Texarkana, TX 78° View Live Radar Sat H 95° L 74° Sun H 90° L 75° Mon H 88° L 70° Weather Sponsored By:

President's wish list is grandiose

President's wish list is grandiose

February 10th, 2018 by Andrew Malcom in Opinion Columns

Watching Washington often seems like standing by some immense merry-go-round where the same faces riding the same issues keep coming around and around, suggesting little progress toward anything except repeating the same old regular rhythms.

We witness episodic fascinations, via the media, on passing issue after passing issue, like that bowl of squash coming by at Thanksgiving dinner. North Korea comes and goes. Resignations come and go. A sensational book comes and goes. A committee memo comes and goes. Funding the government comes and never goes.

One major factor that enables President Donald Trump to control the nation's political news agenda and keep people watching is his volatile unpredictability, which causes many to wonder what he'll do next, even when the events themselves are routine, annual and essentially empty.

Such was his first State of the Union Address the other day. In modern times, these annual speeches to both chambers of Congress have become hollow showpieces. They allow a chief executive to display his skills reading a teleprompter while his loyalists stand and applaud their favorite parts, and opponents don't.

In its grandiloquent 18th century language, Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution requires every president "give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

Many early presidents met this obligation simply by dispatching their quilled report from the White House to the Capitol by messenger. However, in 1913, the professorial new President Woodrow Wilson decided to lecture Congress in person. The arrival, first, of radio and, then, television with instant free access to a nationwide audience of voters doomed any return to written reports.

Those presidents accustomed to life on-camera—think actor/TV host Ronald Reagan and TV host Trump—come across best. Others are hit-and-miss.

Trump's speech drew 45.6 million viewers. It lasted 80 minutes, but a good chunk of that came from 117 applause interruptions.

What surprised were the topics Democrats abstained from approving—growing jobs and economy, fighting the opioid epidemic, a path to citizenship for illegal residents, a family stricken by murder of two daughters by the MS-13 gang, and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which Congress approved two decades ago.

Each president provides his shopping list of desired goals—legislative, political and aspirational. Trump was unusually optimistic; "Exciting progress is happening every day."

Of course, SOTU's are one-dimensional events, lacking any context. They all sound great. They're supposed to as political stagecraft and as entertainment. So, what to do with State of the Unions?

Well, one useful thing would be to track what a president says he wants/will do. And what he actually gets/does.

A considerable portion of Trump's nearly 6,000 words was spent recounting his first year's achievements: Tax cuts enacted, jobs created, regulations eased or erased, black and Hispanic unemployment at new lows, stock market highs, worker bonuses and wage hikes, a cadre of conservative judges appointed, retaking nearly 100 percent of ISIS territory.

Trump's first SOTU was well-crafted with powerful human examples of each point bearing witness in the House gallery. For once, Trump talked about other's achievements, and it made him look stronger.

"I am asking Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military," he said, because "we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict."

Now, here for future appraisal, is a partial list of Trump's stated State of the Union goals:

He wants to work in a bipartisan manner.

Seek legislative authority for all Cabinet members to hold employees as tightly accountable as in the Veterans Administration now.

End the "injustice" of high drug prices.

Craft new, fair and reciprocal trade agreements.

Have Congress pass an infrastructure repair bill of "at least" $1.5 trillion.

Immigration reforms that end chain migration, the visa lottery, plus build a wall on the Mexican border and extend a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA children.

Modernize and rebuild the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Legislation to ensure foreign aid only goes to friends of the U.S.

That's not everything, of course. No good dealmaker shows all his cards. But it's a lot to be held accountable for, especially in an election year with GOP control of Congress endangered.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com