Dear Commons Community,
Donald Trump gave his first major address to Congress last night and appeared for the first time to be presidential. Unlike his Inauguration Speech, there was no dark side, no insults, and no bombasts. This was the “Dr. Jekyll” Donald Trump. He covered a lot of ground and made general proposals that were light on specifics. He called for Republicans and Democrats to unite for the good of the country and the American people. The key segments in his sixty-minute speech were as follows.
First, the Opening: “Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. 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.”
Second, the acknowledgment of several individuals in the audience especially Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens who died earlier this year in Yemen. “Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.” This was most interesting given that Ryan’s father refused to meet with President Trump and has called for an investigation into the mission that cost his son’s life.
Third, his comments about infrastructure spending resounded well with members of both parties. “Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program –- the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country –- twice.”
In sum, the Republican members of Congress gave Trump many standing ovations and generally liked what he said. It remains to be seen how far they will go to support his agenda. The Democrats rarely applauded anything Trump said with the exception of childcare. They will be the party in opposition.