A divisive speech for a divided union

 A divisive speech for a divided union
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It was a frightening speech, a divisive speech. It was a speech that truly expressed a state of disunion rather than a State of the Union. 

There was nary a word about bridging the partisan divide that cripples our politics; not a word about the rule of law or the cherished American principle that no one is above the law — including the president himself. There was not a hint or a gesture toward those on the other side of the aisle, who happen to represent the majority of the electorate. 

Strangely, whatever words President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE might have spoken in his own defense against the serious charges of high crimes and misdemeanors leveled against him were left on the cutting room floor. It was as if the indelible mark of impeachment had disappeared from his forehead.


Instead, there was red meat for his base, an overdose of corny reality television and a Teleprompter speech riddled with disingenuous rhetoric. 

Trump is a total charlatan. There was “truth decay” in every one of his promises. 

On health care, he guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions. Yet, in court, his Justice Department takes positions that would extinguish such coverage.

He professes to be for “life” and for children. Yet, he guarantees Second Amendment rights for handguns and assault weapons that serve no purpose other than to kill people, including schoolchildren.

He would deny women autonomy over their own bodies, a fundamental right that has been assured every time the issue has been presented to the Supreme Court. 

He professes to be for minorities and Opportunity Zones, yet his administration has few black or brown faces. Diversity is alien to his lexicon.  


He proclaims a Constitution that is dead, denying that the great charter must be interpreted as a living document if it is to have any meaning in a society far more developed than the one that ingeniously created it in 1789. 

He gloats over the “Islamist terrorists” he has killed, but not a word about the terrorists who roam our streets and schoolyards, and who attack our churches and synagogues. 

He honors with the Presidential Medal of Freedom an extreme right-wing radio talk-show host – a sympathetic figure because he is dying of cancer – yet, in other quarters, he denounces the free press that is critical of him as “enemies of the people.”

He orchestrates a stunt out of reality TV, reuniting one serviceman with his family. Yet, at the border, he separates hundreds of families – perhaps permanently – with a callousness that shocks the conscience. 

He denounces sanctuary cities and states and cherry-picks one act of violence by an illegal immigrant as an argument for condemning those embracing the American tradition of welcoming the tired and poor to our shores. 

He is all for the free exercise of religion but seeks to establish religion in public schools, ostensibly to “educate” the non-believers and convert them to a true faith — a position worthy of Torquemada.

He honors our military, claiming that he wants to “bring the boys home,” while he enlarges troop commitments in the Middle East. He totally ignores that he has endangered the lives of our military, as well as our national security, by weakening ties with our European allies and demoralizing our foreign service officers everywhere in the world.

His speech evinces the “truth decay” which is central to his rhetoric. 

His supporters chant “Four more years!” and “U.S.A.!” while, at the same time, those very supporters work for voter suppression and overlook foreign interference in our elections.

His speech expressed malice toward most and charity for none. There was nothing in it to bind the wounds that reveal our division. No wonder Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Overnight Health Care: Average daily COVID infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says | US reaches 70 percent vaccination goal a month after Biden's target | White House says CDC can't renew eviction ban Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban MORE tore up the prepared text of his speech. This State of the Union address should be relegated to the dustbin of history. 

James D. Zirin, a retired partner of the Chicago-headquartered law firm of Sidley Austin, is the author of the recently published book, “Plaintiff in Chief — A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits.” He is a former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.