President Donald Trump took a brief hiatus from Twitter Tuesday night to deliver his first State of the Union address, touting high hopes for unity across his audience — which seemed divided and stiff with discomfort.
It took no more than a wide pan of the camera around the room for Nancy Pelosi’s disapproving glare in Trump’s direction to smash any illusion of bipartisan support.
Though painfully obvious to any viewers, Trump seemed to barely notice the tension as he made a familiar call upon his audience.
“Tonight, 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 we were elected to serve,” he said.
Yet it’s clear from this speech that Trump has miles to go before he can even start to toe the line of true bipartisanship.
Trump admonished us to remember that the military “reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.” With lines directly attacking Democrats who support NFL national anthem protests, it’s hard to believe Trump could actually expect to have bipartisan support.
Jonathan Martin, National Political Correspondent, further noted the division existing with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who “[wore] kente ties as a part of a silent protest of Trump’s vulgar reference to African countries.”
The address had a kind of optimistic, lukewarm undertone to it which is noticeably missing from Trump’s online voice and his tone in previous speeches — usually marked with harsh, divisive language.
Perhaps Trump is trying out a new, softer approach. Or, more likely, he’s enamored with the idea of being “presidential” for a night and simply wanted to act the part.
Trump’s presidency in front of an audience and a microphone can, from time to time, look vastly different than the one we see emerge from behind the screen at all hours of the day. Tuesday night was one of those times when Trump embraced the pomp and political politesse of the presidency — if for no other reason than to prove his competency at reading from a teleprompter for 80 minutes.
But not derailing from a written speech cannot be the only grounds on which one can qualify as ‘presidential’ — that would be setting the bar far too low.
In fact, the pomp and pageantry of the evening, in which Trump flashed a smile and hid behind the facade of his own excessively loud clapping, further proved a truth that has been developing for over a decade — the State of the Union address is growing less and less relevant or necessary. And Trump only made that truth more evident.
Now a full year deep into Trump’s presidency, Americans are well aware of the power a single Trump tweet can have. And it’s become even clearer that 140 characters can better display Trump’s views and policies better than an hour and 20 minutes of scripted talking points.