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Disciplined, SOTU Trump can disappear with the speed of a tweet


President Trump’s first State of the Union speech gave Republicans, especially his supporters, something to smile about. I am sure many were even breathing a sigh of relief because canned, “teleprompter Trump” showed up and not chaotic “Twitter Trump.” We saw a Donald Trump able to read over an hour’s worth of script.

How presidential. 

{mosads}But are we really that starved for leadership and our expectations so low that Trump gets kudos for reading a speech, even as it was full of contradictions, hyperbole, exaggerations, dangerous stereotypes and outright falsehoods? To paraphrase a quote from the movie “American President”: Are Americans simply drinking the sand because they don’t know the difference?


I refuse to believe that is true, and most Americans agree. It is why Trump continues to have such extraordinarily low approval ratings, which one speech will not change. 

At the end of the day, Americans know Trump will be Trump. They know that when he calls “upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need.” that it is more than hypocrisy. It is cynicism at its worst. 

The most remarkable and depressing conclusion I came to Tuesday night was that it really doesn’t matter what Trump said during his speech, for several reasons. 

To begin with, he is a hypocrite. He weaponizes rhetoric like no other president before him. Soon after he called for unity, he resorted to demonizing immigrants in his rant against MS-13 gang members. He even blatantly used the families of MS-13 gang victims to make his point that immigrants are criminals and that we have to guard against them at all costs. 

Not once did he either celebrate the many contributions that immigrants have made to this country nor call out the white domestic terrorists that have murdered significantly more people than immigrants have. 

Did Trump acknowledge that it was an immigrant who created Google? Does he know that it was an immigrant who had a son that would later create the iPhone? Did Trump call out the white man who used a semi-automatic weapon to gun down more than 50 people in cold blood in Las Vegas?

Did Trump invite as his guest to the State of the Union the family of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a white supremacist during the showdown in Charlottesville as she was protesting for justice, equal rights and freedom from discrimination?

Of course not. 

Don’t get me wrong, we should punish and/or deport every single criminal — undocumented, immigrant or native-born American. 

But let’s be factual. Native-born Americans commit crimes at a far higher rate than immigrants and even higher than undocumented immigrants. But listening to Trump last night, one would think that criminal “illegal aliens” are invading our streets and towns, and that we should all live in fear.

Second, Trump lies more than any other president on record. According to reports, Trump made 1,628 false or misleading statements from his inauguration through November — just 298 days in office.

So if Trump lies so much and he cannot be trusted to follow through on his word, how can anyone negotiate with him in good faith? As a result, what does it matter what he says in his speech if it is filled with the typical falsehoods and bogus claims Trump touts so often?

Third, Trump has proven time and again he lacks any sort of moral core. As a result, Trump repeats “fake news” when it suits him and denigrates real news as fake when it doesn’t.


Trump is a political shapeshifter who thinks he can adapt to the circumstances at hand, play to the audience and get the immediate desired outcome from his base at all costs. He lacks any sort of moral compass and is missing a core code of benevolence, service, altruism and humility. No amount of beautifully structured rhetoric will change that. 

That is why when he talks of unity and healing the very same divisions Trump himself is responsible for deepening, the majority of Americans are not only skeptical but wary of what he will do or say the moment he steps away from the podium. 

It doesn’t really matter what he says. Immigration, infrastructure, affordable prescription drugs, criminal justice, these are all things Democrats could possibly work with Trump on if he could be trusted. Regardless, Democrats — and I hope sensible Republicans — will continue to push for all of these things that Americans need and believe in. 

Importantly, Democrats will continue to push to protect “Dreamers” and to keep Trump and Republicans honest on their promises to take care of the Dreamers in this country. Democrats will not accept the draconian nativist immigration proposal as it was laid out in the speech last night. 

But Democrats could accept a narrow solution that takes care of Dreamers and provides for robust border security including funding for “the wall.”

Can it happen? Will Democrats and sensible Republicans be able to negotiate with Trump? We will know soon enough if Trump truly meant his words about unity.

After all, an important date is coming up soon — Feb. 8 — the day funds run out for the government to function and the date by which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised he would put immigration legislation on the floor of the Senate. 

It will be up to sensible and brave Republicans working with Democrats to come up with a workable solution. What will Trump do? We have no clue. As with the speech Tuesday night, words do not seem to matter with this president. 

Trump’s speech — like Trump — does not have any credibility. People know that despite the brief appearance of a more disciplined Trump, chaos may ensue at the speed of a tweet. 

After all the anticipation for Trump’s first SOTU speech, it turns out that it really doesn’t make any difference what he said. I hope he proves me wrong, but history tells us differently. 

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

Tags 2018 State of the Union Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign Immigration reform Infrastructure Mitch McConnell United States

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