The president's state of disunion

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

I watched President Trump's first State of the Union (SOTU) address last week. A lot of people spared themselves the ordeal, but you never know — it might be his last.

As I've always said when discussing Trump, it's not about politics. It's about psychology. Whether you support him or not, I think we can all agree on one thing: Donald Trump is an extraordinarily annoying human being. As he warms to the standing ovation from the Republicans, he becomes even cockier than usual. Cocky on top of his pompous pompadour on top of an iceberg of insecurity is something to behold.

The camera pans to the gallery to show First Lady Melania, who doesn't exactly look thrilled to be here.

The Republicans, however, are applauding like there's no tomorrow. They can't stop clapping. Neither can the Cheerleader-in-Chief, whose self-applause is picked up by the mic: POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP. This goes on throughout the third longest speech in SOTU history. The Democrats, meanwhile, look like high school students in the back row who don't believe a single word coming out of the mouth of the teacher, their scathing indictment handed down with sullen stares and stony silence.

 "The state of the union is … disunion!"

Trump doesn't say that, of course, not in so many words, but that's the real story. 

His lips curl back from his very white teeth, forming an almost rectangular sneer. He cocks his head, leans in to the mic, enunciating in exaggerated fashion as if, speaking as slowly and clearly as possible, he'll finally penetrate the thick skulls of his detractors. He opens his mouth, but what pours out is attitude. He is nothing if not pent up. When he really wants to drive home a point, he touches his index finger to the tip of his thumb while the other three fingers splay like a peacock's feathers trying to intimidate a rival. He looks and sounds like a Mafia don delivering an ultimatum. Everything, in fact, is ultimate: "tremendous," "greatest," "best," "most beautiful," "terrific," "incredible." Along with obstruction of justice, he could be indicted for hyperbole.

For most of the speech his head swivels toward the Republican side of the chamber, seeking the audience that adores him. Several times per minute, Republicans leap from their seats, as if jerked by marionette strings, roaring their approval. They must have had sore knees the next day. 

Occasionally, he turns to the Democratic side, but the sight of so much disapproval quickly drives him back to his base. In the few instances where he makes vague references to something the opposition might actually approve of — family leave, promising to bring down the costs of prescription drugs, the need for prison reform — he extends his hands in their direction as if daring them, "Do you love me now?" A few of the Democrats, probably the ones in tight re-election races, clap and even stand from time to time. Bernie Sanders is seen barely touching his hands together at one point. Cory Booker stares daggers. Mostly they just roll their eyes. When you have zero credibility, why should the opposition dignify anything with a reaction? 

But he's too busy applauding for himself to notice. POP, POP, POP, POP, POP!

The Clapper-in-Chief offers a 12-year path to citizenship for DACA dreamers (12 years! With stringent requirements, of course), but only in return for his beloved border wall, creating a "merit-based" immigration system, and ending "chain migration" and the "visa lottery." The four pillars of immigration reform, he calls it — three for him, one for the Democrats. That's his idea of compromise. He pronounces that "fair." POP, POP, POP, POP! The Democrats boo. 

Trump's speech is a litany of mostly phony "achievements" (see and conservative clichés: We love our flag more than you do (though not what it symbolizes). God and faith are our foundation (No evidence of that here). "Where there's a mountain, Americans climb it" (Is this a good thing?). "Americans are dreamers, too" (He means to be sarcastic, but inadvertently says something true. We're all immigrants or descendants of immigrants, after all). 

Smug, snide, sneering, specious, supercilious, and shameless, his bombast is punctuated, and partly redeemed, by pathos — praising the heroism and/or exploiting the pain of ordinary Americans in the gallery in order to justify his divisive policies.

But the invited guests also help underscore a point he did not make: that the greatness of America already exists and has existed for a very long time, that good citizenship and love of country were not invented on his watch, and it can be found on both sides of the great cultural divide.

He could have said that, but he didn't.

Instead, he sounds like a guy with a huge chip on his shoulder, axes to grind, scores to settle, a bundle of resentments because the world won't give him the respect he thinks he deserves but hasn't earned.

When he finally stops, the Democrats clear out before he can even make it up the aisle.

The SOTU is beginning to resemble the raucous setting of Britain's Parliament. Well, at least that's more honest. Some feel Barack Obama, an emotionally mature person, failed as president because he presented a vision of a united country but couldn't bring us together. Donald Trump isn't emotionally mature enough to unite the warring factions in his own chaotic psyche, much less the country. 

So this is who we are, the Divided States of America. 

Maybe we just need to come to terms with that. 

If you didn't tune in, you missed one hell of a speech — by Rep. Joseph Kennedy, who delivered the Democratic response. I put it in the same class as Obama's 2004 keynote address. If you want to hear a real speech, you can find it online.


Reader Comments

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Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 11th, 2018 9:56 AM

@ Dwyer - OK but I did get it right the second time!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 11th, 2018 8:29 AM

It's "Ramona." Focus, Ray.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 11th, 2018 7:06 AM

@ Romona - Dwyer is busy typing "I see London, I see France, I see Ramona's underpants" That is his debate system.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 10th, 2018 8:15 PM

No response Mr. Dwyer? Don't want to reveal what is going on in your "thought bubble"?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 10th, 2018 12:29 PM

Hey Nick: Mr. Janis is just using the time proven strategy of all partisans, left or right: repeat a falsehood long enough and loud enough and it takes on the aura of truth.

Nick Polido  

Posted: February 10th, 2018 10:45 AM

"So far much of what Christopher Steele a former MI6 agent has been proven to be true" Did I miss this in the news or something?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 10th, 2018 8:51 AM

Your immigrant status doesn't excuse you from getting your facts straight, Ms. Lopez. Your assessment of Obama's tenure is simply wrong. Obama did what he could in the face of constant and unreasonable Republican opposition. He attempted compromise on numerous occasions and was rebuffed. Check the record, if you care to.

Christopher J Janis from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2018 8:23 AM

Frist off no Obama didn't have complete control the first two years. There was one dem Senator who had a stroke and was out, Ted Kennedy was ill, and Al Franken seat was blocked for almost a year. Second point there was a bi partisan immigration deal that was written under Obama. McConnell and republicans refuse to put it up for a vote, they didn't want another Obama victory. That is what forced Obama's hand into drafting DACA. I agree immigration should be fixed by congress, but I am afraid the GOP will not do it. They run on fear and fear of brown people stealing your jobs is too much of a political tool for them to give up. If I were to bet I would bet the GOP punts on DACA and immigration. Christopher Steele Dossier was funded by Jeb Bush at the start to find dirt on Trump, when Bush dropped out of the race the DNC picked up the tab. So far much of what Christopher Steele a former MI6 agent has been proven to be true. As for Uranium 1 deal its been investigated and we have spent million and found nothing, its a distraction. The Sec of State was one of many departments that had to sign off on the deal. The GOP has spent millions of our tax dollars in a vain effort to smear the Clinton's. HRC is not President, move on. The fact is the Russians are committing an act of war in their interference in our elections. We were told over and over that there was no contact between Trump people and Russians, now we know that is a complete lie. We were told that the Russians tried but didn't get into states voter rolls, but now we know they did. What will be the next fact to come to light? An election that was one by the slimmest of margins, and they want us to believe the Russian hacked the voter rolls and did nothing? Only in America you can get 3 million more votes and still lose. Enjoy republicans Trump cheated his way in, and Bush needed Daddy's supreme court to win.....It will all come back to haunt you and history will not be kind.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 9:30 PM

BTW Mr. Dwyer, I have read a few of your other comments. It seems you really don't have much to contribute to the conversations. You seem to bash and criticize people you disagree with. Perhaps there isn't much going on in your "thought bubble".

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 9:18 PM

Well Mr. Dwyer, He could force Congress like President Trump to do their jobs, seriously debate the issue, negotiate a compromise and come up with a reasonable and prudent solution. Alas, he NEVER did as he PROMISED to do. The problem is neither side wants to compromise anymore. It's all or nothing. As far as creating havoc, he has protected the undocumented children who reside here, but that leaves the parents and other siblings sitting in limbo. Now someone like you, who lives in their white privilege bubble, probably can't relate to this sort of havoc, but as an immigrant myself, I can. Have a good evening Mr. Dwyer.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 7:16 PM

And Ray? We will most definitely " "watch this movie to the end." Difference is, I'll be the one relishing the ending, not you.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 6:40 PM

So, Ramona... tell us... what could Obama do? With Republicans controlling first the House and then the entire Congress his last six years? And also tell us.. please... just how DACA created "havoc"? C'mon, let us into your thought bubble.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 6:15 PM

Mike...he still had another 6 years to do something and the band aid executive order DACA was just that, a short term band aid fix with no lasting result that created more havoc. The Republicans didn't run the economy off the cliff, greedy bankers and naive and greedy American home buyers who agreed to crappy loan deals and over extended their credit did that. Obama of course was busy bailing out the banks and NONE were ever prosecuted. Probably because during his first campaign Goldman Sachs gave him $1,034,000, Chase gave him $850,000, Citigroup gave him $755,000 and Morgan Stanley gave him $528,000. Evidently, regardless of who sits in the white house, there truly is 2 different justice system. Sucks doesn't it Mike when "your guy" isn't as righteous as want him to be.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 1:18 PM

I agree Ramona. Immigration reform belongs in the halls of the Congress. But Congress views the immigration "thing" as a "hot potato", and doesn't want to deal with this issue. Because let's face it, no matter what the Congress decides, someone's interests are going to be hurt, and that translates into lost votes. So sure Congress does what they usually do: kick the proverbial can down the road; let the President - whoever that is at the time - take the heat. But now, they actually may be forced to do their duty. Imagine that: do the job they were elected to do! Oh the horrors! And yes folks like Ken really don't care about the Kennedy's historical disgraceful treatment of woman. As long as the Kennedy's mouth the proper liberal progressive line, well those "little inconveniences" just don't matter.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 1:13 PM

"He had the house and senate the first 2 years of his presidency, and still didn't do it." I know, right?? You'd think he had more pressing matters to attend to like turning the economy around after the Republicans drove it off a cliff, or something...

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 1:07 PM

@ Ramona lopez: I found it interesting that Mr. Kennedy stated that the illegal aliens here just like American citizens in every way except they werent born here, yet he had to speak to them in Spanish and not English.. And Uncle Ted got caught cheating in college on a Spanish test no less. In the PBS special on The Kennedys, Coleman Young stated the Kennedys were so prejudiced that even their maids were Irish.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 9th, 2018 12:24 PM

President Obama had 8 years to "fix" immigration. By the way, another campaign promise he did not fulfill. He had the house and senate the first 2 years of his presidency, and still didn't do it. Rand Paul has the most sensible solution out there. He suggests instead of taking 1 million new immigrant in every year, we take in 800,000 and save the additional 200,000 slots for DACA kids. Forcing congress to come up with a solution is probably the best thing Trump has done. At least he isn't kicking the can down the road like President Obama. Sorry I don't like President Trump and I didn't waste my time watching his speech. Lastly, I hope I wasn't supposed to be impressed with Mr. Kennedy speaking a few sentences in his third grade Spanish. I find it hypocritical the Democratic party picks someone from the most elite/privileged family in America who has a history of treating women like 3rd class citizens to represent them.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 8th, 2018 5:44 PM

@ Dwyer - "most of them are proving out" Put up or shut up What is proving out? We know that the Dossier you bank on was financed by Hillary and the DNC, now we discover that much of it was written by Sydney Bloominthal. Meuller has 4 prosecutions - not one even close to what his mandate was. I believe that Uranium1 is the story that is hiding behind the smoke that is Trump/Russia. Meuller, Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe were the top guns at the FBI and were about to file corruption charges against Uranium1 when a call from the White House stopped the effort to protect US Uranium from being controlled by Putin. They swore an oath to follow the law and they failed. Russia/Trump was concocted to insulate Meuller et-al from answering questions. I am sure you see it differently and we will have to watch this movie to the end.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 7th, 2018 3:50 PM

Well, I sure appreciate you didn't make it personal with Obama, Ray. Problem is, Drumpf is a pathological narcissist and reflexive liar who is both an embarrassment and a clear and present danger to our democracy, something Obama never was. Oh, and the Dossier? It's not how it works out for me, it's how the allegations within prove out, and in case you haven't been paying attention, Ray, most of them are proving out. You're going to be stunned at the stuff Mueller has found. When he brings all those indictments, what will you do? Call HIM a hater too?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 7th, 2018 3:34 PM

@ Dwyer - I spent 8 years detesting the policies of President Obama. I never made it personal! BTW - how is that Dossier thing working out for you? Looks to me as if it is causing a whole lot more trouble than it resolved. The can of worms seem to be exposed.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 7th, 2018 1:13 PM

Whew!! Feel better now, Ray?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: February 7th, 2018 11:06 AM

You should be thrilled that the Wednesday Journal doesn't have a "Hatred has no home" line in it's banner. You would be posted out of town forever. This hate filled diatribe is the same as we saw by a dower faced, angry group of people, at the SOTU, who are devoid of any constructive ideas or willing to help our nation. The old saying about "Cutting off your nose to spite your face" seems appropriate. I acknowledge that President Trumps demeanor is reminiscent of his younger days learning a trade on New York Construction sites and I wish he was a little smoother in his reactions. That is not Donald J Trump! Hillary Lost, Donald J Trump is the POTUS there is little you can do about that and all of the "Panty Waist" sniping and backstabbing will not change that! If you cannot stand for something, you are happy with nothing and "RESISTING" will get you NOTHING!

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