The State of Trump’s Union

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To the dismay of his dedicated critics within the US political establishment, President Donald Trump had many positives to laud in his first State of the Union address to Congress. Unemployment is indeed down and the stock market up, both to almost historic levels. Some Democrat legislators were so overwhelmed by their hatred of Trump that they boycotted his speech, a sign of the deepest disrespect for the office of president and a sad demonstration of just how unhinged the US political system has become.

Others, including Bernie Sanders, the left-of-center presidential candidate who came very close to beating Hillary Clinton to the Democrat nomination, listened to Trump in stony silence and kept to their seats when Republicans gave the President a standing ovation.

Though Trump’s policies go against every political nerve in Bernie Sanders’ body, both men have long shared the same political ambition - to upset Washington’s political applecart. A year into his four-year term, Trump has survived the almost constant stream of abuse directed at him by the Establishment. His poll ratings may be among the lowest of any early incumbency but the White House has been able to shrug them off with a neat sashay. The liberal media have fallen on the findings with intemperate glee, thus allowing Trump’s aides to trot out their standard “fake news” retort.

Ronald Reagan, the cowboy film star turned politician, was known as “the Teflon President” because though his administration was mired in a range of scandals, none of them stuck to Reagan, who moseyed on regardless. Thus far “Titanium” seems a more appropriate adjective for Trump. Regardless of what is thrown at him, the missiles bounce off. Capitol Hill still has no idea how to deal with a man who has brought his own rulebook. The Russian inquiry is the best attack that the Establishment has been able to launch. Far-reaching though its investigations may be, there is little in the way of the same bated breath that greeted the Watergate inquiry into Richard Nixon’s White House.

Trump’s enemies are currently comforting themselves that this State of the Union address was an exercise in dangerous hubris. The President’s triumphant reference to the booming stock market was the most obvious example. His deep corporate tax cuts may have boosted share values and encouraged American companies to hire more people, but financial markets have never truly been at the beck and call of politicians. Wiseacres were saying that the Dow Jones Index was already overvalued before Trump won the White House. Continued strong share performance, therefore, suggests that a potentially radical readjustment could turn the President’s confident claims into an embarrassment. But this is, of course, to assume that Trump can actually be embarrassed by anything.

A major disappointment in his address was that Guantanamo Bay is to remain open. He could have targeted it as an example of establishment political fudge and deep injustice. Gitmo’s continued existence, even after Barack Obama claimed to be intent on closing it, is arguably a consequence of the Washington swamp Trump vowed to drain. It goes against every American value of fairness and justice. Trump has the strength Obama lacked, to bulldoze through a closure. It is a pity the President did not seize this opportunity.


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