Liberty Expose: A Moderate Speech To The Union

President Donald Trump gave his first official State of the Union address last Tuesday. The speech was one that shifted between moderate Republican policies and those of a moderate Democrat. Trump promised an increase of infrastructure spending, which is the personification of moderation in American politics. He also promised government reforms, economic improvements and deregulation, as well as energy reform.

On immigration, the president stated that he planned to offer a pathway to citizenship for more DACA recipients then the Obama administration, all while assuring increased border protection. Trump was also able to successfully use emotional appeals, such as his praising of North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho and the family of Otto Warmbier. In all, the speech did not reflect the personality of the man presenting it – which makes this State of the Union a victory for President Trump.

Traditional opponents of Trump were put in the unfamiliar situation of being in a no-win scenario. Journalistic outlets critical of the 45th president, such as the Washington Post – which in a not too subtle way promoted the motto “democracy dies in the darkness,” in the wake of the Trump candidacy and presidency – published a front-page story headlining the bi-partisan nature of the speech. Media figures who would not relinquish criticism went on puerile rants, and political opponents who did not want to be perceived as agreeing with the president looked petty.  

The speech marks the first long, exhausting year of the Trump presidency, one constantly saturated with breaking news stories. Take away social media, journalism, political commentary and other forms of media, and the first year of the Trump presidency was a relatively unexciting one. That is, one of a traditional president.

The administration nominated a traditional strict-constructionist judge to the Supreme Court, whom Mitch McConnell pushed through the Senate. Efforts at repealing the Affordable Care Act failed. The administration began the process of rolling back small bureaucratic regulations that congest economic activity. At the end of the year, the GOP approved a tax bill that is in line with decades of traditional GOP tax policy.

Domestically, there was nothing to merit the apocalyptic treatment many of these policies received from critics, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Ca.) stating in so-many words that the new GOP tax bill would “harm Tiny Tim.”

On the international front, the administration promoted a strong foreign policy in a manner not expected by observers of Trump’s often isolationist rhetoric. The administration took a stronger stance against the crimes against humanity being committed by the Assad regime in Syria by attacking a Syrian base following that government’s use of chemical weapons on it's own people. Though the president referred to NATO as “obsolete” on the campaign trail and criticized America’s Asian allies, Trump has not pulled support from American security commitments as previously feared.

It was also feared that Trump would be softer on Putin and Russia, but the administration has continually signed sanctions against Russia, and will begin providing lethal aid to the Ukrainian government – acting as the Obama administration refused to. In Asia, the administration has increased pressure on the Kim regime.

At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley has defied the often morally repulsive international organization by defending Israel and acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising aspect in the Trump administration is that, for all of Trump’s relentless criticism of free trade, his administration has yet to roll back the achievements made by trade agreements, as he was expected to do. Combined, the domestic and foreign policies of the Trump administration do not divert that far from Trump’s presidential predecessors.

Yet, add in the social media, journalism and commentary, and the Trump administration appears to be preempting the apocalypse. It may be partially true that as Trump is a Republican president, the GOP is criticized more ruthlessly then Democrats. But the reaction from the media stems primarily from Trump’s uncontrollable rhetoric on social media. As soon as Trump logs onto Twitter, what success he is having is erased by much of the absurdity he often spews.

The State of the Union address provided a glimpse of what the Trump presidency could be. Trump, who seems to care of nothing but victory over his opponents, has been handed the key to defeating his opponents. By staying on task and acting like a behaved member of society, Trump forced his opponents in the media and politics to either acknowledged that he is not an unstable and is capable of unifying actions, or to criticize, but look foolish by doing so.

All the president has to do is to not be uncontrollable – which is questionable. But if anything, this administration is Shakespearean. Success and prosperity is hampered by the flawed and fallen nature of man. If Trump continues to go on Twitter campaigns, then the media and political criticism of the president will have more credibility. The attacks will only increase and the political ramifications will hamper whatever legislative priorities the president has planned. However, If Trump manages to stick to saying whatever he is told to say, and rely on his mostly impressive cabinet officials to do his work for him, the Trump administration might turn out to be a success.