From the outset, Donald Trump’s campaign to “make America great again” has been predicated on convincing the public that this is nation is not great. In most cases, according to his narrative, it’s not even above average. He has repeatedly and shamelessly described a country that is in shambles and needs saving.
It was the central theme of his dark and deceptive 73-minute acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July that emphasized multiple internal threats, all of which he placed at the feet of one person. “This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction and weakness,” said Trump, who exhorted without regard for simple truths, such as the fact that Clinton was not president — and the economy was thriving.
This portrayal of an America in decline was the cornerstone of his campaign and remained his theme during his inaugural address on Jan. 20, when he described a country that few would recognize. He said it was a nation of “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge …”
He said this even as U.S. jobless claims were at a 40-year low. Oil prices were at a 15-year low. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average was five days away from shattering the 20,000 mark.
Odds are the nation will get more of the same gloomy rhetoric tonight when President Trump takes the podium to address a joint-session of Congress at 6 p.m. PST. We hope that’s not the case. Given the deep divisions that exist between parties and between neighbors, the public would be better served if it heard from a real president tonight, one who, in keeping with tradition, offers a fair account of the good, the bad and the unsettled facts about the American condition.
But if past performance is prologue, the public is not likely to hear from a president. It’s more likely to hear from a candidate again, one determined to justify his beleaguered executive orders and policies by maligning, yet again, the nation and those who came before him in power. As a result, discerning viewers should anticipate seeing two versions of tonight’s address — the live one and a fact-checked one.
We hope we’re wrong, because whether it’s tonight or some other day, Trump and his White House staff need to acknowledge through their actions and rhetoric one simple fact — the race is over. Trump won. It’s time to the put an end to the tweets at every slight, the epithets toward the media and the repeated references to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and what might have been. They are gone. It’s his show now. And it’s time for him to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of the office as they were intended. That means giving assurance rather raising alarm, instilling hope rather than fear and speaking to and for everyone, not just those who elected him.
It’s time for Trump to be presidential. Tonight would be a good time to start.
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