The Normalization of Trump’s Joint Address


Jim Lo Scalzo – Pool/Getty Images


Last night, Donald Trump delivered the most important speech of his young presidency as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time. The significance of his speech lies not in the content of his words, but rather with the media’s despicable reaction to it.

Trump’s presidency has been rife with miscues over the course of his first 40 days in office. Due to blunders such as the bungled rollout of his horrific ban on seven Muslim majority countries and the resignation of Nation Security Adviser Michael Flynn, expectations for Trump’s performance have been low.

According to the reactions of members of Congress and most major media outlets, Trump appears to have exceeded those expectations in his Tuesday night address. Time’s headline proclaimed, “Donald Trump Finally Sounded Like a President,” while The Atlantic’s read, “A Night When Trump Acted Normal.”

And it wasn’t just the media that reacted positively to Trump’s hour-long speech last night. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said, “this wasn’t one of his crazier speeches, but at some point he’s actually got to follow through and do the things he’s talking about.”

While they may initially appear innocent, comments that emphasize tone over content, such as Murphy’s, allow people to ignore the dangerous, racist rhetoric that Trump is pushing. It is dangerous to suggest that the biggest issue with Trump is not his policy, but rather his manner of speech.

One of Trump’s most prominent talking points last night was the creation the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office. This department will be responsible for tracking of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Trump attempted to heighten the emotional urgency of the issue by inviting four people whose family members were victims of violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to watch his speech.

While the life of every American is important and should be valued, an office like VOICE will serve very little practical purpose. The department stands to accomplish nothing meaningful besides encourage misinformation and foment hatred against the undocumented community in America.

The creation of VOICE may have been the most significant policy announcement made Trump’s speech, but the biggest story of the night was Carryn Owens, widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.

Last month, Trump ordered a raid in Yemen with the intention of gathering counter-terrorism intelligence. According to Pentagon officials, the raid did not actually yield any intelligence. More importantly, it resulted in the death of at least 25 Yemeni civilians in addition to Owens.

During his address, Trump decided to address the topic head-on by inviting Carryn, Ryan’s widow. As Trump introduced Carryn Owens to Congress as and viewers at home, Owens broke down in a touching moment that helped sway national opinion on Trump.

Van Jones, a political commentator and fierce critic of Trump, said, “He became President of the United States in that moment.”

Jones’ analysis is shallow and ignores the reality of the raid Trump ordered, as well as the significant number of people who have been negatively impacted by Trump’s decision.

Additionally, there are multiple important details pertaining to the raid that Trump either omitted or altered while speaking last night. To pick just one example, Owens’ father has called for an investigation into the efficacy of the raid that left his son dead, and refused to meet with Trump when given the opportunity to do so. Trump chose to mention none of this.

The raid also resulted in the deaths of nine Yemeni children under the age of 13, according to Newsweek. Of course, Trump chose not to mention this in his speech, and, so far, nobody has faulted him for doing so.

This kind of blatant omission of facts has become all too normalized in the Trump administration, and is a trend that reflects poorly on the American people

Where is the public outrage over such actions? Trump is clearly more concerned with the quality of life for the American people than for foreigners. But these skewed priorities should not give the United States the leeway to go into a foreign nation, kill multiple children, and get off scot-free. The American people must seriously reevaluate the way they view the value of a life.

All of this is to say that Trump’s speech, while it may have been toned down and perhaps even inspirational at times, was not worthy of the positive reaction it received. Low expectations are not reason enough to laud the most powerful person in that world, especially when that person is using their power to do harm.

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