If President Trump enters the room, I will, as I have done in the presence of every president since Lyndon B. Johnson, take to my feet. I will stand out of respect for the executive power vested in the presidency by the Constitution, not the incumbent, although I have thought more highly of some presidents than others. Trump, by word and deed, belongs among the “others” for dishonoring the highest office in the land.
Protocol also requires members of Congress attending a State of the Union address to rise from their seats and stand when the nation’s chief executive enters and leaves the chamber.
The response to whatever the president has to say, however, is within the discretion of the members. Thus, year after year, many Republicans attending Democratic President Barack Obama’s State of the Union addresses elected to sit on their hands, leaving most of the applause to come from the Democratic side of the aisle.
This year’s State of the Union was the reverse.
Republicans were enraptured by the words that came out of Trump’s mouth. Democrats gritted their teeth, wishing the whole thing were over 10 minutes ago.
Either way, it is an unseemly, and degrading, annual spectacle put on by grown men and women who should know better.
Trump should have known what to expect from Democrats, especially since his speech was larded with dubious facts and figures, as Post fact-checkers pointed out.
He inflated the number of jobs created since he took the oath of office. Took credit for wage increases that started before his presidency. Took a bow for the decline in an African American unemployment rate that was trending lower before his presidency. Falsely claimed that he passed the biggest tax cut in history when in fact it was the eighth largest, smaller even than two of Obama’s tax cuts. Contended that his massive tax cuts provide relief for the middle class and small businesses when most of the benefits flow to corporations and the wealthy. Claimed that the United States is “now” an exporter of energy while the country has long been an energy exporter. Said the diversity visa lottery program “randomly hands out green cards,” which isn’t true. Said “chain migration” brings in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” an exaggeration. And used a meager two cases of immigrant terrorist attacks to savage the visa program and chain migration, when thousands upon thousands of immigration cases don’t end up that way.
There are more examples of Trump’s inventions and misrepresentations, but the above renditions make the point: This president and the truth are strangers.
More alarming, though, is his unalignment with reality when it comes to values, principles and loyalty.
Trump unloaded this week on Democrats for not applauding his State of the Union address, calling their silence “un-American” and “treasonous.” In Trump’s world, when the president gives a speech with applause lines, it is your duty, as an American, to clap. To do otherwise is disrespectful and contrary to the American spirit embodied in him. In his view, he is, after all, America. Fealty is owed to him.
That may help to explain the Trump request to shut down big portions of the nation’s capital to stage a costly military parade to, as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said, “feed the president’s ego.”
We have been here before.
In the lifetime of many of us, we have seen the emergence of certain demagogic nationalists who claimed to have singlehandedly changed a nation’s fortunes, raised economic production, liquidated bad treaties, restored order and national ethnic identity, and, upon taking office as chief executive, produced oaths pledging personal allegiance to the leader in place of loyalty to the country and its systems of law and government.
No longer fidelity to the Constitution, but to the man.
Is that where America is headed?
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