By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
The extended hand that wasn’t shaken and the literal shredding of the speech after it was delivered; two occurrences which book-ended and possibly overshadowed a night that was more about drama and visualisation than it might have been about substance.
It was one of the most highly anticipated event of the American 2020 political calendar barring the election of the president, this year being a presidential election year.
That outcome, to all intents and purposes, is a foregone conclusion unless the most unexpected happens; Michael Bloomberg winning the Democratic Party’s nomination and either he or Pete Buttigieg winning the election (take your bets!).
It's almost patently obvious that President Donald Trump is on his way to a second term, the taint of an impeachment hearing notwithstanding.
And that’s where the issue of impeachment of Mr Trump ends.
By Wednesday, the day after the night of his third State Of The Union(SOTU) address, the impeachment hearings into President Donald J, Trump, only the third US president to have been impeached, would have ended.
It’s been stalled more by political factionalism that due process of law and the constitution. But, as has been pointed out, acquittal does not necessarily mean exoneration.
Now, let's turn what the president said - and did - and what happened during his 2020 SOTU.
It happened in what mimicked a made-for-reality-television event, and showman that he is, President Trump played it to the hilt.
His speech was pure (despite the doubts over the purity of its content) barnstorming, political re-election campaigning.
It was theatre, bordering on doing injustice to the traditional practiced formality, pomp and ceremony of the occasion.
In some instances kit was cringe-worthy for the unashamed self-glorification - even sneering - by the president, to the jaw-dropping disbelief of the extent of his claimed accomplishments.
The stage-managed manipulation for personal political gain was a master class of political opportunism.
Some might argue that while it might have come across as blatant political campaigning, most of the pronouncements on the current state of US economy, were indeed factual.
But is a matter of nuance even within those 'facts'.
The US economy is indeed performing well and unemployment is at historic low levels.
What’s debatable, however, is whether President Trump can justifiably take full credit for what it.
Is it that the US economy is performing well because of President Trump - "thriving" as he stated - or it performing relatively well in spite of him.
Relative is the operative word in this context.
The fact-checkers were hard at work during the SOTU bringing context to the president’s rather bombastic claims.
One of the startling facts amidst the hype is America’s sky-rocketing and unsustainable national debt, a burden on future generations.
Another fact lurking among the beguiling figures of positive economic performance relates to the recent spate of tax cuts.
It’s been shown that they have not had the desired impact where intended…or at least promoted; that's in the pockets of the middle and working classes.
The cuts have been shown to be are mainly benefiting the already rich…of which the Trump dynasty are lifetime club members.
In a 78-minute presentation, that could have been the blueprint for a US Broadway or UK West End theatrical production, embellished claims were liberally sprinkled with first-person ownership of their success.
America is the best it’s ever been according to President Trump and it’s all because of him. It was pure, unbridled political theatre which could not keep Republicans in their seats, contrasted by the perception of crass politicking that kept stony-faced Democrats glued to their seats.
It was a study in political representation as the divide in the Congressional response to the SOTU reflected what was happening across the country.
In equal measure in opposing camps, the President's speech was celebrated and excoriated.
It was a speech laced with contradictions; from US outreach as a global partner and leader, contrasted by policies and pronouncements of a more inward-looking America.
Mr Trump proclaimed the America of friendship under his leadership, but apparently only his terms, only when he is ‘winning’.
He interrupted his speech (stage-managed) to award the Presidential Medial Of Freedom to a controversial, rightwing, Trump-supporting talk show host known for his history of race-baiting commentaries.
But, while preaching of an America lead by him embracing cultural diversity, one of the last surviving members of the heroic African-American WW2 fighter squadron known as the Tuskegee Airmen, only got an honourable mention, whereas Rush Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Context matters and the irony was not lost.
This State of the Union address might have reflected the state of America under Trump where the headlines numbers hide the real back-story and mask the underlying problems.
It amounts to preaching unity and getting a buy-in to it (who will object to unity?), but where the reality is different...and there’s hardly an alternative to the preacher.
It’s all in the messaging and in terms of a Machiavellian political re-election strategy, this SOTU wrongly ticks all of its right boxes.
Regarding the extended hand that wasn’t shaken and the shredding of the speech after it was delivered, that was another episode of the longstanding acrimonious showdown between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He refused to shake her extended hand upon entering the chamber.
She tore up his speech at the end, calling it "a manifesto of mistruths."
The 2020 US presidential election campaign just got shifted into higher gear.
24 Sep, 2019
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