Last Tuesday night Americans once again tuned in to their televisions or streaming platform of choice for a direct address from our president. I have to say I was impressed (perhaps that is too strong of a word for it) by Trump’s ability to stay on script. Now while that is not exactly a difficult thing for most adults to do, the man is known for his off-the-cuff remarks. Hence, the evening’s lack of them was notable. However, the aspect that struck me even more than him not adding in wild interjections, was him not addressing two key issues affecting the nation today.
Most of the major boxes did get checked. Taxes? All over the speech. Immigration? Check. Defense? Bingo. Infrastructure? Billions of dollars’ worth. Hurricane relief, just for good measure? Covered. As an annual check-up on pure policy, this was about as well rounded as they come. However, this is more than that. In our digital world, almost any person can update themselves on these items daily. I must criticize the president for not adding in enough on two topics in particular. It is just my luck that I can use some clever alliteration to group these together nicely: he left out Russia and racists.
It is hardly surprising to me that the White House did not want to add a line to the speech about how their number one is currently under criminal investigation. However, considering how much he has had to say about the issue on Twitter, I am surprised that the Department of Justice did not appear in his words. I expected Trump to try and take a swing at the same issue he has so many times now: he believes the FBI is out to get him. He has made it clear that he believes he is being treated “unfairly.” On top of that, with a large audience in front of him Trump had a great opportunity to try and get out in front of the investigation in the most “on the record” way possible. Neither approach was taken. Again, I understand not wanting to run into the elephant in the room, but his avoidance of the subject seemed too calculated. The gaping hole left by the Russia probe was too obvious to ignore, so perhaps it would have been better off being acknowledged.
To me the more offensive omission from the President’s speech was that of the issue of race in America. He mentioned standing for the national anthem, but in my opinion that is a sad excuse for the explanation that he owes the country. Racially motivated crimes have risen. Neo-Nazis have marched down American streets. What is he going to do about it? Right now it sure seems like the answer is nothing. Black Americans deserve better. A racial wound that has existed in this nation for centuries is bleeding profusely, and our leader will not say a word about it. His mention of the national anthem protests was frankly disgusting. He took the time in his speech to criticize a free speech-backed protest, but not to acknowledge what lead to it. His speech was the longest State of the Union in history yet he couldn’t squeeze in the word race once. On this issue, it is well past time to stop giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. He may have missed a couple policy branches by simple mistake, but failure to talk about the state of race in America was neglectful and ignorant.
It is impossible to write the perfect speech. When your goal is to update a nation on everything under the sun, it somehow becomes even harder. However, the amount of time Trump spent touting on how successful he believes his tax bill will be seems especially heinous when you consider how important some of the things he left out are. The state of our union is very complicated right now, but our leader refusing to acknowledge that fact will only make things worse. The Trump administration had a chance Tuesday night to finally lay down impactful language on the biggest skeletons in their closet. They failed to do so.