Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Morning After

So how'd he do? Well, the new president seemed to take much of an expert on political rhetoric, Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson's, advice on inaugural speeches to heart. He kept his speech short, under 1,500 words with a run time of just over fifteen minutes. Although he trumpeted bullet points from the campaign, he refrained from reliving it, thank God. He also used the pronoun"we" instead of "I" so often that it seemed to be a parody of common sense. Of those 1,400 words, he uttered the word "we" over fifty times. "We will do this", "we will do that", "we are grateful to President Obama and the First Lady" and the ever popular "we will make America great again". Frankly it was difficult to tell if he was using we to mean "we the people" or "we" as in the regal we, the way a monarch uses the word "we" to actually mean "I".

He did manage to fulfill another of Prof. Jamieson's requirements of a good kick off speech, to get in this line:
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
In my opinion it's a good sentence, paying lip service to unification. But given his divisive history. frankly there wasn't much else in the speech pointing in the direction of bringing together the American people. He did keep mentioning something about returning the government back to the people, but he didn't clarify what that means or how he intends to do it. Given that his cabinet picks do nothing to indicate that the government under his watch will not be run by an elite oligarchy of billionaires, those words have a very empty ring to them.

As he did in the campaign, the new president took pains to paint an unrealistically bleak picture of this country. Here's the assessment of the state of the union vs. Trumpspeak reality courtesy of Not surprisingly, that organization found much of the president's descriptions of the state of the country at the moment to be sheer nonsense.

The phrase from the speech that stood out to me was this: education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge...
With a mother who is a retired public school principal and two children who are currently attending public school, I can personally vouch for the fact that our education system is NOT flush with cash. That having been said, I also know that simply spending more money won't fix the problem of educating the youth of this country. However the president's remarks clearly reflect the attitude of tax payers with no children in public school, resenting the fact that they have to pay money for those who do. His choice for Secretary of Education is a poster child for these folks, and will clearly not improve the lives of the children of the "mothers who are trapped in the inner cities", the rest of us who firmly believe in a public school education for our children, and ultimately of the whole nation whose children, aka our future, will be ill equipped to compete with those from countries around the world for whom the education of all its children is a top priority.

The one bit of advice of Professor Jamieson's that the president completely ignored was the one I felt was the most important, the part about affirming the limitations of his power. Nowhere in his speech does he refer to the constitution, or working within the rule of law to achieve his lofty, unrealistic promises to the American people. In Cleveland last summer he made the unbelievable remark that only he could fix the problems we face today, and in his inaugural address to the nation, he seemed to affirm that statement, despite his laughable overuse of the word "we".

I find this very disturbing.

I said in my last post that the president might do himself a favor by delivering a forgettable speech. As the piece begins. like many of his predecessors, he did indeed serve up a "blend of broad platitudes and generalities to lay out (his) vision." In that vein it certainly will not go down in history as a high point in the annals of American rhetoric.

Yet by the dystopian picture of the America that exists in his dreams (and those apparently of  his supporters) that he insists on portraying, and in failing to mention the role of president as servant of the people bound by laws spelled out by our constitution, I can only describe yesterday's inaugural address, forgetable as it certainly will become, as, in one of the president's favorite terms, a disaster.

The good news is that today, on the morning after the first day of the new administration, hundreds of thousands, no check that, millions of people are marching in the streets of this country, and countless others around the world, letting the new president know they are watching his every move. This is democracy at work. If you don't like it, you'd better get used to it.

Yesterday may have been the dawning of the age of incompetence, but today marks the dawning of the end of complacency.

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