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It was a good speech.

Calm down. I said good.

Kathleen Parker mug

kathleen parker

Despite talking for an hour and 20 minutes, the longest speech since Bill Clinton’s much-mocked 2000 stem-winder, Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address did exactly what it needed to do: nothing.

It wasn’t strident; it wasn’t provocative; it wasn’t alienating; it wasn’t retributive; it wasn’t divisive — except to Democrats who would have sneered in disgust even if he’d said, “I’m sorry for all the ridiculous, mean things I’ve said the past year.”

All disclaimers and critiques aside, there’s a rule known to all public speakers: People don’t remember what you say; they remember how you make them feel. Only journalists, pundits, politicians, professors and speechwriters will closely examine the content of the president’s speech. The rest of America, to the extent they watched the speech at all, will have gone to bed thinking, “Gosh, he was surprisingly good. Maybe there’s hope after all.”

Listening to post-mortems on television, I was struck by the consensus that Trump sowed division in his address to the nation. I even heard words such as “horrifying” to describe certain aspects. I’m thinking: You don’t know the American people.

The crux of most of the criticism was that Trump gave a speech encouraging unity while doing the opposite. By this they meant he invoked several hot-button issues, such as the “take a knee” movement and the violence of the Salvadoran gang MS-13.

Both of these references among a smattering of others were strictly gratuitous and meant, presumably, to bestir the base. But when compared with the fire and brimstone of his inaugural address, these represent relatively minor flaws. Indeed, most Americans do prefer that people show respect for the national anthem by standing, and they are fearful of the potential for violent characters to cross the border without enhanced security.

To Democratic ears, of course, Trump was fear-mongering and race-baiting, which, while not unprecedented, seems nearly as gratuitous a reaction. This was underscored when Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III, during his State of the Union response, intoned: “Vamos a luchar por ustedes” (We’re going to fight for you).

Otherwise, it is only reasonable that the president cited laudable benchmarks — economic progress, surging markets (notwithstanding Tuesday’s brief plummet), and greater business confidence. Noteworthy are recent stories about people who, through one retirement plan or another, are feeling friskier these days. Fidelity recently reported that the average annual return for 401(k)s hit 15.7 percent by the third quarter of 2017.

None of these tidings erase errors of Trump’s first year in office or the negative effects of his often-mean-spirited rhetoric. Nor does it alter the realities of the ongoing Russia investigation, the likely-to-be released memo by the House Intelligence Committee or the administration’s general dysfunction. Nor am I inclined to redact the many critical columns I’ve written.

But it was a good speech.

A more complete and fairer appraisal would note that Trump also said plenty to engage the other side of the aisle, including a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal and a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as “Dreamers.” Naturally, one of the first things to pop up Wednesday morning when you Googled “SOTU and immigration” was that David Duke praised the president for his line, “Americans are dreamers, too.” Please. Who cares what David Duke thinks or says?

And by the way, Trump didn’t begin his day Wednesday by tweeting. Wait. Let me rephrase that: THE PRESIDENT DIDN’T TWEET!!! OMG!

Not to jump the gun — or the shark — but, prematurely speaking, it would seem that Trump has turned a corner. Overall, his address to Congress was conciliatory in tone; his morning after was free of the usual rant aimed at someone he doesn’t like; and his speech, for all the harrumphing in the usual corners, made no matters worse.

It’s a low bar, I’ll concede, but in a word, he seemed “normal.” Is this a new Trump? Can he sustain Tuesday night’s aura of gravitas? Can he just-not-be-weird for a while? As in, no more taunting North Korea, no more slamming critics, no more “fake news,” and for pity’s sake, no more strategic firings. If I may suggest a mantra: I will not fire Robert Mueller; I will not fire Robert Mueller; I will not fire Robert Mueller.

My fingers keep stabbing the keyboard to write: Don’t hold your breath. But a more productive observation is to say what is, in fact, true: It was a good speech, Mr. President. Congratulations. You made us feel less crazed. And that, too, is good.

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker can be reached at


(18) comments


Just go back a bit and reread what, Schumer, Pelosi, Sanders and the DNC had to say about James Comey, younwould swear their not talking about the same James Comey. It appears after the calls for his resignation, the Trumpster appeared to save the day.
As far as the Democrat answer to all their messaging problems is to come up with a
catchy slogan, well, that’s about what you would expect from these clowns, a catchy slogan should just about do it. Good god, to even suggest such a well thought out plan, just amazes me. These folks are real thinkers and people seem amazed at Walker and Trumps success as problem solvers. Keep on trucking boys, I think your on the right track.


Right. Trumpster and his boys have us on the right track. We're about to go into one of the most serious constitutional crises in our history with Trump desperately grabbing at straws to stop the Mueller investigation. We have the country on the verge of putting us into a very deep economic jam by drastically cutting tax revenue while ramping up military budgets and promising a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. If you are old or poor, get ready for the GOP to try to rip the supports out from under you. Trump and the boys have got all our former allies hopping made at us, while he is schmoozing Russia in the honeymoon after Russia worked to undermine our last presidential election. He seems on the verge of starting a trade war with China, a surefire way to blow up consumer prices. He publicly engages in adolescent Twitter fights with North Korea and Iran. Trump and the boys have 800,000 desperate DACA kids hanging in the wind as bait, trying to get the Democrats to vote for a $30 million wall along the Mexican border that is a useless White Elephant even before it is built and will be an enduring monument to the most destructive ego ever to have possessed the White House. Trump really has us trucking on the right track. Right, new2. Thanks, but no thanks. I will vote for politicians who campaign on solid, sensible plans, not on catchy slogans. Those are for the Trump base of core voters.


Obama as I recall ramped up the deficit from 9 to 19 Trillion without a peep from the left and of course now it is a huge problem. I suspect if Obama had not increased the budget to the 10 Trillion dollar level he did, this increase might be a real concern. Military is in terrible shape and you know who is responsible for that, makes you wonder what the 10 Trillion was spent on. It sure wasn't the military, economy or lowering taxes. If what you believe to be true, the Trump Russia being allies now, should be a big help to us now that Hillary's reset went no where. What about the US Dreamers, we got more folks living on the streets from the Obama Administrations policies, GDP was almost a shade less than 2% for eight years. Citizens and legal immigrants should be the priority over illegals. What kind of parents send children into a Foreign country unsupervised, if they truly cared for the children that would never have happened. As for the wall, it seems to have worked well for Israel and the White House, Obama's home and all the gated communities around the wealthy folks. To answer your question, yes we are finally on the right path. I was just listening to CNN's critique of Melania Trumps wearing white for the State of the Union speech, you got to be kidding, are these folks for real. No wonder they got the fake news of the year award, they deserved it.


If Obama had sat on his hands and said we couldn't afford to bail out the U.S. auto industry or to spend on infrastructure to stimulate the economy, we would be in a sorry, sorry economic state right now, and if you are even a scintilla of the corporate mastermind that you claim to be, you would know it, new2. Obama saved our economy, brought us back from the brink into the prosperity that Trump inherited and, I expect, will dynamite by the end of this year. Tell me how dire the military had become under him. Trump has us on course to a new, very expensive arms race, the sort that destroyed the USSR, and now that Trump is handing world leadership over to China, may well bankrupt us. The fake news award of the year? You mean the one announced by Trump? You are the first person I have seen to publicly cite it, it was taken THAT seriously. You sure know how to source your material. Your dithering bloviations must have made you the main source of entertainment in the executive suite of that Fortune 300 corporation.

Tim Russell

Did Melania wear a white pantsuit just like Hillary?


Trump 2020!!!!!!!!


Why did he pay $130K to silence a p-rn star and will not release his tax returns?

Tim Russell

Only if Putin still wants him.


Nothing like a president trying to thwart an investigation into his wrong doings. Even republicans are lined up against the release of a classified memo written by republican congressmen. A cherry picked memo that tells half truths and lies that no one in their right mind would take seriously. John McCain said it best, We cannot stand by and see the tearing down of our FBI and DOJ law enforcement agencies in order to protect Trump. They are doing Putin's work for him. With Trump we set the bar pretty low, now with this latest release there is no bar, its anything goes, party before country. Sad what it has become.


Dana Millbank today took a similar tack as this columnist, saying the Democrats stepped over the line in their obvious scorn for the president during the speech. I guess I didn't pick up on the scorn as much as he did. But he made a good point, that the Democrats are still running every which way to please various segments of the party, when the times demand that they unite with an overall strategy to protect and work for all people, not just scoring points with various segments. And that should be done by opposing the openly, nakedly aggressive power grab by the 1 percenters who are spending like crazy to assure their radically right-wing, often reactionary agenda put forth by the likes of the Koch brothers (just read Snow Cougar, one of their local paid propagandists) are spending hundreds of millions on. We need affordable healthcare for all. We need major infrastructure spending. We need a sensible re-ordering of our immigration policy. We need oversight and regulation on financial, medical and environmental issues than can blow up in our faces left untended (remember 2007?). If the Democrats can concentrate on that stuff, the day will be won. But remember, the Koch boys have put together a $600 million war chest already for the 2018 election, so Democrats have to be strong, they have to be active, and they have to get out the vote.


Talk about scorn during a presidents SOTU speech. Remember when a republican yelled out "liar" during Obama's speech. and the right wingers were delighted it happened. I don't think the democrats came close to that during Trump's speech. They showed much more respect than the repubs ever showed Obama. Yes the democrats have to unite their message and refine it, make it a catchy sound bite and repeat it over and over for a public that has a short memory and is easily lead astray.


More than a catchy sound bite, the Democratic message needs to be the truth -- some real, solid, doable, workable goals that will change lives for the better for everybody, not just the Koch boys and the people sitting in corporate executive suites.


Looks like Trump wins again, for Parker to say it was a good speech, it must have been outstanding. The majority seems to think so and I’m with them. I noticed the Democrats looked pathetic and that was another positive sign the speech was going to be great.


More incisive political and social insight from the Coulee Region's Number One social critic and spell-binding commentator, new2, the crack HR man so sorely missed by corporate America since his forced retirement.


A Stephen Miller speech indeed.
When you"re surrounded by idiots ,
that"s what you get.


What the heck is wrong with this columnist? He "seems" to have turned the corner she says while admitting the bar is set low. It's as if Charlie Brown is poised to kick Lucy's ball one more time and talking about how this time she won't yank it away. Come on, Trump crossed that disuniting red line many months ago. This is amazing. Speech writers write this stuff for him. He does not get credit for reading from a script. The fact that he is taking credit for the economy when just a year ago he was calling it all carnage speaks volumes. He ran a campaign where he said the unemployment statistics were bogus but now sites the same ones to take credit. All economic metrics were trending strongly in a favorable direction when he claimed Obama was destroying the country. Now that the indicators are continuing on that momentum he is taking all the credit. That is pure hypocrisy at its finest. So no, he does not get his speech called a "good" one because he failed to mock disabled people or praise Nazis or insult women. The bar is not set low, it's buried in a 6 foot hole. A toddler could crawl over it.


Can Trump sustain aura of gravitas? No. Not unless they put a shock-collar on him that zaps the poor fool whenever he goes off-script or tweets. BTW, whatever happened to providing health care that would be "so much better?" Just something that popped into his head and sounded good at the time?

Tim Russell

Just like Mexico paying for the Wall.

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