Let me try to take some stock of President Trump’s speech. There were a lot of random weird asides through the speech, some of which I flagged in real time. One example: In the course of defending himself on Charlottesville he gave a shout-out to CNN Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord who was recently fired for using a Nazi slogan in a Twitter fight. He had kinder and lengthier words for Lord than he did for Heather Heyer. He had kinder words for Kim Jung Un. Everyone said “you won’t bring [quarterly economic growth] up to 1%.” What?
Aside from the rambling weirdness, the big things are these. President Trump spent something like forty-five minutes in a wide-ranging primal scream about Charlottesville, ranting at the press, giving what might generously be called a deeply misleading and dishonest summary of what he actually said. It all amounted to one big attack on the press for supposedly lying about him.
There were some other points that were momentary and perhaps easy to miss but quite important.
1. Trump essentially promised he would pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a major sop to the anti-immigrant, white nationalist base.
2. Trump suggested he would probably end up withdrawing from NAFTA because negotiations will fail. That statement will have major repercussions.
3. Trump threatened to shut down the government to force Congress’s hand on getting his border wall.
4. While grandiosely not mentioning the names of Jeff Flake or John McCain, he nonetheless went after them and made his opposition to both quite clear. Presidents don’t generally attack members of their own party going into a midterm elections.
I confess my standards are so low for Trump at this point that it’s hard for me to have quite the shock that I’m seeing from some of the TV commentators right now.
Let’s be honest. He’s done worse. He’s done worse in the last week. This is the President. It’s who he is. It’s like letting an addict who’s been clean for a couple days hang out with his friends at the crack house. It’ll go downhill fast. And so it did.