In his State of the Union Address, President Donald J. Trump supposedly delivered a message of political unity and common, bipartisan purpose. In this deeply divisive, ugly and even hateful moment in our country, parts of the address were designed to evoke the the optimistic, inclusive leadership Washington and our country so desperately need. Which leaves one desperately wondering whether Donald J. Trump, who is almost single-handedly responsible for this divisive, ugly and hateful moment in our nation is listening to himself.
Could State of the Union Trump please have a long, hard talk with Fox News-binging, Tweeting, “executive time” Trump?
“Together we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge all divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make,” Trump said. A beautiful, lofty stretch of rhetoric that should have come with a warning label as Democrats and many Republicans in the room and around the country choked on irony. Yes, it is entirely possible to bring our country together and make Washington work for working people — but that would take a president who doesn’t show more respect to dictators and white supremacists than leaders of the opposing party, a president who doesn’t mock the military, bash Muslims and lock up immigrant kids in cages. Unity would be possible, in other words, if we didn’t have a president so absolutely, deeply and regularly invested in sowing division and hate.
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In his State of the Union address, Trump dangled several possibilities for bipartisan lawmaking — around health care and prescription drug costs, infrastructure spending, trade policy and even immigration reform. And yet this is the same guy who forced the longest government shutdown in United States history because he couldn’t get his own party, which had sole control of both houses of Congress for two years, to give him money for a medieval vanity border wall that even right-leaning experts say is pointless. The same president who repeatedly refused to back practical compromise legislation from his own party, and even his own vice president — Trump repeatedly saying he supported a policy option before changing his mind.
Even in his own State of the Union address on the supposedly unifying theme of “Choosing Greatness,” Trump contradicted his own speech by resorting to intensely divisive partisan attacks — including extreme far-right, fear-mongering against immigrants, abortion rights and even the Mueller investigation. A president committed to reaching across the aisle wouldn’t deceptively smear a law that protects women’s life-or-death medical decisions as allowing “a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.” Mind you, a president concerned with being morally or rhetorically consistent wouldn’t have actually ripped thousands of immigrant children away from their families.
Trump’s words ring hollow to nation he conned
As the Washington Post reported over a year ago, and is even more obvious today, “President Trump campaigned as one of the world’s greatest dealmakers, but … lawmakers in both parties increasingly consider him an untrustworthy, chronically inconsistent and easily distracted negotiator.” Indeed, he was untrustworthy and chronically inconsistent within the span of this one single speech. The speech was a mess because Donald Trump, as president, is a mess.
Since his unlikely assent to the presidency, everyone has been waiting for Trump to pivot and become more presidential. It should now be clear that is never going to happen. Rather, the only thing Mr. Art of the Deal is getting better at is the art of the con. He has apparently learned to sprinkle in just enough inclusive, bipartisan, democratic rhetoric to convince roughly a third of the country that he’s trying, really trying, to fix things and everyone but Trump is the problem. Read his tweets, listen to his speeches and watch Fox News and Trump is the victim — the good guy honestly trying to fight the good fight. Read the actual news, talk to anyone in Washington and see what’s really happening and it is insanely, incandescently clear that Trump is a bull in a china shop trying to blame the china for being broken.
Donald Trump can’t transcend his divisiveness
“We must choose whether we are defined by our differences — or whether we dare to transcend them,” Trump said during his speech. And yet the plain reality is that he has not only played up by preyed upon those differences in Washington and in our nation – intensifying not only partisanship but racial animus, anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and more. Indeed, if the 2018 elections are any indication, the thing that may bring Democrats and growing numbers of Republicans together is a shared horror at just how divisive and destructive Trump’s presidency has been.
Donald Trump doesn’t just need a fact check. He needs a reality check. The biggest obstacle to finding common purpose and common solutions in the United States today is President Donald J. Trump.
Sally Kohn is author of “The Opposite Of Hate: A Field Guide To Repairing Our Humanity.” You can find her online at sallykohn.com and on Twitter: @SallyKohn