Trump hits right notes, so end the nitpicking

His State of the Union address had the Republicans cheering with relief and glee.

By Bikram Vohra

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Published: Wed 31 Jan 2018, 9:38 PM

Last updated: Wed 31 Jan 2018, 11:39 PM

The US is beginning to like Donald Trump. As a person maybe not so much, but as a President who brings to the front burner their concerns and dreams and echoes their fears most certainly.

His State of the Union address had the Republicans cheering with relief and glee because the tempered Trump was almost charming as he spoke to the people with a folksiness that belied the customary heckling rhetoric that marks his words.

"We have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission," he said, "to make America great again for all Americans."

And in saying so he backed off all his domestic adversaries including the media. Even though the media did not reciprocate with any kindness.

The Democrats were left dredging for ammunition and even the media who would have loved to rake him over the coals were hard-placed to critique a disarmingly confident prez who chatted with the people and eschewed fire and brimstone. The key factor was his insistence on making America great again, building on collective responsibility and making the country strong.

That hit the button and reiterated his promise made during the election run up. America first and only that, regardless of the consequences. Even his most eloquent detractors would have been caught unawares, imagining that the bull in the china shop was sure to damage the crockery. And here it was strumming the fates of his people, telling them what they wanted to hear.

"Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve." A clear message to the Democrats to put America before themselves and work with him, not against. How can you hit him with a negative response and go back to your state and electorate and convince them that this is all smoke and mirrors.

"If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything," said the Twitter mascot, reaching out to the mantle of statesman. He laboured long on North Korea, sending out a dire warning that its nuclear ambitions had to be thwarted, placed the Daesh squarely in his cross hairs and called for good conduct certificates from illegals wanting to become full-fledged citizens.

He wrapped up his rah rah ingredients in emotion by going up close and personal. He rendered space to North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, had the House on its feet as he brought up the saga of Otto Warmbier (the US student arrested in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years, fell into a coma and died) and also promised to end violence as propagated by the notorious LA based MS13 gang.

All this resonated with the people and the optics were perfectly choreographed. Trump even clapped for himself on several occasions and would have been mocked for it as jeered except that the self-praise seemed pretty much incidental to the fact that he established a rapport with the man on the street.

So enchanted were the Republican benches by the absence of the noxious fumes that often belch from this dragon that even his announcement to keep Guantanamo Bay open was found acceptable.

As the Democrats sat chewing lower lips and looking grenade stunned, Trump set about dismantling eight years of the Obama administration and at this time and place, found no resistance. He made no bones about it and for the first time, was encouraged to what CNN has called 'erase' the immediate past.

The one tricky area was the way he sidled past the awkward Washington impasse over the ongoing special counsel investigation on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election and the role of high profile Washington insiders by obliquely including Russia in the enemy category: "Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values."

If anything, the US absorbs this performance with a sense of disbelief and relief that Trump may have found a new rhythm for making him more acceptable as the occupant of the Oval Office. But as the initial dismay/delight wears off there will be space made for doubt, paramount among them concern that the leopard cannot change its spots. How could Trump change his abrasive personality so dramatically and put on what has to be an act.

The media whom he has alienated had to literally hunt for flaws and sounded petty in their attacking Melania Trump's dress to why she arrived separately. Some of his grammar was ripped apart and much has been made of his clapping at intervals with one paper calling him a maniac. His stance on immigration also came under fire and he was a accused of causing global confusion over his duplicity.

The New Yorker tore into him with a frontal assault on him: "Historically Unpopular President Addresses the State of the Union." And a New York Times report said the only way Trump could be presidential is if he were to "apologise" and "resign effective immediately." His comment about 'clean coal' had the twitterati in a tizzy of excitement as they lambasted him.

The general attitude of the anti-Trump press was summed up by a CNN host: The president served sweet candy with poison in it."

None of the spitefulness could conceal the fact that for the moment, the sun was shining on Donald Trump.

Bikram Vohra is former ?editor of Khaleej Times

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