Trump’s Address: Us versus the Establishment

Establishment Washington breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday night. Donald Trump sounded presidential in his address to Congress. Leave it to the Establishment and the mainstream media to emphasize sound over substance. Or, if you like, over theme. However, the president sounded, his thread was unbroken: His will be a change presidency. Not inconsequential change, mind you, but big, beefy change. Historic stuff is the stuff that Trump is aiming for.

Declared the president near the close of his speech: “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.” Note well the modifier “trivial.” 

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz typifies the establishment’s infatuation with externals. Wrote Balz in a post-address analysis:

The President Trump who spoke to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night bore only passing resemblance to the President Trump who spoke from the Capitol’s West Front on Inauguration Day. Some of the words were the same, but the tone was utterly different. Therein lies the contradiction -- and -- challenge of his presidency.

“Tone” is a favorite word in D.C. You know, how you present ideas and an agenda changes both. Tone “signals” (another favorite D.C. word) a willingness to modify or discard goals. Putting the lie to that silliness is Barack Obama, whose tone in 2008 was centrist. In fact, the former president’s tone was always measured. Yet Obama pursued the hardest left agenda in the nation’s history.

So what did Balz and the establishment expect, that Trump would enter the U.S. House like Bill the Butcher? Trump, an evil glint in his eyes, knives drawn, challenging Democrats, Never Trumpers, and gelatinous GOP lifers to a fight to the death?

This from Balz’s article:

In his inaugural address, Trump spoke of American carnage and as the tribune of the forgotten American. To the assembled members of Congress seated behind him that January day, he offered a rebuke and the back of his hand. On Tuesday, he made repeated appeals for national unity and cross-party cooperation. Looking out across the House chamber, he seemed to offer an open hand to the same political establishment he had pilloried just weeks ago.

While we don’t want to detract from Balz’s penetrating complexity, we must. Trump was speaking in different venues to different audiences at different times. It’s that simple. The inaugural principally spoke to the president’s core constituencies and the American people. He also spoke indirectly to the gathered establishment grandees -- if they bothered to listen.

On January 20, the president pledged to make good his campaign promises. He made it abundantly clear that the nation has serious problems aplenty; the establishment wasn’t going to stop him from fixing things. He laid down unambiguous markers.

On Tuesday night, the president elaborated his agenda to Congress. He called for action from Congress. And he made a no-brainer call for cooperation from Republicans and Democrats.

“Here’s your chance to get on board,” said Trump in essence. He also inferred, with ample precedent, “If you don’t, my train will run over you.”         

For Balz, the establishment herald, “Trump as president must attempt a perpetual juggling act.” This is novel to presidencies? What was FDR’s presidency but a “perpetual juggling act?” The New Deal coalition wasn’t a harmonious collection of interests. It was a gathering of often clashing factions that FDR managed skillfully, for the most part.   

But let’s leave Balz with an admission -- of sorts -- and balderdash:

It is no longer a question of which is the real Donald Trump but more the question of whether he can build a successful presidency out of this split political personality.

The Donald Trump at the podium in the U.S. House on Tuesday evening evinced no “split political personality.” Balz can’t seem to discern the thread in the president’s pronouncements. He doesn’t appreciate a master at work; a shrewd, practiced, and accomplished businessman varying approaches, negotiating obstacles, and dangling carrots or brandishing sticks, as required. But always -- always -- with his goals in mind. Always driven to succeed, largely on his terms.

For D.C.’s “Shades of Gray” crowd, let’s take a quick tour of Trump’s Oval Office. It may just give a hint as to what the Trump presidency is all about.

The president brought Fox & Friends’ hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsely Earhardt to the White House this week. In a brief tour of the Oval Office, the president explained the two portraits that he’s hung to date, the bust he’s chosen, and the only framed photograph on the table behind his desk (more photos to come). Trump explained the desk, too.

The two portraits that Trump has selected are of Andrew Jackson, whose presidency was “most like mine,” and Thomas Jefferson. Jackson was an historic change-maker and “controversial,” per Trump. That’s Jackson, the president of dirty-booted Americans (that’s most people then, farmers and laborers). Then Thomas Jefferson, whose presidency destroyed the Federalists, the day’s establishment, eventually ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings.” Donald Trump assuredly seeks to usher in an “Era of Great Feelings.”

The bronze bust: Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, a minority president -- if there ever was one -- who saw the nation through bloody civil war to the verge of a “new birth of freedom.”

The photograph is of Trump’s father, Fred. Fred was a man who Trump said was tough as nails but had a big heart. He had a lot of confidence and instilled the same in his son. Actually, fearlessness may be what Fred gave his son.  

The desk, which Ronald Reagan used, is referred to as the “Resolute.” Need anyone define that word?

Donald Trump hasn’t changed, from his announcement of candidacy in 2015 to his speech Tuesday night… to his executive actions in the opening weeks of his presidency. But once again, the D.C. establishment demonstrates why it’s no longer fit to lead. For all its emphasis on tone, it’s proving to be tone-deaf. It seeks to apply old definitions and worn out templates to a man who, at every turn, defies the conventional wisdom. Pigeonholing Donald Trump is easier and more comforting than reckoning with the flesh and blood man, his movement, and his moment.

The establishment’s inability to grasp Donald Trump is very likely a fatal flaw. President Trump will work overtime to make sure of that.     

Establishment Washington breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday night. Donald Trump sounded presidential in his address to Congress. Leave it to the Establishment and the mainstream media to emphasize sound over substance. Or, if you like, over theme. However, the president sounded, his thread was unbroken: His will be a change presidency. Not inconsequential change, mind you, but big, beefy change. Historic stuff is the stuff that Trump is aiming for.

Declared the president near the close of his speech: “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.” Note well the modifier “trivial.” 

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz typifies the establishment’s infatuation with externals. Wrote Balz in a post-address analysis:

The President Trump who spoke to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night bore only passing resemblance to the President Trump who spoke from the Capitol’s West Front on Inauguration Day. Some of the words were the same, but the tone was utterly different. Therein lies the contradiction -- and -- challenge of his presidency.

“Tone” is a favorite word in D.C. You know, how you present ideas and an agenda changes both. Tone “signals” (another favorite D.C. word) a willingness to modify or discard goals. Putting the lie to that silliness is Barack Obama, whose tone in 2008 was centrist. In fact, the former president’s tone was always measured. Yet Obama pursued the hardest left agenda in the nation’s history.

So what did Balz and the establishment expect, that Trump would enter the U.S. House like Bill the Butcher? Trump, an evil glint in his eyes, knives drawn, challenging Democrats, Never Trumpers, and gelatinous GOP lifers to a fight to the death?

This from Balz’s article:

In his inaugural address, Trump spoke of American carnage and as the tribune of the forgotten American. To the assembled members of Congress seated behind him that January day, he offered a rebuke and the back of his hand. On Tuesday, he made repeated appeals for national unity and cross-party cooperation. Looking out across the House chamber, he seemed to offer an open hand to the same political establishment he had pilloried just weeks ago.

While we don’t want to detract from Balz’s penetrating complexity, we must. Trump was speaking in different venues to different audiences at different times. It’s that simple. The inaugural principally spoke to the president’s core constituencies and the American people. He also spoke indirectly to the gathered establishment grandees -- if they bothered to listen.

On January 20, the president pledged to make good his campaign promises. He made it abundantly clear that the nation has serious problems aplenty; the establishment wasn’t going to stop him from fixing things. He laid down unambiguous markers.

On Tuesday night, the president elaborated his agenda to Congress. He called for action from Congress. And he made a no-brainer call for cooperation from Republicans and Democrats.

“Here’s your chance to get on board,” said Trump in essence. He also inferred, with ample precedent, “If you don’t, my train will run over you.”         

For Balz, the establishment herald, “Trump as president must attempt a perpetual juggling act.” This is novel to presidencies? What was FDR’s presidency but a “perpetual juggling act?” The New Deal coalition wasn’t a harmonious collection of interests. It was a gathering of often clashing factions that FDR managed skillfully, for the most part.   

But let’s leave Balz with an admission -- of sorts -- and balderdash:

It is no longer a question of which is the real Donald Trump but more the question of whether he can build a successful presidency out of this split political personality.

The Donald Trump at the podium in the U.S. House on Tuesday evening evinced no “split political personality.” Balz can’t seem to discern the thread in the president’s pronouncements. He doesn’t appreciate a master at work; a shrewd, practiced, and accomplished businessman varying approaches, negotiating obstacles, and dangling carrots or brandishing sticks, as required. But always -- always -- with his goals in mind. Always driven to succeed, largely on his terms.

For D.C.’s “Shades of Gray” crowd, let’s take a quick tour of Trump’s Oval Office. It may just give a hint as to what the Trump presidency is all about.

The president brought Fox & Friends’ hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsely Earhardt to the White House this week. In a brief tour of the Oval Office, the president explained the two portraits that he’s hung to date, the bust he’s chosen, and the only framed photograph on the table behind his desk (more photos to come). Trump explained the desk, too.

The two portraits that Trump has selected are of Andrew Jackson, whose presidency was “most like mine,” and Thomas Jefferson. Jackson was an historic change-maker and “controversial,” per Trump. That’s Jackson, the president of dirty-booted Americans (that’s most people then, farmers and laborers). Then Thomas Jefferson, whose presidency destroyed the Federalists, the day’s establishment, eventually ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings.” Donald Trump assuredly seeks to usher in an “Era of Great Feelings.”

The bronze bust: Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, a minority president -- if there ever was one -- who saw the nation through bloody civil war to the verge of a “new birth of freedom.”

The photograph is of Trump’s father, Fred. Fred was a man who Trump said was tough as nails but had a big heart. He had a lot of confidence and instilled the same in his son. Actually, fearlessness may be what Fred gave his son.  

The desk, which Ronald Reagan used, is referred to as the “Resolute.” Need anyone define that word?

Donald Trump hasn’t changed, from his announcement of candidacy in 2015 to his speech Tuesday night… to his executive actions in the opening weeks of his presidency. But once again, the D.C. establishment demonstrates why it’s no longer fit to lead. For all its emphasis on tone, it’s proving to be tone-deaf. It seeks to apply old definitions and worn out templates to a man who, at every turn, defies the conventional wisdom. Pigeonholing Donald Trump is easier and more comforting than reckoning with the flesh and blood man, his movement, and his moment.

The establishment’s inability to grasp Donald Trump is very likely a fatal flaw. President Trump will work overtime to make sure of that.     

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