After a rocky first month in office, there was a collective sigh of relief following President Trump’s first joint address to Congress, aka the speech formerly known as the State of the Union. In a country sharply divided over how Trump is handling his job, he outlined his administration’s aggressive and ambitious policy agenda for the year ahead. The verdict? He seems intent on keeping his campaign promises, and he delivered them in a teleprompted Paul Ryan-esque performance worthy of an Oscar. Trump put his best presidential foot forward and, much to his delight, the markets, the media and most members of Congress responded with overwhelming praise. Although considering the low bar for Trumpian speeches in general, this praise seems to suggest that the country desperately craves a good president, rather than evidence that the speech was praiseworthy.
So what did he talk about? Pretty much what you’d expect: increasing military spending, education as the “civil rights issue of our time”, building a wall to stop illegal immigration, beachheads and “radical Islamic terrorism”, his $1trillion infrastructure bill, repealing and replacing Obamacare and lots of lies. What was missing? Details on how he plans to fund everything, an apocalyptic vision of America as a crime-plagued scene of carnage, and prolonged attacks on the media or Democrats. However many Democrats used the opportunity to protest a president whose policies are extremely controversial and divisive – by bringing guests who have been directly and negatively impacted by Trump’s new policies like the travel ban, or by wearing white in solidarity with the suffragette movement in the face of a president who bragged about molesting women. Anything else? Yep. Most Democrats remained stone-faced and seated during the entire speech, despite the many standing ovations and applause that the president received from the Republican side of the room.
Did anything else happen? Yep. The most touching moment of the night – and of Trump’s presidency – involved the wife of the Navy SEAL who was killed in a raid in Yemen in Trump’s first week in office. Trump spoke about her husband’s heroism, his legacy and the fact that his death wasn’t in vain, which led to many tears and a two minute bipartisan standing ovation. Whether you felt this moment was exploitative or genuine, it was a powerful visual image and this was the moment when Trump actually looked like he was President of the United States. At a time when more Americans oppose him than support him, those who are both skeptical that Trump can unite the country and fearful that he will stay in power for eight whole years, should, after this display, be afraid; be very afraid.
Want to watch more Oscar-worthy performances? Movie for your mood: Moonlight