Trump Steadies Himself in First Address by Luke Perry
President Trump made the best major speech of his short political career. There were few ad-libs. He was calm, on message, and spoke more collectively about the country, than in personal terms, about himself.
The speech was well organized. The first half focused on his perceived accomplishments thus far. The second focused on what he wants to accomplish this year.
Policy specifics were limited. Trump is not a policy guy, evident in his recent comment, “nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.”
The office has frequently seemed too big for him, from his inability to effectively pass legislation, while his party controls Congress, to poorly managed staff and executive orders. In contrast, Trump was in command before his first Congressional audience.
The president made at least one major miscalculation. Honoring military personnel killed in action is honorable and appropriate. Politicizing the death of Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid, was unfortunate and unnecessary.
The raid was the first military action of Trump’s presidency, a carryover from the Obama administration. It did not go well, despite Trump’s assertions to the contrary. An estimated thirty civilians were killed, including ten women and children, along with the deliberate destruction of a $75 million aircraft.
Trump restated last night his claim that valuable information was attained, deliberately quoting Secretary of Defense Mattis. This came after initial questions regarding the effectiveness of the mission prompted the White House to release a video obtained, which later they acknowledged had been public for years.
Military decisions are particularly hard, so Trump deserves some latitude. Dealing with loss of life from the missions you order is the worse part of being president. Still, Trump should have just taken the heat from the beginning.
As a whole, the speech puts President Trump on firmer footing moving forward with his agenda. The big challenge now is transforming bold rhetoric into legislative reality.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Associate Professor of Government at Utica College.