Last night was a good night for President Trump. His address to Congress contained rhetorical flourishes ("That torch is now in our hands, and we will use it to light up the world"), unifying themes (though they didn't go beyond platitudes), and red meat to the Republican base. But one good speech doesn't make up for a chaotic and controversial first month, a slow start to beginning his government, and a lack of real leadership on how to proceed overhauling Obamacare and achieving tax reform.
"President Trump on Tuesday night offered a sweeping vision of the many ways in which he plans to improve the United States, but he said little about his plans for achieving those ambitious goals," the New York Times writes. But maybe the biggest takeaway is that while the tone was a bit softer, the substance was roughly the same. Tough rhetoric on illegal immigration (so much for that idea about compromise). "Radical Islamic terrorism" (even though his new national security adviser don't think that kind of rhetoric helps). Repealing and replacing Obamacare. Violence in Chicago. These have been the same themes he's been making for months — either on the campaign trail, from his executive orders, or on Twitter. He just sanded down the edges.
More from NBC News:
Donald Trump's first speech to Congress: 12 highlights at a glance
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Yesterday, we posed seven questions we were looking answers for from President Trump's address to Congress. Here are the answers we got — and didn't get:
The most moving part of last night's speech was when President Trump acknowledged the widow of the fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens who died in that U.S. military raid in Yemen. "I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, 'Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.' Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity." But that moment is only going to give news organizations and others more incentive to dig into what really happened in Yemen. And if they uncover what NBC News has so far — "Yemen SEAL Raid Has Yielded No Significant Intelligence" — then last night's moving moment could be highly problematic. A highly successful raid? Or an exploitation of an unsuccessful one?
So much for the idea that Trump was going to offer a compromise on immigration reform. Here's what he said: "I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation's security, and to restore respect for our laws. If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades."
In other words, he was saying that IF wages increase for Americans, IF we build that wall, and IF we reduce illegal immigration, then maybe reform "is possible."
It was his declaration that he inherited an economic mess from Barack Obama. "Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited," he said. "Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force. Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps. More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working. We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years." Some of those numbers check out: Yes, 43 million Americans are living people the poverty level (though that's down from the 44 million when Obama took office). Others are highly misleading: The 94-million figure includes retirees and teenagers still in school. But here is the bigger reality of what Trump inherited on Jan. 20, 2017:
Hear from him on March 14th at 5 p.m. CT as he explores if big data is destroying the U.S. political system. http://bit.ly/2l4Vwr4