State of the Union: a new Trump?

B. Jay Cooper
4 min readJan 31, 2018


Stylistically, President Trump’s State of the Union address last night was his best delivered speech since he’s been in office. He came across as steady, thoughtful, disciplined, and he seemed to have a message of bipartisanship and faith in the American people. There was, mostly, less “me” and more “you” in the speech.

Substantively, it was classic the real Donald Trump. While he didn’t call out “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer, he did shove his repeal of the Obamacare mandate in the faces of all who supported that law, while calling for bipartisanship.

He called for a bipartisan approach to immigration but also seemed to be linking the murderous MS13 gang with what’s bad about immigration.

I counted only two (but I may have missed one) references to what “I” have accomplished and he mostly read the teleprompter which talked about the great American people. His dog whistle messages may have been summarized in this line from his speech:

“Americans are dreamers too.”

Yes, Mr. President, and Dreamers are Americans, too.

Why separate the Dreamers from the rest of us? All that separates them is the federal government, as it has promised, as this president has promised, passing a law granting them the citizenship they have earned.

But I digress (though not that much).

He called for unity in our country but he offered no olive branch to anyone. We can solve immigration, he said, and repeated his call for a great wall between us and Mexico. The only thing missing from his campaign speech was, “and Mexico will pay for it.” He knew then, and he knows now, that isn’t going to happen.

He called for what I thought should have been his first legislative priority in office, legislation to improve our country’s infrastructure. It truly might have been passed with strong bipartisan support, which would have set the stage for a different kind of presidency. But now he’s calling for an infrastructure package of $1.45 trillion. The fine print, though, says the federal government will pay only about $200 billion of that cost, with the rest made up from state and local governments and, he hopes, the private sector. We’ll see what the private sector will kick in but I know if the state and local officials pitch in, it means more taxes for all of us.

His speech included, of course, a Trumpian amount of lies, mistruths and misrepresentations. Among them, according to the fact checkers:

He claims he has brought unemployment among African Americans down to 6.8 percent, the lowest in history. Partly true. The unemployment rate when President Obama left office among African Americans was 7.7 percent when Trump was sworn in. And during the campaign he called all unemployment statistics gather by the government a fraud. Now they are his bible.

That’s another thing, when he quotes how well the economy is doing, he counts from the day he was elected, and not the day he was sworn in. The economy is humming, right now, but it was on a good trend when administrations changed hands. His promise of his tax cut certainly has contributed to the economy.

Where his credit-taking is iffier is in regulations cut. He says he’s cut regulations more than any other president in his first year. Hard to prove, since records don’t go back too far. But also, according to those blessed fact checkers, most of the regulations he “cut” weren’t regulations at all. They were proposed regulations that had not taken effect.
And, research by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, shows that regulatory restrictions actually grew during Trump’s first year, but at a slower pace than other presidents in their first year.

And that booming stock market he hails as his gift to America was booming before he took office also. In fact, here come those fact checkers again, the S&P index gained about 33.3 percent from inauguration through late January in Obama’s time and that compares to 25.5 percent under Trump. Again, not complaining about the increase, just sayin’. And, the market has had significant drops the last two days.

The President also implied that immigrants are committing crimes at a higher rate, thus his continued references to MS13. The truth is research shows that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.

There’s one other quote from his speech that felt ominous when he read it:

“Tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers, and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”

Think on that for a minute. Right now, federal career employees are protected against will nillly political firings, as they should be. What Trump seems to be saying, for example, is: “Once I release that ‘secret’ memo, my Attorney General should be allowed to fire whoever I want him to fire.”

In other words, nice packaging, same old Donald Trump.



B. Jay Cooper

Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: