The 2nd Article Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the President apprise Congress of the State of the Union ‘from time to time’. In 1801, Jefferson ended the tradition of addressing Congress that was first started by Washington. He considered it too monarchical and similar to a Speech from the Throne. Instead he delivered it in writing and it was read to Congress by a clerk. [Jimmy Carter did the same after his defeat to Reagan.]
It wasn’t until 1913 that Woodrow Wilson resumed the practice. In 1922, Warren Harding, for the first time, delivered it by radio. And, in 1947, Harry Truman delivered the speech on black and white television.
There are two elements to a State of the Union. One is its choreography and pacing – what is mentioned first and what is left for the end, all designed to elicit a certain response from the public, which in turn affects the President’s polls, his agenda’s passage by the opposition, and his stature with his handlers and world leaders. The other element, which is entirely a function of the first, is the actual content, the nuts and bolts of the nation’s workings.
In many cases, the President’s speech is nothing more than elaborate window dressing to project the best possible image. Of all Presidential speeches, this one was meticulously screened and honed by speechwriters (in this case, notably, Stephen Miller, John Kelly, Herbert MacMaster) to ensure the President doesn’t go “loose cannon” like he did in his UN address by calling Kim Jong Un “rocket man”. Kelly’s hand-in-face moment is still embedded in our memory.
We saw a much more subdued and measured Trump last night. What we should be asking is: had the choreography not mattered, had the calculation to introduce to the world our most honored citizens not figured in, had the speech been delivered absent of pep-rally overtones in a dispassionate ‘we have some good news and some bad news’ tone, what would it have sounded like?
This is the true measure of greatness: to state one’s successes and failures without equivocation or embellishment. This is what it means to give the People true transparency, a measure of full, true and plain disclosure, the ‘goods’. As Joe Friday would say: ‘just the facts ma’am’. This level of truth we will never find in modern day State of the Union speeches. It flies against everything modern politics stands for: the moral imperative of remaining in power for as long as possible. And, yet, transparency is the only measure of true greatness. It’s counter-intuitive, but a true principle.
If I was President of the United States (you should view my upcoming 250+ itemized Trump Report Card), I would start the State of the Union by delving into areas where we have missed the mark and are striving to make the most improvement.
Topping the list would be metrics on poverty. There is absolutely no reason for a nation with the resources and educational opportunities of America to be succumbing to the crippling effects of poverty. I’m no socialist. I believe in work, enterprise, and the cultivation of our God-given gifts and talents. Any job is an honorable job, rather than no job. At the same time, when the too big to fail banks are being bailed out or industries are being subsidized or the war-machine takes our young to be used as cannon-fodder to profit the 1% at the top or worse, promote a foreign agenda, I have zero compunction in asking that our most vulnerable have a roof over their head and sustenance until they are back on their feet. And in cases where they are wedged permanently out of the work force by extenuating circumstances, there should be safety nets in place.
What are the bad news?
- Our young are being sacrificed as a result of our hijacked foreign policy. My first priority would be to stop the carnage by taking back ownership of our foreign policy.
- The record number of people out of the Labor Force is irreversible as more baby boomers retire. Currently, there are 95,512,000 people out of the Labor Force, and, of those, 565,000 are homeless, a 11% drop from 2016, but still unacceptable.
- In 2017, there were an estimated 716,000 people who filed for bankruptcy as a result of not being able to pay their medical bills, a sizable drop from 1.5 million medical bankruptcies in 2010. While the Obamacare individual mandate was repealed with the last tax bill, it doesn’t come into effect until 2019, and the rest of Obamacare provisions are still in the books.
- Retail closures were up 200% in 2017. More are expected in 2018. How do we reverse the trend? Will Amazon absorb the rest of the retail sector? What did Trump say about this? Crickets.
- Foreclosures were up 58% in 2017 and the savings rate is at 5% for the 99%, and 38% for the 1%.
- The unemployment rate of 4% is suspect as it does not include people who have stopped looking for work. The real unemployment rate is more like 8%. Will everyone find a job in a car factory?
- Wall Street is not paying its fair share. A 1% tax on trading (derivatives included) should be imposed, which would result in, at the very least, a $3 Trillion boost to the budget.
- If I’m going to boast of job creation, I must reference previous years to give a true measure of my success. If in 2017 Trump created 2.05 million jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics), we must also look at how many jobs were created in 2016 and 2015. The numbers are 2.2 million and 2.7 million, respectively. The trend is worrisome.
- In 2017, our trade deficit went from $48.8 Billion to $71.6 Billion. Container ships are leaving our shores empty. How do we compete with low overseas wages, if not with tariffs or a currency devaluation?
- With respect to Veterans Affairs, if I had been Trump, I would also have explained how my VA Secretary had tried to cut $460 Million from homeless veterans housing, unsuccessfully – and only after heated protests.
But the economy would only be the tip of the iceberg. As President, my oath was to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution to the best of my ability. In the case of Trump, I would have to admit that I had failed miserably in that regard.
Trump allowed a Bill to pass that contravenes the 4th Amendment by allowing warrant-less searches and spying on Americans by the NSA. He is also very much in favor of asset forfeiture at the local police level, and wants to expand the practice to anyone whom the state deems a national security threat. That means if you are suspected of running counter to the official narrative, you could get a knock on the door at 3 am to have your home searched and your personal effects forfeited. Not to mention there exists the possibility of evidence being planted in your car or home that could result in your assets being forfeited. Furthermore, Pompeo and the brother of Trump’s Secretary of Education, who is also the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince, with Trump’s blessing, want to install a private spy agency.
Detention without due process is still in effect, under the Patriot Act, which expires in June 2018. Recall, Trump promised ‘unsigning’ (his word, not mine) Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders in his first hour in office. That remains to be seen. He also promised he would be the ‘voice of the People’. As things stand, not a single petition on WhiteHouse.gov has been addressed. You would expect the President to account for such apathy.
Again, the President took an oath before God (whom he candidly invokes to stoke the Christian right, arguably the only base he has left) and the American People to vouchsafe the Constitution. This is not a light matter. Not in God’s opinion. For most Americans, who can’t even remember how many Articles and Sections the Constitution contains, it’s not a big deal as long as job numbers are looking good. China has jobs, but we don’t want to move to China. Enough said.
Apart from Constitutional issues, I would also explain to the People how I had not kept some of my campaign promises. For example:
He promised zero taxes for individuals earning less than $25,000 and for couples earning less than $50,000. As the new tax law stands, with standard deductibles, zero taxes are enjoyed by individuals earning less then $12,000 and couples earning less than $24,000. It’s a 100% improvement from 2016, but still not quite what was promised.
And most notably, his promise of non-interventionism is out the window, as is his promise to find common ground and cooperate with Russia – although sources report that he is playing two board games at the same time. Behind the curtains, purportedly, he is pushing for a grand economic reset with Putin’s and Xi’s cooperation. We shall see. I would explain why we are intruding in Ukrainian politics, why we are still in Afghanistan after 16 years (if not to protect the poppy fields), why we are unleashing terror with a record number of drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen, why we are in Niger, why we demand Assad step down, why we are establishing an uninvited permanent presence in Syria (and at whose behest), why we are interfering in Iran’s politics (and would we accept the same if it was pointed at us), why we are accusing Russia or Assad of instigating chemical weapons attacks without independent fact-finding missions, why we set up a permanent base in Israel, why we endorse Israel-first pledges in order for Hurricane relief to arrive, why we employ dual citizens in government, why we allocate a sizable portion of our military budget exclusively to Israeli-US military cooperation, why 9/11 is not re-opened, why the USS Liberty was attacked, why are we not indicting Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and the rest of the subversives, and finally, why we are not polygraphing perpetrators.
Most disturbing were his comments about North Korea. He holds himself out as the President who will fix what previous administrations couldn’t or wouldn’t fix. With our disproportionately overpowering military presence in the Korean Peninsula and the new National Security Strategy that advocates nuclear strikes in conventional warfare little is left to the imagination.
An image comes to mind in light of the choreography I witnessed last night. It is that of a pimp assuring his whore that all is well, that she will still enjoy the pimp’s protection, her trinkets and the company of many more rich clients, even when her freedom is not her own.
In this case, the pimp is the ZioCon cabal that has hijacked our foreign policy. Even in FDR’s days, the same choreography existed. FDR was complicit in creating the destitution of the market crash that helped democrats resolve with the New Deal.
Trump gets full marks in many areas, just not the areas that count most.
[Footnote: Any gains Trump made in his #SOTU were negated by falsely claiming his speech was the most watched in history. The man simply does not factor in the public’s fact-checking proclivity in an age of whistle blowers and news flashes.]