Something very strange happened at the State of the Union address last week. In a nutshell, Donald Trump did everything right and his opponents did everything wrong.
I mean seriously, when does that ever happen? Especially when it would have been so easy for the Democrats to have been gracious and come out with at least a few points.
And remarkably Trump achieved this when all our prior experience of him seemed to show us a shallow braggart in love with flash glitz and beautiful women. Did we miss something on the road to Damascus?
This may have been the first time in a long time when something actually important happened at the State of the Union address.
Article II Section 3 of the Constitution says the president, "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;"
It doesn't say this should be a yearly ritual. That precedent was established by George Washington at a time everybody thought our new nation and Washington personally were in big trouble.
Washington called congress together and told them no, we're not. He said we have problems but nothing we can't handle and asked what other country on earth was as fortunate as we?
That's what Trump did. He told us we've got problems but we can handle them. And importantly, with examples.
He cited the Cajun Navy, guys with fishing boats who go out in floods to rescue people. He introduced a young cop and his wife who adopted the child of an addicted mother and nursed it through withdrawal. A boy who organized a movement to put flags on veterans' graves. A rural firefighter who saved 60 children. And on a somber note, two couples whose children were murdered by members of the MS 13 gang.
And in marked contrast to his predecessor who loved the sound of "I," Trump said "We" – a lot.
The staging was perfect. The First Lady arrived separately with the guests rather than ride with Trump and appeared to be on terms of warm familiarity with them, creating the impression they were guests, not props.
The Democrats sat on their hands, never once rising to applaud even the most innocuously non-political parts. And when Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV) did rise, his own party conspicuously made him sit down.
Nancy Pelosi sat scowling and looked like she was chewing an unripe persimmon.
Are they clueless? Except in times of war and dire emergency the address is traditionally an exercise in feel-goodism. At best it's informative, though quickly forgotten.
The response was given by Massachusetts congressman Joseph Kennedy the gol-durned Third. The contrast was startling.
Kennedy and others painted a bleak picture of an America in dire straits and a party in power that wants to oppress minorities, like the parents of the murdered children Trump introduced, and steal babies like that cop and his wife.
Since Kennedy is still relatively unknown outside Massachusetts media had to explain he is the grandson of Sen. Robert Kennedy and grand-nephew of President John F. Kennedy. Did nobody see this looks like a dynast from a quasi-royal family condemning the upstart?
Though Kennedy did praise Americans in general, he referred to them as "they" and not once gave an example of any specific individual.
Responses from the left after the speech have been clueless to the point of absurdity.
"Veiled racism!" like we didn't know that was going to happen.
What they don't seem to grasp is, Americans don't like being told we are racist bigots.
We rather like hearing we're pretty decent people on balance; capable, competent, and neighborly.
We like being shown examples of heroism and compassion, and it sells a lot better than Debbie Downer saying we're all about misery and oppression.
We're getting the impression Trump likes to tell Americans how "wonderful" they are, and the Democrats love to tell them how awful they are.
This to put it mildly, is not a winning strategy. Which we may see this November unless they get a clue.
Steve Browne is an award-winning reporter and columnist who entered journalism by accident while living and working in Eastern Europe from 1991 to 2004. He is the author of two books for English students: "Word Pictures: English as it is REALLY Used," published in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and Novosibirsk, Russia, and "English Linguistic Humor: Puns, Play on Words, Spoonerisms, and Shaggy Dog Stories." In 1997 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Yugoslav Movement for the Protection of Human Rights. He is currently living in his beloved Midwest, which he considers "the most interesting foreign country I have ever lived in." A collection of his columns, "The View from Flyover Country: A Rural Columnist Looks at Life" is available on Kindle.
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