Donald Trump is on a roll.
He came out of Impeachment Week stronger than he went in. His party of bootlickers is thoroughly in his thrall. His opponents are at sixes and sevens. His base is hardening. His poll numbers are up. He skillfully and cynically – with a mix of outright lies and distortions – turned his State of the Union address into a campaign rally, complete with chants of “Four More Years” from his Republican lickspittles in Congress.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is part of what David Frum, the Canadian who was a speechwriter for former president George W. Bush, has to say in an article in The Atlantic:
“The president crammed his speech with blatant and aggressive lies. The Trump administration is not committed to protecting patients with pre-existing conditions; it has repeatedly sought to end this protection and is in court right now trying again. The U.S.’s position as the world leader in oil and gas production is not thanks to any action of Trump’s; the country moved into first place in 2012.
“Trump has not presided over any kind of “comeback” of the economy, which grew faster in the three years before he took office than in the three years since. Manufacturing employment has not recovered under Trump; because of his trade wars, manufacturing employment has crashed on his watch. Trump’s untruthfulness is notorious, but it’s still a departure to lie and mislead so often and so brazenly before all the assembled Congress.”
Traditionally, the State of the Union address is the occasion when the president briefs members of the House and Senate on his accomplishments of the past year and sets out his objectives for the coming year. It’s meant to be an accountability session, not a TV reality show, which is how Trump staged it.
The lowest of the low points came when he turned to the VIP gallery and called on his wife, Melania, to present the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to the reprehensible Rush Limbaugh (“a preeminent media race-baiter,” as Frum calls him). Limbaugh joins the ranks of such earlier honorees as T.S. Eliot, Ella Fitzgerald, Walter Cronkite, Pablo Casals, Tennessee Williams, Rachel Carson, Irving Berlin, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Could anyone (other than Trump acolytes) fault his host, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for ripping up her copy of the address as the president finished? I’m surprised she didn’t whack him over the head with it.
Four more years? Is it possible? It’s not only possible. It appears increasingly likely.
With the election still nine months away, anything could happen. A global catastrophe could intrude. Trump could commit a horrendous gaffe. His income tax returns could become public. Or the befuddled Democrats could get their act together and nominate a presidential candidate with the substance, relevance and public appeal to mobilize enough independents, women, Blacks, Latinos and young voters to restore sanity to Washington.
Four more years would weigh heavily on the American people, but some of the burden would be felt by other nations who, although they may not count on Washington for leadership in the age of Trump, still look to the United States to be a force for good, a constructive player in world affairs.
Four more years of Donald Trump could be a nightmare for Canada. It’s probably Justin Trudeau’s least fond wish. It took a monumental diplomatic and political effort to get the new NAFTA negotiated and approved – and packaged in just enough gift wrap to permit Trump to claim a great victory for his administration.
Major bilateral negotiations may be even more difficult in the next four years. Canada is still America’s closest neighbour and best friend, but the relationship is vulnerable to whatever whim moves the president on a given day.
A triumphal Trump, riding high, in the White House for four more years, is not a happy prospect.