Republicans have also done it, of course, but there the Democrats sat: glum, angry, their eyes squinty and blank, despair and heartbreak evident in every whisper to each other, in every glance at the bully pulpit from which President Donald Trump was doing something amazing.
He was giving a compromising, coalescing, optimistically hopeful State of the Union speech, one of the most captivating in recent memory.
Often they are dull and boring, the reading of tedious lists of suspect ambitions, but here was Trump making vivid points on central issues and then arriving at humanizing exclamation marks in the form of recognizing outstanding American souls in the balcony who exemplified his message.
While Ronald Reagan started this, no president has done it as effectively or to the extent Trump did. And when, for instance, you were watching a creative, civic-minded, smiley-faced 12-year-old boy who had figured out a way to get thousands of flags placed at the graves of veterans in his hometown, you felt good. Democrats joined the Republicans in standing applause and the speech was enhanced.
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But concerning just about every policy Trump addressed, the Democrats offered facial expressions that were the opposite of applause, with hypocrisy in the wings. Consider, for instance, how hard the party has been fighting for Barack Obama’s unconstitutional plan for temporarily legalizing some 700,000 children of illegal immigrants. Then consider their reaction when Trump said he wants to legally lift the number to 1.8 million with a path to citizenship.
They were not about to go along with that because Trump wanted them to compromise too, some Democrats said after the speech. It is anathema to them to give any on more border security, even though that is especially needed after amnesties and would certainly have to precede a more general amnesty. And they are certainly against the Trump idea of improving the immigration process by moving from nepotism to merit. So forget the Dreamers?
The Democrats were like that, too, on the tax reform plan they vehemently opposed and that Trump glowed about in his speech. It has already produced thousands of bonuses and jobs, he said, and that’s just as true as the likelihood that it will inspire economic growth to the point of higher wages for the downtrodden working class and glorious tax relief for one and all.
The Democrats’ problem is that some tax relief also went to the top 10 percent of wage earners, people who happen to pay 71 percent of all taxes and will now substantially aid the growth with more investments and spending.
Trump brought up infrastructure, and, like him, the Democrats want to move ahead on rebuilding falling bridges and the like, but will they go along with Trump’s ideas on local, state and private partnerships to keep the costs within reason? Will they agree to shorten an absolutely ludicrous years-long permit process?
Concerning other of Trump’s pronounced ideas, how will they stand on reforming welfare programs to make them more work-oriented? My guess is that they will agree to reform prisons that happen to really, truly need it. More vocational schools? Here is something hugely important for the unskilled in the working class and so let’s pray all sides can get together. Another good idea is letting the terminally ill try drugs not yet approved by the federal government.
In his first year, Trump has done an endless amount that is good, much of it very nearly the opposite of what Hillary Clinton would have done, especially on taxes, regulations and the appointment of judges. At the same time, he has too often played the buffoon, is more than a little worrisome in his trade interventions and badly needs to address the truly serious debt issue.
But, overall, here was an outstanding speech with outstanding purposes and we need something reciprocal from the Democrats.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.