David Frum has a very well argued, moderate take in The Atlantic, and I liked this line in particular:
The purpose of these joint-session speeches is not, actually, to reassure the president’s base that the leader of the country is mentally well.But he doesn't deal with the most outrageous inconsistency (and most queasily quasi fascist element) of the speech: Trump's starting with a (belated) condemnation of a hate crime against foreigners for daring to be in America (the Kansas shooting), and then spending much of the speech again telling Americans that the nation is under siege from dangerous foreigners who'll kill you or sell your kids drugs if given half the chance.
The idea of creating an agency specifically for highlighting crimes committed by (undocumented?) immigrants has not, as far as I can see, been condemned as widely as it should. Here's the Washington Post:
I reckon all the immigrant and "terrorism within our borders" talk has the grubby fingerprints of Bannon all over it. And ss EJ Dionne Jnr writes in the Washington Post, in his piece entitled "Trump Still Wants You to be Very, Very Afraid":… I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.This proposal, introduced in a memo from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, has received a lot of negative feedback. (When Trump mentioned it, Democrats groaned.) One issue is that there are negative historical echoes to isolating criminal behavior by one group of people. As the Atlantic notes, the Ministry of Justice in 1930s Germany collected and publicized reports of Jewish criminal activity.
And his call to create an office in the Department of Homeland Security called VOICE (“Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement”) was a demagogic propaganda effort to suggest that immigrants are especially prone to committing acts of violence when, in fact, they are not.
No Trump speech is complete without a reference to Chicago’s murder rate, which he mentions constantly because the national crime statistics don’t bear out his implication that the nation is more unsafe than ever.
And Trump wants Americans to be very, very afraid of the threat of terrorism by way of rationalizing his unjustifiable policies barring refugees from a selected group of majority-Muslim countries. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside of America,” he declared. For good measure, he added: “We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.” I bet his speechwriters were proud of those scary phrases, “a beachhead of terrorism” and “a sanctuary for extremists.” That’s the way to get people really alarmed.Update: Krugman is scathing of the pundit response, as usual:
The big news from last night’s speech is that our pundits is not learning. After all the debacles of 2016, they swooned over the fact that Trump — while still lying time after time and proposing truly vile initiatives — was able to read from a teleprompter without breaking into an insane rant. If American democracy falls, supposed political analysts who are actually just bad theater critics will share part of the blame.The subsequent point he explains, about how coal jobs left decades ago, and are simply not going to come back, is well made.
Update 2: William Saletan, at Slate, once again makes the comparison between George W Bush and Trump, and the contrast between the first speeches both gave to Congress is incredibly stark:
“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil,” Bush declared in his 2001 inaugural address. “We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.” In his first speech to Congress—delivered almost exactly 16 years ago on Feb. 27, 2001—Bush told Americans: “We all came here for a reason. … Juntos podemos. Together, we can.” He called on Congress to make America not just wealthy, but “generous and just.”
As president, Bush failed to fulfill those aspirations. But Trump doesn’t even acknowledge them: In his remarks Tuesday night, Trump spoke not of generosity, justice, or ideals but of blood, birth, background, and soil. “We are one people, with one destiny,” he proclaimed. “We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same great American flag.” A fascist leader could have uttered the same words. In place of Bush’s plea to welcome immigrants, Trump said refugees should “return home.”
* Apparently, Presidents using teleprompts is OK now in Wingnut land.