Like we said on Wednesday, President Trump is an actor. He played it calm in his address to Congress, not bombastic. He played it subdued, not over the top. But for all his relatively soothing demeanor, it’s still not clear which script he was reading from.
Immigration: That path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that Trump told CNN anchors about in the hours before the speech? That path still ends at “The Wall.” Turns out, what had been conveyed as the president’s softer stance toward illegal immigrants, according to CNN, was just a ploy for good pre-speech publicity, a “misdirection play,” as an administration official later called it.
We call it a lie. And Trump himself was the source of the fake news that he keeps warning his sycophants among his supporters about.
There was nary a mention of this softer, more-pragmatic immigration stance in the president’s speech. Instead, Trump’s base got what they voted for. He assured them: “We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our Southern border”; and then this shocker: the creation of a special office to help victims of crime by immigrants — not just illegal immigrants, all immigrants. This misbegotten agency, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement — VOICE — is the same old Trump, seeking to blame, divide and keep his base happy. Why else would VOICE publish a weekly list of all crimes committed by immigrants? This is ugly scapegoating, plain and simple. Who from the Republican side of the aisle will stand, publicly, vocally, against it?
Russia: Nope, we didn’t hear him say anything about this elephant in the room, either. Russia has hacked us, trolled us and is laughing behind our backs, but … crickets.
Environment: Tuesday night, Trump said that, as a nation, we must promote clean air and clean water. Tuesday afternoon, he signed an executive order that ultimately could eliminate the Clean Water Rule, part of his continued assault on the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, he plans to hack away at the EPA’s budget — up to 24 percent, by some estimates — to bolster the Pentagon. Cuts at the EPA are one thing, but where they come from and how carefully they are executed will make all the difference between water we can drink and water that poisons us.
Hate: Trump said: “While we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” No, we’re not. And, coming from Trump, it sounded like he was simply checking off a box: Racism? Done! Come on, folks, during the campaign, Trump loved hate, it was his ace in the hole, a sure thing to rev up his base. Tuesday, he acknowledged Black History Month and denounced bigotry and violence, especially the threats and vandalism at Jewish community centers and cemeteries, and the shooting in Kansas City last week of Indian American engineers. (As for Muslims targeted across the country, silence.) What we really needed to hear was a resolute repudiation of hateful violence done in Trump’s name. He ran from the question at a recent news conference, and let it slide on Tuesday. Sad. Then there was the stagecraft: African American women sitting next to the first lady; the black father of a murdered son; the black graduate of a charter school. All contemporary presidents do this stuff, but it rings hollow coming from this divisive administration.