“The time for small thinking is over, the time for trivial fights is behind us,” President Trump intoned in the conclusion to his first address to Congress on Tuesday night.
Apparently some people didn’t get the message. Despite President Trump’s powerful, substantive speech that was laser focused on how he intends to address America’s most pressing policy problems, the media settled on a staid storyline: At least he was “presidential.”
Perhaps damning by faint praise is the best President Trump can expect from his opponents, but anyone who was watching last night’s speech could not help to see that he hit a home run. He not only cleared the low bar of “acting presidential,” he spoke passionately and directly on behalf of America’s left behind, explaining the hardships they’ve faced and the solutions he’s offering, in a way that no recent president has.
He also made imminently clear that his constituency isn’t in the Capitol, it isn’t in Washington, D.C., it’s in the struggling small towns and broken cities that dot this nation. And his expectation is that Congress will put aside their partisan disagreements and work towards a better life for Americans.
“Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party,” President Trump demanded. “It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.
“But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.”
President Trump laid out several of his plans to restart the economic engine and step on the gas. He talked about the “historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations” in order to free job-creators and would-be entrepreneurs from needless red tape. He discussed his plans to develop “tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies” and “provide massive relief for the middle class.” He lamented the loss of manufacturing and our problematic trade deficit and promised that he’s “not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.” He focused on “real and positive immigration reform” that can improve wages by focusing on a merit-based system similar to other developed nations. He asked Congress to approve “legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States.” And he called for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare based on five principles, including working to “ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage.”
“Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope,” President Obama said after his tour de force recitation of how to fix what ails America. “Our citizens deserve this, and so much more – so why not join forces and finally get the job done? And get it done right. On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.”
His comments made clear that he does not feel beholden to party orthodoxy. He rejects conservatives unbending free trade stance just as passionately as he dismisses Democrats revenue-focused approach to tax reform. What emerges is a president who has a singular guiding principle – what is the best course of action for America’s businesses and workers.
Even when discussing foreign relations he argued, “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.” To do that job requires innovative thinking, a deconstruction of business-as-usual, and a dogged determination to fight through any barrier that’s put in his way.
“The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us,” the president concluded. “We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.”
Sadly, each of those things will take work. Americans have been so conditioned to fight petty fights, to focus on what we can’t do, and to guard our thoughts and ideas, that we have often lost sight of the bigger picture. President Trump, in his own bullheaded and unorthodox way, is just the leader to pick us up, dust us off, and give America its swagger back.