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Trump’s vision falls short of the agenda America needs

Looking forward, the US president showed no sign he would budge from his maximalist demands on immigration

Gulf News

Newspapers around the world dissected US President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, this week, in which he largely revisited his accomplishments over his first year in the Oval office.

The Washington Post called the address divisive and misleading. “Have a president’s words ever rung more hollow? In his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump spoke of “what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people and one American family.” Yet Trump could not avoid, even for an hour, lacing his address with divisive references to hot-button issues and graceless attacks on his predecessors: to “disastrous Obamacare,” “the mistakes of past administrations,” “the era of economic surrender” and more. Looking forward, Trump showed no sign he would budge from his maximalist demands on immigration. If this is what he considers compromise, he does not understand the concept. The rest of the president’s vision fell well short of the agenda the nation needs. Trump did not mention many of the nation’s biggest, longer-term threats.” The fiscal crisis, worsened by his tax bill, threatens future generations. Economic inequality is high. The world continues to warm. Russia’s meddling poses a threat to US elections. Sadly, after a very long speech, none of that is going to look any different

The BBC noted that the speech was ‘sharp’. “When it came to policy, Mr Trump offered some bipartisan suggestions with few details, such as addressing high prescription drug prices, infrastructure investment, job training and prison reform. Where the president lingered, however, were on topics that will prove as divisive as ever. The paeans to patriotism and traditional values will be viewed by Democrats as a rekindling of culture wars. He spoke of religious liberty and standing for the national anthem, and Democrats sat stone-faced. The president’s pledge to offer an open hand on immigration negotiations was surrounded by extended passages about immigrant crime and a veiled swipe that ‘Americans are dreamers, too’. This speech had a softer touch. The language was smooth. The edge, however, was still as sharp,” the BBC analysis concluded.

The New York Times was blunt in its editorial on the State of the Union address. “There’s a level at which — when you consider that the president of the United States has cosied up to a foreign power that tampered with a US election, has repeatedly assaulted the country’s courts and its law enforcement and intelligence agencies, has defended neo-Nazis, has cried ‘fake news’ while provably lying, and has been revealed so credibly to have paid off a porn star that it made news when his own wife chose to attend his biggest speech of the year — it’s hard to believe that the state of the union is strong. And yet it is indeed strong, as President Donald Trump said, if not for all the reasons or in all the ways he claimed. Every president has used the State of the Union address to tell his brand-building version of the national narrative, and Trump can’t be blamed for offering his own characteristically brazen interpretation. He declared ‘incredible progress’ and ‘extraordinary success’ and announced a ‘new American moment’ in a speech that seemed to last an eternity. But he couldn’t sustain the optimistic tone promised in advance, lapsing back into dishonest invocations of a rising immigrant menace and internal terrorist threat in order to press his nativist ideas.”

Trump happily applauded his own address to Congress, The Guardian wrote, “The rest of us should not. The State of the Union is supposed to be a ritual expression of the president’s duties to the American people. But trappings do not matter if you have no sense of duty; if you regard the people as eminently divisible; if you attack the institutions on which democracy rests; and if your presidency defiles the nation’s supposed ideals instead of upholding them.” the paper editorialised.