One thing that struck me about the president's address to congress was it's positively Orwellian nature. The speech was fairly well-received, mainly because he stuck to his script, reading from the teleprompter, and not interjecting his usual ad-libs that would likely lead him into trouble. When this president speaks impromptu, he invariably insults some segment of society, cites "facts" that are patently false, or otherwise puts his foot in his mouth. That's why simply sticking to the script makes him sound "presidential" by comparison. On the surface, that speech had a positive tone, and to most people, sounded better than the dark, disparaging, and divisive words we have become so accustomed to hearing from this man. That is, unless you look beneath the surface, and realize that the picture painted by Trump's words is not what it appears to be.
This speech was touted as a "message of unity" for the American people - something that would supposedly change the tone set by his earlier rhetoric, and bring us all together to work for our common goals. I suppose it's true that he did throw out a few little bones for the liberals among us, so that we could feel we are part of the audience. But if you listen to what people are saying, you will find that it is mainly Trump supporters who heard a message of unity, and what the rest of us heard is something entirely different from that. As he went through his agenda items one by one, he put rosy words on them, with talk of creating jobs and reducing crime, and making us safe. But I was thinking about the reality behind those rosy words, that would, in all likelihood, turn out to be anything but rosy for those of us who are not his supporters. I was thinking that Trump intends to tear down and destroy everything that we care about and have been working to achieve. Equal treatment under the law and civil rights - gone. A clean, healthy environment - gone. Consumer protections from corporate avarice and malfeasance - gone. A government that actually works for the benefit of the citizens - forget about it. And at the end of all this rosy talk comes the real appeal to unity - Trump humbly asks the Democrats and Republicans to work together as one to make all this happen.
He threw out a bone to black people, noting the close of Black History Month, and the fact that we still have a long way to go with civil rights. That should bring them into the fold, right? Well, actually, no. Actions speak louder than words, and his words are mere lip service. Trump just placed a notorious racist, Jeff Sessions, as his Attorney General. And true to form, one one of his first acts as the head of the Justice Department was to re-instate a Texas law designed to prevent targeted groups of Democrats and minorities from voting. This law was previously deemed to be discriminatory by the Justice Department, but no longer. So much for equal protection under the law. Trump did say we still have further to go, but he didn't say which direction.
Trump also tossed in a little doggy-treat for the Jewish community, as he decried the recent surge in violence and hate crimes against Jews, after having little to say about it before.
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.OK. Now we're all on the same page, right? But not so fast. Jewish groups are less than impressed. The truth is that Trump has been reluctant to speak out against those who are perpetrating these crimes, because they are some of his most avid supporters. A major part of Trump's base of popular support, the alt-right, tends to hold racist and anti-Semitic views, and many are neo-Nazis. Their major media voice during the past few years was Breitbart News under the leadership of Steve Bannon, who was fully embraced by Trump. Bannon became his campaign manager, and now serves as senior advisor in the West Wing. These people have been heartened and encouraged by Trump's election to speak out and act out, and they are the ones behind these hate crimes. If you're expecting Trump to do anything to stop them, don't hold your breath.
He also spoke about "draining the swamp" of government corruption. That's something we all want to see. He proudly touted his new ban on lobbying. The trouble is, he actually revoked or weakened many of the rules that were in place under the Obama administration. The net result is that the government is more prone now to lobbying activity than it was before, and various ethics and disclosure rules have been removed, so the public won't hear about who's involved in the wheeling-and-dealing in those smoke-filled rooms. Furthermore, with Trump's cabinet being loaded with billionaire oligarchs, whose primary allegiance is to the industries and corporations that made them rich, our government now resembles the corrupt Russian oligarchy more than we ever imagined it would. Who needs lobbyists when they are running the whole thing, and making the rules for themselves?
Trump also appealed to environmentalists by mentioning his love for clean air and water (perhaps at the behest of his daughter), but he didn't really say much about it in the speech. That's probably because he was already in the process of laying the groundwork to eliminate pollution-control regulations and gut the EPA. A few days before the speech, he had enthusiastically approved removal of the ban on coal-mining operations from dumping coal ash into streams, and now the removal requirements for disclosure of methane emissions by oil and gas industries. But the biggest prize for Trump will be the total elimination of all government efforts to study or collaborate with other nations in an effort to control global climate change.
It had been noted previously that the words emanating from the Trump White House were "Orwellian" in nature. After Kellyanne Conway's remark about "alternative facts", sales of George Orwell's book '1984' surged. But Trump's address to congress was also a showcase of Orwellian doublespeak and doublethink. It should be pretty clear that most anything he says is the exact opposite of the reality. Trump-world is the new reality.