As we brace for the latest milestone in the Trump presidency — the man’s first State of the Union address — let us turn back the clock to just a few days ago, to January 23rd, when Donald Trump finally tweeted out a public condolence to the victims of the Marshall County High School shooting (a tweet he plainly did not write himself).
Trump’s message arrived a day-and-a-half after the mass shooting, but in the interim he had taken the time to tweet an insult to Chuck Schumer, mused about an FBI conspiracy against him and made a semi-incoherent boast about the economy. (The Canadian Prime Minister had expressed his sympathies a day earlier.)
Against the backdrop of this latest example of the President’s transcendent callowness, the Democrats, fresh off their shutdown blunder, will seek to remind the public that they are America’s last, best hope for sanity. They will do this by publicly throwing their arms around transgendered soldiers. If you are a geriatric Wal-Mart greeter with a son currently tearing the copper wiring out of his apartment to bankroll a heroin habit, this will probably not be the moment of deliverance you have been waiting for.
How anyone can possibly take this year’s SOTU seriously, much less be anticipating it, is simply beyond me. As pure spectacle, of course, it is must-see TV, since our President’s every deed contains within it the seeds of half a season of SNL sketches. But to actually believe that his address could possibly represent a clear-eyed view of our past year or a reasoned road map for the next one, you would have to have just stepped out of a flying saucer.
Trump’s address to Congress will be, by its very nature, a Stalin-esque farce. The composite members of the legislative branch will either sit in a pout or else jump to their feet every fifteen seconds for an applause break, but all of them, by their attendance, will be participating in a communal lie. A State of the Union address that does not begin and end with the number-one anxiety of the Union — its bizarre goddamn Chief Executive — is a fraud.
A few of Trump’s opponents are boycotting the SOTU. Why not all of them? Will any of the attending sourpusses have the courage to cut loose with even a single “boo”, or will they remain as silent as a porn star with an NDA against her? Thanks to the Wall Street Journal we all now know the price a sex worker charges to keep her blow hole shut ($130, 000), but what possible cash value can we put on anything Trump is going to say? It is a statistical certainty that any agenda Trump lays out will be contradicted no more than 48 hours later by Trump himself. We are told to expect an immigration plan, an infrastructure plan… who in their right mind can still associate the word “plan” with anything the President has done or will do? The repeal-and-replace flop and Shithole-gate are are just the two most recent reminders that Trump is a ship with no rudder, now and tomorrow.
We have all at last come to realize this. We have passed through the seven stages of Trump and arrived at “acceptance”, so why the need for a televised pretense of some kind of normal order in Washington when nobody trusts a word that Trump says, or trusts that he will even remember having said them? Are we tuning in to see if he can still stay “presidential” on command, or is it morbid curiosity, not wanting to miss the moment when he finally drops an N-bomb?
You need no go no further than Trump’s latest oral bowel movement about Climate Change to be reminded that the man is not conversant (nor wishes to be) on any topic that requires a molecule of human curiosity or attention. The most personal involvement Trump will ever have with his “forgotten man” will be shooting a roll of paper towels over his head (“Beautiful, soft towels”). Any agenda item lacking that level of fun simply cannot hold his attention, and will be abandoned or undermined by Trump with a punt to Congress while he concomitantly salts the earth behind him by understaffing and underfunding the very agencies tasked with enacting his policies. Remember in October when Trump signed a declaration of a “public health emergency” to tackle opioids? It came with promises of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and “really tough, really big, really great advertising so we get to people before they start,”. Nothing happened. No funding, no ad campaign. Trump still hasn’t even appointed a drug czar.
But the man has the job, and I guess the law requires that he communicate to Congress from time to time. So, like an insect that keeps fucking after its head has been bitten off, we are obliged to see this debauched ritual through. The Democrats, still out to sea, will serve up their pointless rejoinder via Joe Kennedy, the most gruesome ghola yet to come out of the House of Kennedy’s axolotl tanks, and a gimmicky callback to the glory days when their party still had the stomach to fight the good fight.
And what of the President’s remoras in the Fourth Estate? We can be certain that if Trump manages to read what has been prepared for him with the fewest possible detours into “very, very beautiful” country, then the likes of Fareed Zakharia will once again test their threadbare integrity and declare Trump’s address to be the latest, greatest inflection point towards normalcy.
But lest we forget: if Donald Trump had had his way, the loudest and most heartfelt ovation he would be receiving tonight would be coming from a geriatric child molester. And Trump would have reflected that love right back at it’s sender, on national television, for everyone to see. We did it, Roy! We showed ’em all! As it is, Trump will take his victory lap alone.
Jason Yungbluth will be watching paint dry instead of the State of the Union Address. But if you get bored listening to the word “beautiful”, try reading Jason’s ugly graphic novel Weapon Brown!
Previously: Stop Apologizing for The Last Jedi
Next: The Rites of Spring