The White House is guiding reporters that during tonight’s State of the Union address President Trump will call for comity, for a coming together of Republicans and Democrats for the good of the country.
Yes, they are giving that guidance with a straight face.
There will be a great yawn or sense of bewilderment from most of the country because (1) they’ve heard it from Trump before and those good tidings lasted long enough for him to get his thumbs on his Twitter account; (2) because during his two years in office Trump has given away any credibility he might have once had by dissembling at best and lying at his worst on a daily basis, multiple times a day.
He will get through reading his text because he knows that he will have one of his largest audiences tonight and that audience likely reflects the country’s beliefs about him — 37 or 40 percent support him, the rest doubt him at best, despise him at worst. For one of the few times my guess is he will try to appeal somewhat to the more than 50 percent of the country that don’t approve of the job he is doing.
In his heart, Trump knows he cannot win reelection with only his base. Tonight he gets to talk to the rest of America. Time to put on the “let’s all work together” face.
His challenge is: other than his base, his credibility is near zero and why should anyone believe him tonight?
He’ll call for Democrats to join him in a bill to improve the country’s infrastructure, knowing there is general agreement on that issue but he’s had two years to deal with infrastructure, which is easier than most, and instead focused on building his border wall to keep crime, drugs and disease out of the country and in trying to repeal and replace Obamacare and other Obama era initiatives. The Democrats in the hall don’t believe him just because he is upending everything they achieved with Obama.
He has to talk about his support for the wall tonight because his base will be watching. He’ll have Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his right shoulder and not the former Speaker, the toady Paul Ryan. Millions of eyes will watch for Pelosi’s reactions tonight. Spoiler alert: She’ll be respectful because she respects the Office of the President.
Trump’s call for comity won’t last long. He can’t operate without an enemy and his enemy is the Democrats, figure-headed by Nancy Pelosi. But he can’t press her tonight for many reasons, not the least of which is he now knows that she is the toughest person in Washington at the moment.
Trump is saying Pelosi won’t cave to his wall demands because she wants the issue for 2020. He’s projecting, here. He knows it is he who wants the issue for 2020. He likely won’t say tonight that he will use his emergency powers to pay for the wall — even Republican Leader McConnell knows that’s a loser. But he may at some point do that because he knows it is an issue that is headed to the courts and I’m sure he’d just as soon see it languish there so he can claim he’s pushed it as far as he can, thus preserving the talking point for his reelection campaign.
He’s “set the table” as he has teased for using the emergency option (which likely fails in court) and he even ordered a few thousand more troops to the border this week to show what an emergency it is. Those troops so far have basically been erecting concertina wire. And when his intelligence chiefs delivered the annual terror threat report to Congress last week, the border issue never came up.
If Trump really wanted to display some comity tonight he would start by congratulating Pelosi on her return to power in the House and be sincere about it. But sincerity is difficult for this president to display. He’d make a self-deprecating joke at some point. Something like, “Gee, did you see what happened last November? I lost bigly.” But he won’t. Because he thinks he won the 2018 election.
He likely won’t veer much from his prepared remarks, but that’s when he looks least sincere of all. He should have kept that campaign promise of never using a TelePrompter — he’s really bad at it and shows it in his softer voice, his half closed (sincere look) eyes and his calmer demeanor. We all know by now that is his false look. At least that’s not the character he’s chosen to play in his reality show of The Celebrity White House.
Last point, I’ll take the over on a one-hour speech. He does love the spotlight.