Mike Pence’s Christmas gift to Donald Trump has left many scratching their heads: a state-of-the-nation address tomorrow. But what does it actually mean? And, like so many of Trump’s policy moves, is it likely to last for very long?
Is it a mission from God? Is it a ploy for popularity?
“It’s beginning to look a lot like a lockdown,” worries Norm Ornstein, a longtime observer of national politics. “Dogs are running in packs. It appears we are right back to civil war.”
The word “raid” even came up in a strange, unscripted exchange between Trump and US senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday night.
“I will tell you that Kirsten, who is fairly new to politics, but is a smart cookie, she has asked me for a very substantial pledge. She would do something,” he said. “I do not want to bring her under any kind of cloud, and I do not want to do anything that would create a doubt that she will be able to do her job. So I would do something very substantial.”
When she tried to get clarification, Trump intervened, “Let’s see if I can get Kirsten to say no,” he said.
Are we back to Clinton-era rhetoric?
A curious tone and open-ended promise, the debate shows a remarkable degree of sobriety in US politics. “I guess I am the hostage of somebody’s belief system,” Gillibrand responded.
If the idea is that Trump and Pence see themselves as stewards of national sovereignty, they are pinning their hopes on Congress instead of citizens’ bodies and free speech. A laser-sharp, global war on corruption seems to be a master plan for a truly free state. It makes the larger matter of the refugee crisis and Trump’s jailing of a dozen journalists and journalists look like a quagmire. “They are only making their points by saying things I don’t like,” Trump replied. “I think I should do the State of the Union more often.”
Can they actually keep Trump out of the State of the Union address?
Not unless Congress seizes control. Democrats are gaining control of the House on Monday and have vowed to withhold their unanimous consent for Trump’s State of the Union, which requires a 60-vote majority to grant. So far, Republicans have voted overwhelmingly for a bill that prevents them.