I got back in time to hear the Trump speech. I see that conservatives are thrilled by the CNN snap poll:
President Donald Trump's first address to Congress received largely positive reviews from viewers, with 57% who tuned in saying they had a very positive reaction to the speech, according to a new CNN/ORC poll of speech-watchers....But the numbers are actually below average:
While the 57% who said they had a very positive reaction to Trump's speech outpaces the marks received by his predecessor for any of his recent State of the Union addresses, they fell below the reviews either Barack Obama or George W. Bush received for either of their initial addresses to Congress. In 2009, 68% had a very positive reaction to Obama, while 66% gave Bush very positive reviews in 2001. Likewise, the 69% of speech-watchers who thought Trump's policies would move the nation in the right direction lagged behind the share who felt that way about Obama's or Bush's policies in the first year, and ranks around their low-marks on this score. Obama's low-mark on that score was 68% last year and his high was 88% in 2009. Bush topped out at 91% in 2002 and hit a low mark of 67% in the final year of his presidency.The speech is being called "presidential" because its crafters managed to purge most traces of barroom loutishness from the text and Trump's delivery -- and wow, bully for them, because it only took them a year and a half to figure out how to do this, and to realize that it's something worth doing. I wonder how long it's going to take them to actually learn how to govern, which is a lot harder, and which they've only been trying and failing to do for a short time.
We're being told that the speech, unlike previous Trump speeches, was addressed to all Americans and not just Trump supporters, but there was no effort to make the outreach seem sincere or organic. The speech began with greetings to the listeners, then bam!, right into the ethnic outreach, as if cynical speech crafters had said, "Let's just put that crap right up front so they'll all stop whining."
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:Before Trump spoke, there were rumors that the speech would include a softening on immigration, but there was nothing of the sort in the text. Was this an eleven-dimensional chess move, a bit of misdirection so that the administration could cry, "Fake news"? Or does the president simply not know what the hell he wants on immigration? I'm betting on the latter:
Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation's path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.
The speech was written, the rollout strategy was set. And then President Trump began talking and the plan went out the window. Unless that was the plan all along.That's from a New York Times story by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. They think the gamesmanship theory has merit:
When Mr. Trump sat down with television anchors at the White House for an off-the-record lunch on Tuesday, he was supposed to preview his first address to Congress. Instead, he suddenly opened the door to an immigration bill that would potentially let millions of undocumented immigrants stay in the country legally.
... Mr. Trump told the anchors that nothing like that was actually in the speech as it was then drafted. But he turned to aides and suggested that maybe they should include it. After the lunch was over, aides rushed off to alert their colleagues, including Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the architects of the president’s immigration crackdown.
... In the end, he did not include it in the speech.
This is, after all, a White House that revels in what its current occupants refer to as the “head fake,” where the president gives the impression of moving one way when he is really moving in a completely different direction, even diverting attention from one controversy by creating another.But on the other hand:
In private discussions since the inauguration, a mystified Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader from Kentucky, has said that Mr. Trump appears uncertain of precisely where he stands on a number of critical issues....It's said that Trump's opinion on an issue is often shaped by whoever spoke to him about it last. I don't think this means he flushes every idea on a subject out of his brain when a new one is whispered to him. I think all the ideas he's had simply float around in his cranium. He's capable of believing any of them at any given time, if they seem to fit the circumstances. He doesn't weigh them in any deep way -- he just believes whatever will make him seem superior in some dominance contest taking place in his own head. He ran for president in 2016 with a head full of Fox News talking points on immigration, and he still mostly leans toward those, because they made him seem tougher and meaner than Democrats and most Republicans, and he won. But in 2012 Mitt Romney was running for president and failing, and Trump does watch CNN as well as Fox, so he probably heard that Romney was getting killed for being too tough on immigration and he said that, because he felt competitive with Romney. And yesterday afternoon he was hanging out with MSM anchors whose admiration he craves, so he went soft again, to curry their favor.
Immigration has been one area where he was evidently still trying to calibrate. After all, Mr. Trump was not always so strident on the issue. After the 2012 election, he denounced Mitt Romney for supporting what he called “self-deportation,” calling it “a crazy policy” that cost Mr. Romney the Hispanic vote. The Democrats, he said then, did not have a policy “but what they did have going for them is they weren’t meanspirited about it.”
Does he want to deport everybody? Yes. Does he want to deport just the "bad hombres"? Yes. Does he want to devise a tough but compassionate immigration policy that will make all Americans love him? Yes. He's believed all those things, and he still believes all of them to some extent.
I could be wrong, but I don't think this was a clever head fake. I think he's primarily a mean-spirited bigot who believes immigration hard-liners on Fox more than he does moderates -- after all, talking tough got him the presidency and love from crowds. But he's also that other guy.
His angry, vengeful inner circle will keep him on course. He'll continue to be a hard-ass on immigration. And he'll be happy because his crowds will cheer. But he also believes those other ideas. And he'll never quite follow up on why his administration's immigration plans never include any compromise.