Did we see a shift to faith and family rather than Trump positioning himself as the strong leader? Did his speech focus on the collective strength of individuals and their communities instead of the “central state?” Has there ever been a more powerful moment at the SOTU than the young man from North Korea raising his crutches as a symbol of freedom? Senior political columnist at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney joins Dan and Amy to discuss.
View full transcript
Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. President Trump's rather remarkable and story-filled State of the Union speech last night...I want to get to some of the individuals he highlighted, heroes and victims, the stories that were told, poignant and inspiring. But there was one comment that he made that probably won't get picked up much by the DC Press Corps, because they wouldn't even understand the point of it. And I don't know if Trump totally internalizes it either, but it's important to hear the President say it. And this was "New American Moment" portion of the speech, there was something very important that he said that I wanted to pick up on, it isn't said enough, it isn't recognized enough by politicians or people in positions of power in government. Trump on the New American Moment, see if you can pick up on what I'm referencing. Trump (from tape): This in fact is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream. So to every citizen at home watching tonight...no matter where you've been, or where you've come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be *glitch, presumably "anything"), and together, we can achieve absolutely anything. *standing ovation* Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we're going to have, and what kind of a nation we're going to be. All of us, together as one people, one team, one American family, can do anything. We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag. *standing ovation* Together we are rediscovering the American way. In America we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life. The motto is "IN GOD WE TRUST"! Proft: So the DC Press Corps will pick up on the first 90 seconds of that, where he makes the play for unity, which he's done before. But the key statement he made the entire night...the key statement that came from the President...was that faith and family are at the center of America, not government. And point of fact, just to develop on that, faith and family are the only real restraints on government at any level. And to the extent that you see government and politicians pursue policies that undermine religious freedom, that undermine family...the family structure, you are growing government such that we ARE a government-centric society and not a free society anymore. Family and faith are the restraints on government, it cannot be said enough, it's not internalized by enough, and I'm glad the President said it, even if sometimes he doesn't act in furtherance of it. For more on the State of the Union, we're pleased to be joined by our friend Tim Carney, senior political columnist for the Examiner. Tim, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Carney: Hey, thank you for having me. And before you get to what you want to talk to me about, I want to double down on what you just said, with a slight amendment; faith, family, and community, and I think it's important to point that out, that for a lot of us when we say faith, we mean our church community, but faith is also an individual thing, but I have to say that without that local community, whether it's local government, a congregation, a swim club, whatever that is, that's necessary in order for faith and family to be strong. So local community I always look at as that is the real check on government, that when Democrats say "government is the things we do together", we have to say "No, actually, you know...the Swim Club, the PTA, this Parish Breakfast, those are the things we do together. Government is, at best, ONE of the things we do together, and at worst, are things that politicians do to us." Proft: I take that friendly amendment and completely agree, it's what de Tocqueville wrote about in "Democracy in America", it's what our friend we just had on last week, Patrick Dineen from Notre Dame...soon to not be the Fighting Irish but from Notre Dame, talked about it in his new book, "How Liberalism Failed" (sic, "Why Liberalism Failed"), and no, that's precisely right. Carney: And I was glad that Donald Trump did mention that, and the point we make in our Washington Examiner editorial is that there's a bit of a shift in from the normal Trump rhetoric. Now obviously this is a speech that is written by many speech writers, not just by Stephen Miller like many of his campaign speeches, and not just kind of ad-libbed, like the average Donald Trump speech. And the shift is that he did talk more about faith and family in this than him being a strong leader or him having success. And the other thing was that the words "strong" and "strength" showed up a lot, I think I counted 13 times that those words showed up. But normally when he would talk about this...there were those sort of disturbing moments in the campaign, or early on, where he praised Putin for being strong leader, or talked about Rodrigo Dutarte, the southeast Asian sort of...strongman, and praised those guys. And so we said, this is sort of a scary totalitarian strength. But last night, the strength was sort of a collective strength, or the strength of an average man. It was about the people, and individuals, and communities being strong, rather than about the central state being strong. And it reminded me, he was talking about Houston, and then asking Joe Kennedy...you know, the way we often use strong in our culture, "Boston Strong", "Houston Strong", communities pulling together, NOT the central state having lots of power. So I thought that was a very salutary shift in the State of the Union, and we thought it was notable enough that that's what was in our editorial box this morning. Jacobson: Yeah. And, he wants to work with both parties, there was a message of unity as well. In about 45 minutes into his address, there's a message about immigration, about letting 1.8 million people, you know, Dreamers, stay here in the country. But, there was some hissing by the Democrats when he, BRIEFLY, rolled out his plan. Carney: Yes he...there were a couple of moments in there where Trump was trying to, and I think was successful in, drive a wedge in between the Democrats and the majority of the country. This is typical politics, I think that Bill Clinton did it better than anybody else. Bush and Obama tried to do it, in that...you KNOW where the Democrats are, you know that they can't applaud something you're going to say, and you know that most of the people are on your side. And it's sort of the "end to chain migration" combined with the compassionate thing with the policy for those who were brought in here as children, either as children or overstayed their visas, that that's a compromise that most Americans like. But it increasingly looks like something that Democrats are not happy to take. So, at best Trump is sort of pressuring the Democrats into taking this deal they don't want, and at worst he's highlighting how far they are from the American public. Proft: Can we get bipartisan agreement, you think, on this truism that I identified yesterday? That Oregon senator Ron Wyden is the spitting image of Super Dave as Funkhouser on Curb Your Enthusiasm? I mean, is that not true? Carney: I think that the more interesting appearance last night was Congressman Joe Kennedy, the third generation of Kennedy's. Both his kind of striking Irish look, one of my colleagues went "Man, what a GINGER!", when Kennedy went out on the stage. Which I think maybe should be the next name for Notre Dame's football team, the Gingers. (Proft: Oh yeah, the Gingers! Jacobson: Yeah, the Gingers, sure!) But also the unfortunate lip balm that was distracting everybody from what Joe Kennedy was saying on TV. Jacobson: Well, do you think that he was effective at all? I mean, it sounds to me...it felt, it felt to me as if he was just reading a script, that he didn't really feel anything, whereas Trump's was more genuine. Carney: It's hard to read and not sound like you're reading. (Proft: It's all put-upon passion.) Actually, I was just thinking about Barack Obama. And a lot of people criticized Barack Obama for using...from all of his use of a teleprompter. But what was remarkable was that Obama could read from a teleprompter, and sound like he meant it. Have you guys tried this? I've done it before, and I've read from a teleprompter, and I sounded intelligible, but I didn't sound genuine. It's really hard to do! So Joe Kennedy having a hard time with that. Trump's sound...gets kind of weirdly muted, to the point that at the beginning of the speech as he talked, people wondered what kind of medication he took to just chill out and do it. And it has a positive effect...and I don't know why! Maybe just because we're all sort of bracing for weird Trump, and flying off the rails Trump, so when he's acting calm, we sort of relax. It's interesting watching Trump read. Proft: Well, last night, we got storyteller Trump, and I gotta tell you, he was a pretty good storyteller. I mean, he had good material to work with there, their incredible stories, unbelievable stories. But I was...I mean, I cannot recall a more powerful moment during a State of the Union address than that young man from North Korea holding up his crutches and kind of thrusting them up in the air as kind of a defiant symbol for freedom. I mean, is there a better moment that you can recall in a State of the Union? Carney: No, that was great. As a New Yorker, when the subway hero was invoked, that guy who jumped down and pinned a child down to the tracks so he wouldn't get run over by the train and was on top to protect him, that was a really touching moment because of the backstory. But the unreal visuals of the man there and...that he...the unreal circumstances...yeah, that he fled from. And then having the actual prop of the crutches was great. And again, back to sort of our original point, these are my favorite parts of the State of the Union address...and even Obama did this, for all of his big government-ism, he had to say, because this is something Americans believe in a politician, however collectivist or state-ist, has to say it, that it is these things that make America great, that we can be proud of the big things that involved the government; winning World War 2 and saving Europe, and landing on the Moon...but sort of the everyday things, saying that this is what we expect of Americans, the Cajun Navy *glitch* going to Houston after the Hurricane, these people who do these amazing things and have these amazing stories of freedom because they love America, or heroes like the policewoman who adopted the baby and saved the woman who's possibly going to overdose from heroin...that these are the stories of individual heroes that really...that Americans love. It's part of our DNA, that we're looking for the person to go out there and to be a hero, or the groups, again, like the Cajun Navy, the volunteers, to do it, rather than always turning to the government in a way that Bernie Sanders might. Proft: Yeah, I know, and I think your point about it being other regarding, and the contrast between ego-maniacs on the floor and the Americans in the gallery on the second level couldn't be more stark, and I think that's what had great appeal. He is Tim Carney, senior political columnist for the Washington Examiner, WashingtonExaminer.com, check out their review of Trump's State of the Union at WashingtonExaminer.com. Tim, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Carney: Thank you!