What you should be looking for in Donald Trump’s address to the US Congress.
What is this?
Donald Trump’s increasingly roulette-like to-do list has now delivered up the latest ‘event’. Donald Trump will be addressing the US Congress today on Wednesday 0200 UTC (Tuesday 2100 EST). This is not a ‘State of Union Address’, because as a new president it is not expected that Donald Trump would yet know what the status of the United States is. For this reason it is customary that although a US President can call for a ‘State of the Union’ address at any time he wants, no president other than Dwight D. Eisenhower has ever called such an address in his first year.
As such, Trump’s address to the US Congress today should be understood as being an address, but not a ‘State of the Union’ address.
What should you look for?
When he addresses lawmakers from the Senate and the House, Trump will likely talk about tax cuts, and tax reform, regulatory adjustments, his plans for job creation, the construction of the border wall with Mexico, the abolition of the Affordable Care Act, and other issues, if White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is to be believed. Spicer also added that the supposed theme of the address is going to be “the renewal of the American spirit.”
I can’t wait to see the kind of vacuous nonsensical stream-of-conscious word-salad which will be deployed across the lectern in search of a meaning, once Trump actually starts ad-libbing in the middle of his own speech as he so often tends to do.
In terms of the substance of his speech, I’m expecting that it will be in the combined tradition of Madison Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower – which is to say, a crybully session in which people will be entreated to ‘discover’ that all of the problems of White and Jewish Americans and Israeli Jews, all the problems that they have, are somehow to be blamed on Asians and Mexicans.
Aside from that, I think there should be a short list of things to watch for in this speech.
1. Which pledges does he remember to mention, and which does he quietly drop?
The White House has said that the first half of the president’s speech should focus on his campaign promises, and which ones he has been able to honour so far. I’d suggest that you should keep on hand – which is to say, keep in right in your hand on your tablet – the Washington Post’s tracker of the 60 key promises which Trump made to his constituents. By looking at what makes it into the speech and what does not, you might be able to discern what his emphasis is, or perhaps promises he’s demoted to a lesser priority or even abandoned.
2. Does he appear under pressure and agitated, or is he calm and confident?
Donald Trump is strongly influenced by Norman Vincent Peale, and a key to understanding his psychology is to understand Peale. If you don’t already know of that horrendous individual, I’m sad to say that you won’t have the time to get all briefed up on it before the speech airs, because it’s a whole tangled mess of nonsense which takes at least six hours to get familiar with.
What to watch for is his facial expression in tandem with his ‘off script’ moments, since the key to understanding his ‘off script’ moments is that they are spoken to himself and not to the audience. The audience can either choose to opt in or not, but his little utterances like “so true”, and “we are going to win bigly”, are as much for his own autohypnotic benefit as they are for providing a repetitive touchstone for his audience to engage in the same autohypnotic self-reassurance.
Another pattern that is clearly observable is Trump’s willingness to transform personal disputes into grand narratives which are then inserted ad-lib into his speeches. Anyone or anything that he chooses to go off script to mention for criticism, is going to be something that he is actually worried about in some way.
US Presidents also often tend to use opportunities when addressing the US Congress to define and signal against state or non-state actors that they view as adversaries. The time is generally not used to define or confront domestic political targets. Yet it it likely that he will do so.
The thing therefore to watch for, is whether he gets pre-occupied on targeting domestic political targets and ends up constraining or limiting the time he spends describing or explaining his foreign policy stances. The ratio of time spent will tell us perhaps not a lot about the direction of the whole administration, but it will tell us more about where Trump’s mind as ‘Commander in Chief’ is most focussed.
3. Law and Order?
His attitude toward his own constituents will be most perceived through the stances he takes on law and order issues, which form a large part of why his supporters backed him during the electoral campaign. The question is whether he will dignify them with adult explanations of the challenges that lie ahead, or whether he will stick with the sloganeering he has used so far.
A big signal to watch for is if he devotes this time to attacking ‘the press’ in sweeping generalised terms. If he does this, it should be interpreted as a sign that he is still in campaign mode, and that in fact, he may be planning to keep doing that because he is already looking toward the election campaign of 2020.
Expect the topics – if he chooses to treat the audience as adults – to be ranging among counter-terrorism, his Muslim countries immigration ban which curiously omits Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates and which he is planning to reintroduce with new wording, his attempts to deport undocumented Mexican migrants, the border wall, increased military spending or an end to the sequester, supporting the ‘blue lives matter’ phenomenon, and so on.
4. Addressing divisions?
Will he try to placate the demographic groups who are opposed to his presidency? Or will he ignore them?
Crucially, watch for him to try to reach out to African-Americans. There is a real chance that he will do that, because that is a ‘safe’ move. African-Americans are the most disorganised and least politically coherent group in the United States and it would be seen as a ‘great PR’ move which he would be able to execute at no actual political cost to himself.
He’d simply be getting criticism from the Alt-Right for it, a demographic group which he knows will support him no matter how much he spits on their faces, because they made memes for him and campaigned for him for free. They did it for free.
More crucially, it will be instructive to watch for how Donald Trump will address the accusations that he has not deterred supposed ‘anti-Semitic’ behaviour among his supporters. Trump may take this opportunity to respond by once again putting the Alt-Right under the bus, a move which again will come at no cost to himself, because the Alt-Right will still continue to support him after he does that.
Watch Twitter if you begin to see this happening during the speech, and you might even be able to see the Alt-Right live-Tweeting its own shameful cuckholdry. You could also look at the live thread on Daily Stormer to see the same cuck phenomenon take place.
I’m not saying it’s guaranteed to happen. I’m just saying it’s very likely to happen. There are a lot of variables in play.
5. Nonsensical Anglo-Saxon outreach?
Trump may try to make some kind of absurd outreach to Britain by trying to once again make a verbal connection between the social phenomenon which got him elected in the United States, and the phenomena which led to ‘Vote Leave’ being the outcome in the EU referendum in Britain in 2016.
If he makes this outreach, it should be interpreted as a sign of his weakness, as it would be a signal that he feels that he need to lean on the existence of a non-existent ‘club’.
Brexit, which gave rise to #GlobalBritain, is economically the complete and total opposite of #MAGA, and that is the most important sphere of reality which decides almost everything. Any attempt to link the two is really just an attempt of the latter to grasp the coattails of the former.
They share nothing.
6. Paul Ryan’s face and hands?
It should be possible to watch Paul Ryan’s reactions in order to gauge to some extent how far – if at all – Trump strays ‘off script’, as the Speaker of the House has vacillated between sometimes voicing support for the President, sometimes openly disagreeing with him, and occasionally taking the position of refusing to comment when asked about the content of Trump’s tweets.
Any adverse expressions on his face – a face which he will of course be trying to keep as stony and placid as possible throughout the speech if he can possibly do so – and any moments at which he pointedly refuses to clap when the cue comes for him to clap, could be indicative of a serious split between the Republicans in Congress and the White House, or indicative that Trump has simply dived off script in a dramatic way.
Keep in mind that ‘Trump off script’, can also mean ‘Trump actually mouthing neoreactionary things that Steve Bannon gleaned from Curtis Yarvin and then mouthed into Trump’s ear at the last minute before the speech’.
7. Length of the speech?
White House sources indicate that they expect the speech to last between 65 and 80 minutes. If it ends up being significantly shorter or significantly longer than that, then it would signal that something unexpected has happened, and it’ll be up to observers to assess what precisely that was.
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