Trump delivers his State of the Union

‘Round one day and seven minutes ago, Donald Trump brought forth on his nation, a new genius, conceived in Stability, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, save for those who are absolutely not. If you were of an unequal many not to view the President’s State of the Union (SOTU) address — the very, very best and most watched speech in history. Period. — Crikey has your back. I endured it for you, Snowflake. And it is a privilege to report that the US hegemon, ergo the world, is headed quite directly down the latrine of all known history.

The White House is yet to reveal the true authors of the speech. No matter. For ease of our interpretation, we’ll say that these may as well have been Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and the ghost of Ronald Reagan. To know their résumés is to grasp the interests informing the speech. Let’s crack ‘em open and see what these men brought to the SOTU.

Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law, a long-time admirer of Israel’s prime minister and currently has a grey-ops role to broker peace in the Middle East—by which we mean Saudi Arabia and Israel. A chap with business ties to Goldman Sachs and George Soros, he retains the neoliberal progressive vibe that Trump, a former Clinton-aligned Democrat, pretended to leave behind in New York.

The Kushner gifts to SOTU were (a) the joyous declaration that Jerusalem was the true capital of Israel — one for which Democrat Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer stood to cheer and (b) some boilerplate liberal stuff about “all Americans” and “the world”. So: blancmange liberal pronouncements to feed those still living on the American Dream diet, and the reinvention of Israel and its lobby as “the world”. These were the Kushner contribution.

Miller is a senior policy adviser to the President and unvarnished bigot. He may truly believe that brown immigrants to the USA are mud people or that the white hot misogynistic rage of his associate Richard Spencer is a source of energy second only in efficiency to coal. Then again, he could have adopted this rhetoric just to get ahead, while covertly attending Manhattan drinks hosted by Jared and Ivanka, where all three laugh at the poor and the sick who attended Trump’s campaign rallies.

From Miller, the most cruel and nativist moments came. It’s true that many commentators have called Trump’s SOTU tame or dishonest. But, if this speech—one we Australians must compare to many of Dutton’s worst talkback radio interviews—were to be heard with the ears Americans had a year ago, it’d sound very wild and frank.

The racism was, in my view, overt. The militarism, the fondness for torture, the beyond-Bush insistence that all our enemies should now be called terrorists and possibly placed in Gitmo, which he says he has no intention of closing, was extreme. Perhaps after a year of this caffeine and a year without the warm cup of milk that was Obama—whose defence and deportation policies Trump continues—everyone is a little hard-of-hearing.

Zombie Ronald Reagan requires scant introduction. Like Trump, he was very good with a teleprompter. Like Trump, his belief that deregulation of firms would benefit the masses was inflexible. Like Trump, his apparent stupidity worked for the base as a boon. Like all who have since delivered a televised SOTU—Reagan was the first to choreograph the thing—he had an “everyday hero” sat in the First Lady’s box.

All SOTUs employ at least one Real Human whose function is to (a) appease the US hunger for storytelling and (b) underscore a policy point. In honour of Reagan, these human symbols are known as Skutniks, after Lenny Skutnik whose heroic dive into the Potomac River to assist victims of an air crash served as a can-do example for those go-go US eighties. Trump’s Skutniks were, naturally, several.

We had a North Korean defector. We also had distraught families of teen victims slain by the gang known as MS-13 sat with Melania. They had come, as any grieving person might, to accept formal sympathies. They were invited, however, to frame a key SOTU statement, “Americans are dreamers, too.”

The intentions of the Cheezel in Chief here were, again, several. He intended to discredit the Dreamers, 1.8 million kids born in the US to “undocumented” parents that a good majority of US voters, both Republican and Democrat, wish not to see deported. The name “Dreamers” is derived from the initials of the Act passed to protect them, so to state that all Americans were also “dreamers” is a bit of a stretch. It’s one, though, enthusiastically permitted by Trump’s Republican audience and supportive alt-right commentators, who both gratefully heard the echo of the Paleo-conservative response to Black Lives Matter: all lives matter.

To understand Trump, whose presidency has coincided with a brief spike in the economic cycle and slight return of manufacturing jobs negotiated under Obama, as a jobs president, you’ll learn nothing from the SOTU. His claim that company tax cuts have resulted in bonuses to workers is hooey. It’s always going to be hooey, because companies must prefer profits to compassion if they are to remain companies. Bernie Sanders’ unofficial response to the SOTU is far better than the SOTU itself if an understanding of labour is what one seeks.

For me, and for others, the SOTU served only to remind that a true resistance, and not the McResistance of franchisor Hillary Clinton, must be formed to turf out Trump. He’ll be able to offer years of theatrical bullshit if all the DNC continues to protect are sober lies.

Who knows what this true resistance will look like? We only know, as wages continue to stagnate, that it will occur. Expect more awful speeches. And prepare yourselves for a hegemon that finally falls beneath the charge of old-fashioned class warfare.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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