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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Some Thoughts After Trump's First Address To Congress

After watching President Trump’s first address to Congress, it occurred to me that he and his administration seemed similar to another recent administration, that of Bill Clinton.

Recall that Bill Clinton won by defeating George Bush I and Ross Perot.

Clinton was hounded with accusations of womanizing throughout the campaign, but he won anyway. The GOP turned on the pressure. In their view Clinton snuck into office in a completely unfair, three-way race and he had to be stopped. They were also put off by his lack of decorum - playing sax on Arsenio Hall’s show and talking briefs and boxers with MTV. Clinton, they felt, was crude. Un-presidential.

Robert Reich, in Locked In The Cabinet, describes how the Clinton team rolled into DC with high hopes and grand plans. They were going to make America better than ever - don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, after all.

He spoke of his plans as Secretary of Labor, and how those plans were crushed over time by the career bureaucrats (long standing senators, and the Fed chair) who had no intention of letting these temporary office holders change THEIR system.

(John Frohnmeyer, head of the NEA under Bush, said similar things in his book. Senators and the Religious Right forced him to resign, and his pretty good plans for art education were let go.)

Trump, like Clinton, is seen as a disgusting human by those who aren’t supporters. Supporters, however, brush off those concerns because they like what Clinton/Trump says and does in other realms.

More women accusing Clinton did not alter his popularity with his base. What it did do, however, was set the stage for a GOP takeover in Congress at the midterms.

I see Trump in a similar spot. He’s dogged by accusations that don’t bother his supporters, but his opponents are organizing and will likely take back Congress in the midterms.

It’s the left wing of the Democrats that has the energy and is already on the way there. Middle of the road Clintonites seem to be paralyzed with partisan fear at the moment, but the Bernie side of the party is already running for offices and winning seats. This might mean that the next Democratic takeover of Congress will lean toward the Progressive side of issues.

Mainstream Republicans are in-fighting with the Tea Party side of the GOP. My guess is that the Tea Party side will be the ones left standing come midterms, which would give us a Congress lacking a center. Those farther left and farther right will be getting the attention of a population increasingly at odds about what to do about common issues.

Another lesson of the Clinton years that may apply again - he lost the mid-terms but won re-election. This could happen with Trump.

In Clinton’s case, it triggered an all-out, full-court press to bring him down - the “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” It failed to remove him, but certainly had an impact on his legacy. It also led to his wife running successfully for a senate seat in strategic New York, and not-so-successfully for president twice.

I’ll keep watching to see if there are other Clinton and Trump administration similarities. If, in eight years, Melania is running for state senate, I’ll rest my case.


As for the address to the joint session, he did a good job. I disagree with the substance of much of what is proposed, but it was the first time I heard his “platform” articulated as a complete vision. I don’t share that vision, but I do think I understand it.

It goes something like this, I think: if we boost the US economy and jobs and make healthcare affordable and everyone stops fighting with one another and we all work toward common goals, we can all be living better. To do this we must tighten borders, boost military, get rid of public education, be better supporters of troops, and we must rid ourselves of pesky regulations so corporations are free to do whatever they damn please. In America.

Judging by the smug look on their faces, I think Pence and Ryan’s 8 year goals are simply to piss off liberals. They seemed gleeful at each word that tormented their opponents. This goal is at odds with what Trump was speaking about in the room. Trump told them to get along.

Trump’s plan would probably work on some level if all his qualifiers were kept in place. But Democrats and Republicans show no signs of getting along and working together, and the proposals on the table aren’t terribly uniting. Many are downright divisive.

There’s also the lack of vision in both parties. GOP wants to get rid of the ACA, but have no plans for replacing it with a single payer system. The Democrats are spending their time investigating ties to Russia, which may be important but “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Meanwhile, the rich get richer, the planet gets warmer, and anger boils.


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a few more observations and considerations

A couple more thoughts.

First - I see the stories today wondering how people could be so stupid as to think Trump gave an okay speech, and if one thinks so, they are giving him a pass or something like that. I should be clear that while I think his speech went well (for him and his supporters), many of the policies he spoke of are worthy of criticism. And many of the lines were vague, nice-sounding ideas (Americans want American jobs! Who can disagree?) (I heard a lot of Bernie's stump speech reworked for Trump last night), the devil is in the details, and politicians are manipulators.

Actions always speak louder than words.


In terms of “looking Presidential” it seems we’ve been lowering the bar on a regular basis:

Kennedy/Johnson = Great Performances
Nixon = Norman Lear series, PBS documentary
Reagan/Bush = Knots Landing, Dallas
Clinton = MTV, Late Night TV
Bush II/Obama = Single camera scripted nightime drama (The Office)
Trump = reality TV, YouTube


In terms of presidents wrecking my life rather than improving it:

Reagan - increased military spending to absurd levels, takes away college funding, crushes unions, funding for arts slashed, tax breaks for rich

Bush I - starts wars, started NAFTA negotiations

Clinton - gets NAFTA passed, gets rid of welfare, gets rid of mental health care, normalizes lying to public

Bush II - dismantling the constitution - attacks on free speech, free assembly. Attacks on public education, arts. Start of massive unwarranted spying on Americans.

Obama - doesn’t repair Bush’s damages, increases drone attacks, deportations, and spying. Favors given to Wall Street.

Trump - is there anything left to take away? He’ll find it!


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