individuals from the crashed Air Florida flight just to honor him.
But Trump invited “heroes” as props to cloak his policies with compelling human emotion rather than factual argument.
For instance, when arguing for the restricting of traditional American policies of immigration, Trump told how two different families lost daughters who were murdered one night by immigrant M-13 gang members – The fathers and mothers were sitting in the presidential box.
“Stand up,” said Trump, clearly wanting a better television picture of weeping parents.
In another example, the parents of the American student held for months in North Korea, then released but who died a few days after returning to America, were spotlighted in the box by Trump as he promised to be tough on North Korea.
I urge anyone who missed seeing this remarkable assertion of America Uber Alles coupled with a rejection of traditional American values wrapped in a blanket of self-promotion and self praise to watch and listen to it for yourself.
If you do, perhaps you, also, will hear the music from Evita as Che sings
goodbye to the dead Eva Peron:
“Instead of government, we had a stage
Instead of ideas, a prima donna’s rage
Instead of help, we were given a crowd,
She didn’t say much, but she said it loud.”