Monday, March 19 , 2018, 4:05 pm | Fair 67º


Susan Estrich: Donald Trump and the Sorry State of the Union

"Tonight," Donald Trump said, "I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people."

Who is he kidding?

How dumb does he think we are?

Is this the same man who can't stop tweeting about how Hillary Clinton should be investigated and locked up? Is this the same man who embraces white supremacists?

Is this the same man who refused to condemn anti-Semitism on Holocaust Memorial Day? Is this the same man who would destroy the First Amendment and freedom of the press?

Is this the same man who walked away from a bipartisan deal on immigration because of his beloved but totally impractical wall, and who would deport those who were brought to this country as children?

That is the real Donald Trump. He writes those tweets. That's who he is.

This is a speech that he just read. Written by those who know better. Delivered — and to be forgotten moments later.

How dare he?

Trump's inaugural address — caustic, angry and divisive — might have been one of the worst in history, by any standard, but at least it was honest. 

Donald Trump has never tried to unite this country. He has never reached out in a conciliatory fashion to those with whom he disagrees. He castigates them, calls them criminals, belittles them. That's Donald Trump.

The man on the podium in Congress was an actor playing a part, a reality show star who realized that being booed for being hateful and divisive during the State of the Union address just wouldn't look good on television.

Best to do it in tweets instead.

Best to do it in meetings at the White House.

Best to avoid talking about "s---hole countries" — sorry, his word not mine — on national television.

Leave it for the next day, or the day before.

If you think anything has changed because of a pretty speech written by a speechwriter somewhere in the executive office building, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. Interviews the morning after the speech with leaders on both sides confirm the reality: Nothing has changed.

There is only one reason President Trump sounded anything approaching a conciliatory tone in his first State of the Union: Because his approval rating is in the toilet and his party stands an excellent chance of losing control of the House, which could easily lead to the impeachment of a president who seems bent on obstructing justice in every way he can.

Trump has no one but himself to blame for his problems. The speechwriters may craft his addresses before Congress, but he writes and shares the ugly tweets and retweets that reveal the dark side of his character. 

Even his wife didn't want to ride in the same car with him to the State of the Union. Seems she's figured out what the rest of us already knew: that he is not a man of his word; that he cannot be trusted; that he thinks the rules that apply to everyone else just don't apply to him.

These are terrifying characteristics for a man who is the president of the United States. He has embarrassed us in the eyes of the world. Maybe in reality TV, one good performance can erase all the bad ones.

Not in real life. The real state of the union is divided and troubled, polarized and afraid.

And nothing Donald Trump said on Tuesday night even begins to change that.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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