This evening, the President gave a surprisingly competent speech to the nation, laying out a number of his major policy initiatives. I’m going through his address while watching it on TV (thanks, spring break, for giving me this free time). Afterwards, I’ll back up some of my statements with links and stuff. In the coming hours and days, you’ll probably see a bunch of fact-checkers and analysts sifting through this speech (NYT, 538, PF, WP), so it’s probably a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with the text of his speech, especially since I didn’t have the chance to react to everything he said (and believe me, there were a lot of things that deserved reactions). Better yet, just watch the address.
(NOTE: This was written the evening of 2/28/17 and published the next afternoon)
8:58p: Paul Ryan and Mike Pence are twinning today – white shirt, blue tie, black jacket. Certain conservatives are probably quite pleased at their style choices.
9:12p: We’re not yet at the substantive part, but I just want to say that Trump’s hand gestures are distracting – it’s something he does when he’s reading a teleprompter. It’s like a pincer movement or an “OK” hand sign or something. To me, it’s one of the giveaways for when one is speaking off a teleprompter versus speaking extemporaneously. When he speaks off-script, he uses other, less restrained gestures. Presidents Obama/Bush/Clinton could easily deviate from their scripts without giving it away so easily. Of course, that’s just because they had more practice and are better public speakers than the Donald is, and it has little to do with their respective policies.
9:14p: “quiet protest” “quiet voices” lol
9:17p: Demanding cost-cutting on the F-35 program is one of those things that sounds great, but might not get anywhere. The Joint Strike Fighter is expensive, and it’ll take somewhere around $42,000/hour to fly during combat missions. The JSF is also going to take a lot more money to test and rejigger to keep the planes airworthy and maintain their superiority. Good luck coercing Lockheed Martin to cut costs without curtailing their ability to get the F-35 up to top shape.
By the way, Trump publicly called for Lockheed Martin to cut costs on the F-35 with an intimidation trick, calling for Boeing to price out a refitted F/A-18 Super Hornet with modern electronics and stealth capabilities. That’s a terrible idea for a bunch of reasons, namely that there is no way to make a stealth F/A-18 that even comes close to the stealthiness of the F-35. Designing a stealth aircraft requires extensive planning from “day one,” and contrary to what Trump may believe, Boeing can’t just slap a black radar-absorbing skin on an F/A-18 and make it even remotely comparable to the legitimately-stealthy F-35. Just look at the bulky F/A-18 compared to the sleek F-35.
9:24p: “Radical Islamic Terrorism” is the biggest, most useless political controversy ever. It’s some sort of magical Rumpelstiltskin phrase that a bunch of Republicans have waved around to try and make Democrats look weak (“President Obama won’t even call them Radical Islamic Terrorists!”) in idiotic campaign aids like this. If the administration continues using “Radical Islamic Terrorism” as a common moniker, ISIS isn’t going to shake its fist and go “oh no, you got us.” Bombs, rifle companies, and tank battalions will do that. Changing the name for global terrorism won’t do a thing, and might actually do more harm than good considering how it lumps in Islam with terrorism. Just ask General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security advisor.
9:25p: IT’S NOT UNCONTROLLED ENTRY!
9:27p: Actually, it was the Heritage Foundation’s list of 20 judges.
9:28p: Confirmed unanimously by the Senate, not the Court of Appeals.
9:29p: Trump is forgetting that automation is killing a crapton of manufacturing jobs. Saying “we’ve lost X jobs since NAFTA” is a misleading way to say “we’ve lost jobs since 1994” because it attributes all the job loss to NAFTA and not to car-manufacturing robots. The reality is that cutting free trade and installing worker protections will not bring back American manufacturing/middle-class jobs because automation has already removed a lot of those jobs from the equation.
Don’t just take that article’s word or my word for it. Think about it yourself. Everyone knows that robots are taking over a large part of the car manufacturing industry, and self-driving cars are threatening taxi drivers and Uber drivers with their improving capabilities. Christ, ever since the advent of the self-checkout counter or the mechanized loom, robots/machines have been taking over human jobs. Remember, we used to have elevator operators before engineers wired up elevators with buttons. You may have even heard Trump’s former Labor nominee Andrew Puzder complain about his filthy human workers and dream of an automated future. By reducing job loss to free trade alone, Trump is ignoring a ginormous labor issue for political purposes.
9:30p: Trade deficits aren’t actually that bad. Trade deficits come about when American consumers decide to buy foreign goods. It’s not a symbol of American manufacturing weakness, it’s a symbol of a powerful free market. Marketplace Radio’s Sabri Ben-Achour (whose name I just learned how to spell after hearing him speak for 11+ years) covered the issue of trade deficits quite well.
9:31p: Tariffs and import taxes will hurt American consumers, too. If you raise the price on foreign goods and Americans try to buy those goods, they’re going to have to shell out more or just not buy those goods. For once, I agree with the National Review here.
9:32p: thank god Trump didn’t take a Harley out for a spin. woulda given his USSS protection detail a collective heart attack.
9:33p: Free trade is a conservative idea – Obama would have needed Ryan and McConnell to help pass the TPP. Free trade is like the world version of a free market. Of course, worker protections are important, but it’s kind of strange to see so many pro-NAFTA/pro-TPP legislators applauding opposition to the TPP. Whenever Trump talks about trade, it’s only about NAFTA, TPP, and tariffs. Nothing about the parts of free trade that he actually likes.
9:34p: Great, great wall on the southern border? Sure, but it’s not going to be cheap.
9:37p: Infrastructural rejiggering/rebuilding sounds pretty great, tbh. Of course, Trump’s “national rebuilding” stimulus will take $1 trillion, which means the budget will have to cut out a trillion in other spending or taxes will have to go up somewhere else. McConnell and Ryan are going to have a stroke if Trump asks them to raise taxes, which means he’s going to need Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to help out.
9:38p: “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated!” – Trump, inexplicably.
9:39p: According to a CNN/ORC poll, the majority of Americans believe that the Affordable Care Act needs either minor or major improvements. I would cite it, but I can’t find the damn thing.
9:40p: Self-fulfilling prophecies make it easy for red states to criticize Obamacare because a bunch of states refused Obama’s Medicaid expansion proposal. Governor John Kasich of Ohio famously accepted it and supported it, but 19 other states weren’t so lucky. By refusing to accept some of the most helpful provisions of Obamacare, it’s easier to call it a failure.
9:42p: So many House Democrats on their phones rn. Also, I think I just saw Senator Gillibrand (yay) in one of the front rows.
9:44p: Recently, two people have played Trump on SNL – Alec Baldwin, and Darrell Hammond. Hammond isn’t playing Trump anymore, but Trump’s mannerisms match Hammond’s portrayal spot-on, especially with the “stepping back from the mic and lifting his chin up while nodding” shtick.
9:45p: One of the easiest ways to invest in the health of womanfolk (that’s a word, right?) is to increase/maintain funding for Planned Parenthood. Congressional Republicans are obviously not a fan of that, so Trump better have an alternative for that.
9:45p: How the hell do you revitalize the coal industry and maintain clean air and clean water? Is Trump an EPA wizard? If so, how’s he going to work his magic under the spectre of massive EPA budget cuts?
9:46p: Man, Pompe Disease is weird. Good for her father for helping his daughter.
9:48p: Sens. Cruz and Sanders had a conversation during their healthcare debate that pertained to opening up experimental drug testing to desperate patients.
9:48p: Don’t forget the civil rights issue of LGBT rights in public schools. Remember, Attorney General Sessions and Education Secretary DeVos actually had a heated debate within the Oval Office about transgender bathroom rights. While this isn’t 100% confirmed, insider sources claim that Trump threatened to fire DeVos if she didn’t back down on those protections (disclaimer: not all sources back this claim up, and the White House is understandably less than transparent on this).
9:50p: Charter schools/school choice is one of those things that could actually turn out pretty well, but endanger public schools. Public schools get their funding depending on enrollment, and giving students a choice to leave public school is great on an individual level but runs the risk of making public schools even worse.
9:54p: Yeah, this is one of the strongest arguments in favor of border/customs security.
9:56p: Trump’s $54 billion addition to the defense/VA budget could be really neat, but I’m not so sure about cutting $54 billion from non-defense discretionary spending. Right now, the EPA and foreign aid spending are both on the chopping block. Trump’s mention of clean air and clean water depends on the continued functioning of the EPA.
9:57p: Not-so-fun fact of the day, Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. Biden III’s brain cancer may have come from a toxic trash incinerator in an Iraqi camp. The Army failed to recognize this for the longest time, and as a result a lot of soldiers suffered. Had the VA done more earlier, Beau Biden may not have died an untimely death. Who knows, we may have even had President Joe. But I digress.
9:58p: Owens’ father-in-law is presently demanding an investigation into the causes for CPO Owens’ death and the events leading up to the raid. Remember, a V-22 Osprey went down and had to be destroyed, a high-value target escaped/wasn’t present, and there were communications issues between the SEALs and USS Makin Island. That doesn’t mean the raid failed, or that Trump is to blame (after all, raids go wrong all the time).
9:58p: If you ask me, it wasn’t highly successful. The raid missed the key high-value target, and it’s unclear what sort of actionable intel the SEALs obtained.
9:59p: Still, CPO Owens’ name is etched in eternity, if nothing else because of this moment. Regardless of whether the raid was highly successful/partially successful/a failure, he still died in uniform in the service of the United States Navy and the United States of America. I’m glad (and, strangely, proud) of the way Trump handled that moment.
10:00p: so many feels, so so many feels
10:02p: Only four European countries are meeting their “2% of annual budget goes to NATO” commitment. Aside from the United States, only the UK, Greece, Poland, and Estonia meet that requirement. Not coincidentally, the latter two have the most to fear from a loss of NATO cohesion.
10:03p: Yeah, no. Like it or not, the President of the United States always represents the Free World. Trump represents America, but he can’t shirk the responsibility of representing the Western World. As a result, the President must lead NATO, lead the world economy, and help build partners abroad with foreign aid and strong, open diplomacy. President Kennedy and President Reagan stood in front of the Berlin Wall to pledge support to West Germany and call for the liberation of the Eastern Bloc, not on behalf of the United States, but on behalf of all free people. And let’s not forget President Whitmore’s speech to the world’s air coalition.
10:05p: Trump’s right – we’re best buddies with Vietnam, Japan, Germany, Italy, and a bunch of other countries we’ve previously fought against. By the way, we’re friends with those countries because we trade with them, and helped rebuild/revitalize those countries after we finished fighting them. Foreign aid, yo.
10:06p: To celebrate our 250th anniversary, we celebrate the gift of dank memes.
10:08p: Yeah, no. Trivial fights will continue about tiny, insignificant stuff, guaranteed.
10:15p: Wow, that was…pretty decent. To be honest, this speech was light on details and weak on substance, but it sounded good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s ratings get a temporary boost. If he follows through on his promises and continues to act in this manner, that temporary boost could last.
—DEM. RESPONSE, CONDUCTED BY FORMER KENTUCKY GOV. STEVEN BESHEAR—
10:21p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Steve Beshear seems…confused. “I am a Democrat, but first and foremost I am a proud Republican, and a Democrat, and an American.” ????????
10:22p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Okay, I get that he’s trying to be folksy, but holding a response to a Presidential address by sitting in a diner in the middle of the night with
a bunch of inanimate objects his neighbors is… depressing.
10:24p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Remember, Kentucky had a huge drop in its uninsured rate when Obamacare came to town. One bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy was right. Despite all of the legitimate criticisms of Obamacare and its flaws, the law definitely helped a lot of Kentuckians. Because of that improved health care access, a lot of lower/middle-class Kentuckians had the opportunity to go to doctors and get checkups. That sort of thing saves lives, because it means doctors can catch diseases earlier.
10:27p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): REAGAN SHOUTOUT!
10:28p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): The other day, President George W. Bush spoke out against these attacks on the free press. I suggest you watch that.
I leave you tonight with this statement from anti-Trump Republican consultant/commentator Ana Navarro (@ananavarro):
You can disagree w/him on policy, but this is most Presidential Trump has ever sounded. If I had amnesia, I might even forget he is insane.