Whoever came up with idea that President Donald Trump, the most divisive president in history, should make a plea to the nation for unity must be very out of touch or cynical.
“Together we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future,” said the same president who just hours before had been excoriating Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other leading Democrats and pressing aides to make the speech tougher on Democrats.
All State of the Union speeches attempt to put the administration's best foot forward, but to reinvent entirely oneself in such glaring terms inevitably earns the president derision and further erodes a weak president's already diminishing credibility. Coming on the heels of a 35-day shutdown in which he claimed that Democrats were uninterested in border security and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was content to allow human trafficking made no political sense and arguably qualified as one of Trump's biggest lies.
First, the politics: To whom was Trump trying to appeal? The nearly 60 percent of voters who will never vote for him are not going to be swayed by the canard that he is now a uniter, not a divider. Meanwhile, Trump's dead-ender base doesn't pine for unity. Trumpkins live to insult the media, excoriate Democrats, ridicule elites, demean immigrants and mock Republican defectors. Trump's state-TV surrogates at Fox News will be mightily confused if they need to do a 180 and start singing "Kumbaya."
Taking a step back to look at Trump's actual presidency, consider all the things he would have had to do differently to make a legitimate plea for national unity. He, for example, wouldn't have:
* Tried to repeal Obamacare on a party-line vote and thereafter continue to mock the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for opposing him;
* Propagated a Muslim ban after conducting a campaign of fearmongering and Islamophobia;
* Dreamed up a crime wave, groundlessly blamed immigrants and attempted to withdraw financial support from localities that refused to assist his senseless effort to deport nonviolent illegal immigrants;
* Repeatedly smeared the intelligence community, the FBI and the attorney general -- including officials he appointed;
* Championed a tax bill, passed on party-line votes, that increased income inequality and falsely promised a $4,000 pay increase for American workers;
* Painted immigrants as MS-13 members, “animals” and part of an “infestation” while hyping a caravan 1,000 miles from the border, which he falsely claimed was riddled with terrorists;
* Repealed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and ended Temporary Protected Status from those who had fled natural disasters and war;
* Called African and Caribbean nations “s---hole countries” and expressed longing for more immigrants from lily-white Norway;
* Continually insulted African-Americans and women as “low IQ”;
* Kicked transgender troops out of the military, against the recommendation of his then-secretary of defense;
* Dubbed the media the “enemy of the people” and incited crowds to vent their anger at reporters;
* Denied unanimous expert opinion from his own administration that climate change is real and a growing threat to the United States and indeed the whole world;
* Mocked a survivor of sexual violence and demeaned victims more generally by propounding the false notion that misreporting is a widespread problem;
* Endorsed a credibly accused child molester and defended a senior aide credibly alleged to have battered his spouse;
* Denied replete evidence of the involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi;
* Employed after the dismissal of Omarosa Manigault Newman not a single African American West Wing senior staffer;
* Publicly berated his former attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia probe as required by professional ethics rules;
* Conducted a nonstop campaign to discredit the special counsel, impugn his integrity and falsely claim that an inquiry that has indicted more than 30 people is a “witch hunt”;
* Questioned the veracity of election results and spread the false notion that millions of people vote illegally;
* Repeatedly insulted women, including making the insinuation a female senator would have traded sex for campaign donations; and
* Lied more than 8,400 times.
Trump’s insincerity is so extraordinary one wonders if it is simply born of desperation, a cry for help as his presidency unravels and his support narrows to a tiny sliver of the electorate. The only unity Trump can claim responsibility for is the alliance of conservatives and liberals, men and women, old and young who have come together to oppose his policies, demand accountability and defend democracy. I suppose in that regard he might actually deserve credit
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.