February 5, 2019

Seeking Unity in the State of the Union

News has it that the president is seeking to give us a message of unity in tonight's SOTU, which will be coming your way at 9PM eastern time.

He's tried giving us that message before - think Charlottesville, for example - with limited success. Usually that's because he's not able to restrain himself - and his handlers are not able to restrain him - from tweeting nastiness, lies, or self-defeating misinformation within hours of giving a speech. He's hampered by that whole, "I'm talking to you, not to myself" trap that ensnares so many people in public life, but maybe tonight will be different.

For example, we're told in this report recapping an appearance by Kellyanne Conway on Fox and Friends, that the president will focus not only on unity, but on an "end to retribution and  resistance politics"- but Conway was not optimistic that his "rivals.. will respond well." And, she said,
It's a very uplifting address to celebrate milestones of American greatness, including those that have anniversaries coming up in 2019... When he is calling for unity and he is talking about actual portraits of Americans who have achieved greatness on behalf of all of us, including our brave men and women in uniform... (if there is) anybody sitting there with their arms folded, looking like they're sucking lemons, he is calling for unity and working together. They will need to decide if they're serious about that as well. 
She also added that the president wants the legislature to "do its job" including "meaningful immigration reform" with a physical barrier that "you can't crawl under, climb over, drive through or walk around."

(As an aside, I noticed that the president's advisor didn't mention the pole vaulting option; she might want to look at that, now that Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker again.)

Finally, Conway noted, he'll tout his many accomplishments, which bad people deny, and he'll address late-term abortion, a topic that will delight his base and antagonize people who believe that the government doesn't need to be between the patient and her doctor. You'll recall that was a huge rallying cry for the Republicans on why the Affordable Care Act was a horrid idea for the country.

Go figure.

Elsewhere, the NY Times shared some of the common themes (the border, immigration, troops in the the Middle East and so on) as well as a plan to eradicate the spread of HIV/AIDS in the US in the next 10 years.

And, they also reminded us that he tried this 'unity' thing before.
Last year, Mr. Trump gave a speech in largely measured tones and sounded a call for common purpose. "Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people... So let us begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our union is strong because our people are strong. And together, we are building a safe, strong and proud America."
And we know how that worked out, right? Not all that well.

The next day, he was tweeting about going off to meet with Republicans, no Democrats in sight, to plan his agenda for infrastructure, immigration and DACA. And he tweeted his ratings, and ratings for Fox News, and a whole host of things about Russia and Hillary Clinton and so on - none of which had anything to do with setting aside our differences, finding common ground, and summoning unity.

Since then, of course, he's continued his daily attacks on anything and everything that strikes his fancy - hardly a unifying position, but one that we're supposed to ignore, I guess.

USA Today gave us a snippet of the speech, part of the media outreach that all presidents do in advance of a speech like this.
"Together we can break decades of political stalemate," Trump plans to say, according to an excerpt of the speech released by the White House. "We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America's future.
The decision is ours to make."
I don't see him doing what needs to be done to help make that happen. Maybe he could start by referring to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer, instead of insisting on calling them "Chuck and Nancy" like they were some teen-aged lovers in a song about the heartland.

And he could get a better handle on the whole co-equal branch of government thing, too - because Congress is not his plaything, it's our plaything. They are sorta kinda starting to realize that, and hopefully the president will understand how that works, too, if he wants to "end retribution and resistance politics," the kind of politics for which he holds the secret sauce.

And finally, (and this too has happened probably forever), there's nothing like the SOTU - even one that's calling for unity and building new coalitions - to raise money for the cause.  Here's part of a fundraising letter for Trump, sent out yesterday:
Tomorrow, I will stand before YOU, the citizens of this great nation, and give my second Official State of the Union Address as President. Nancy and Chuck don't want me to speak, Mainstream Media outlets don't want me to speak, and the Hollywood Elites don't want me to speak. But I know, YOU want me to speak.
Speak he will, but the proof will be in how he walks the talk, starting immediately after the speech.

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