Trump stuck to the script but gave Americans nothing of substance

Trump stuck to the script but gave Americans nothing of substance
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I believe that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE has been the worst United States president in my lifetime and most of what he has done in the first year has been a calamitous disaster and has threatened to erode our position as the leader of the free world. I’ve tried to force myself to be as objective as possible in analyzing his first State of the Union speech.

Let me begin by saying I thought it was an excellent speech from a political standpoint, which may have a short-run effect of improving the president’s poll numbers. It was excellent because it said virtually nothing controversial, avoided (with a few exceptions) any divisive rhetoric, and was replete with references to American heroes who were present in the audience. Basically, it was successful because it was normal. It was a speech that any president might have given. It talked about accomplishments, rallied our patriotism, and touched on our emotions.

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Having said that, it was also a huge waste of time. The president spoke for 80 minutes and basically said nothing of substance. For example, he said he was for lowering the cost of prescription drugs, but he didn’t say how. It would have been easy for him to say that he was sending a bill to Congress that would allow all government agencies to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical companies, but he didn’t.

He talked about infrastructure and said he had a plan that would leverage $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, involving state and local government as well as the private sector, but he didn’t say how. He also didn’t mention that his commitment for federal spending was only an additional $20 billion a year of the next 10 years, a figure that is one-tenth of what the American Society of Civil Engineers said we need to spend to bring our infrastructure up to “fair condition.” It doesn’t sound like he wants to invest to make our infrastructure great again.

The only subject matter that he tried to spell out with some substantive plans about was immigration but he created a hurdle to solving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) problem by requiring the other side to give too much. A DACA bill in return for money for border fencing or partial wall would have been much cleaner, fairer and easier to achieve.

The second problem with the speech was that the president lied consistently about his achievements and the state of America in 2018. He opened about bragging about 2.4 million jobs that have been created since his election but neglected to say that 500,000 occurred when Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFive former Obama ambassadors back Buttigieg Time for Democrats to accept reality Air Force Academy will no longer allow transgender students to enroll MORE was still president. He also didn’t mention that over the last 11 months, the pace of job growth is much slower than in the 11 months before he became president.

When talking about the economy, he noted that there were going to be new automobile plants to be built in America and that this hasn’t happened in decades. Not true. Volkswagen and BMW have opened plants here in the last nine years and the Toyota Mazda plant scheduled to open soon was in the works during President Obama’s tenure.

He talked about the fact that Hispanic and African American unemployment rates were at an all-time low and took credit for it in his first year. He neglected to say that there has been a steady decline in these rates for the past seven years. He boasted about the fact that United States is now an exporter of energy to the world. Wrong again. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has reported that American energy production accounted for 91 percent of what we consumed, and it will not be until 2026 that we will actually be a net exporter.

Perhaps his biggest whomper was when he bragged about his tax cut being the biggest in American history. There were eight tax cuts that were greater, and even if you adjust for inflation, there were four that were much more significant. When he talked about the average middle-class person getting $930 of tax relief, he didn’t mention that would be totally eroded by the increase in their premiums due to the elimination of the Affordable Care Act mandate.

He talked about the fact that we have turned the corner on trade deals, but in fact, didn’t mention that our trade deficit grew during his first year in office unlike what he had promised. And lastly, he made the incredible claim that this administration has restored our standing abroad even in the face of a Gallup poll of foreign nations showing that world opinion of us as a leader had dropped to an all-time low.

To be fair, there were some good suggestions. He said that terminally-ill patients should be able to take experimental drugs and not be barred by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That makes abundantly good sense. He talked about strong enforcement of trade rules. He is absolutely right. We need to level the playing field and make sure that trade rules are applied evenly to us and our competitor nations.

One thing he said about infrastructure was that we would streamline regulation that slowed construction of valuable assets. He is correct, as all infrastructure advocates have been saying for decades. Best of all, and what might have been the one victory Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpOn The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Ivanka Trump mourns dead in Ethiopian jet crash MORE has had this year, he came out supporting paid family leave, but of course didn’t say what he was going to do to guarantee it.

So that’s it. The speech said virtually nothing but did very little harm, and its contents will be forgotten almost immediately when the president authorizes the release of the Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTen post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Schiff, Nunes pressed DOJ for Mueller briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Mueller report will dominate this week MORE memo against objections of his own Justice Department, and when he has to explain why he refuses to implement sanctions against Russia, which passed overwhelmingly in Congress.

And was it just me or did anyone else think it was odd that the president applauded almost everything he said in a very obvious, loud and resounding fashion? I have watched a lot of State of the Union speeches and cannot recall another president applauding themselves, but what the heck, if only that was his worst sin.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania and a former mayor and former district attorney of Philadelphia. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. He is now co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center.