If I were President Donald Trump’s speechwriter, I would be seething.
You give him the line he needs, something topical, something memorable, something that rhymes, something that every boring speech needs to seem less boring.
The president hits the line and it works. Then he steps all over it with some goofy ad lib.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States - and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”
In one line, his speechwriters hit the positives of the economy, noted some policy points and even questioned the need for more investigations.
But then President Trump ruined the effect because in his excitement to deliver the line, he couldn’t resist giving himself a live version of a “like” on social media by adding the throwaway line, “It just doesn’t work that way.”
You could tell he thought the line was clever. It would have been far more effective if he would have taken the shot and left the chaser alone.
When I listened to it, all I could think to myself was, “Roses are red, Violets are blue. Just because something rhymes, doesn’t make it true.”
We basically got the same State of the Union that we have heard three years in a row.
Immigrants are bad. We need a wall. Caravans of tens of people will send America spiraling toward the apocalypse if the wall isn’t funded.
Same song, different verse. Gone are the days of forward-looking speeches with lofty goals. Now, we just beat the same xenophobic drum year after year.
It’s enough to drive some people to drink, apparently. As a person who has never tasted alcohol, I can’t say for certain that the state of former White House spokesperson Sean Spicer after the State of the Union was “drunk as a skunk” but if he wasn’t, he does a great Otis of Mayberry impression.
Rubbing Eric Bolling’s coat and slurring the words “I love velvet” should only be performed by a drunk person. Like I said, I don’t have personal experience to back it up, but unless there was a medical reason for it, Spicer appeared to have been medicating himself for a while before he was invited onto the set.
It’s too bad that he doesn’t have any real friends who would have said, “No TV for you tonight, buddy. You’re under the weather.”
The person who should have been self-medicating was Stacy Abrams, the Democrat candidate for Governor of Georgia who lost her 2018 election.
The response to the State of the Union is impossible to do well. You don’t have a crowd to draw energy from. You don’t know what lines landed and which ones missed. Every person who ever gave the response speech has proven how difficult it must be.
But Abrams set a new standard there. She wasn’t bad. She didn’t respond to Trump’s speech as much as she responded to his policies. That gave her extra preparation time, which seemed to help her.
She was able to deliver strong sentiment like, “But we must all embrace that from agriculture to health care to entrepreneurship, America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls.”
She also hit the idea of voter suppression, which she blames in part for her own loss. It became a national issue as soon as Sen. Mitch McConnell mocked the idea of a national holiday for elections. Why would we not want everyone to vote and every ballot that is cast to be counted?
Abrams rebutted McConnell’s notion by saying, “The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters.”
The nice thing about Abrams’ speech was her desire to let the speech speak for itself and not be the comedian who delivers a punch line and says, “Wasn’t that funny? Get it?”
Trump’s legacy as president is on shaky ground already. His State of the Union speeches won’t be what restores his reputation.
This week’s address was more proof of that. He would have been better off letting Speaker Nancy Pelosi cancel it and just stick to rallies and Twitter.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.