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April 19, 2017

Don’t give the president an “A for effort”

U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

On Feb. 28, President Donald Trump addressed Congress and delivered what The New York Times described as, “the most presidential speech Mr. Trump has ever given.”

Trump’s uncharacteristically positive rhetoric was riddled with uncharacteristically accurate claims, many of which painted our country as vastly improved since Jan. 20. Our economy has been booming with thousands of American jobs created since Trump’s election, and his newly optimistic tone was a breath of fresh air.

But giving one “presidential” speech doesn’t make a president. Although this address was a step in a positive direction, we can’t let it distract us from the corruption and overall incompetence that is still all too prevalent in this imploding administration.

I read “Henry IV, Part 1” by William Shakespeare for a class earlier this semester, and I can’t help but draw connections between Trump and the protagonist of the play, Prince Hal. Hal was thrust into a position of power despite his hesitations and instead of growing into the monarchy smoothly, he actively works to separate himself from the crown, associating himself with drunks and criminals.

But toward the beginning of the play, Hal has an interesting soliloquy in which he alludes to the fact that he is being irresponsible on purpose because when he becomes responsible and steps into the role of King, it will seem that much more impressive.

Essentially, Hal is saying that if he makes himself look terrible initially, then when he becomes simply average it will look as if he is now remarkably competent in comparison to where he started.

Trump’s congressional speech was adequate, but the national attitude toward it was positive across the board, simply because he didn’t do as awfully as people have come to assume he will. Just like Hal, Trump has set the bar so low that “not bad” has become equivalent to “pretty good.”

But unlike Hal, Trump is not pretending to be incompetent. His approval rating, standing at a meager 43.9 percent as of March 5, is the lowest approval rating for any new President in recorded history.

All too easily, Trump’s one small victory in the form of a decent speech briefly distracted citizens and journalists alike from the severity of our nation’s situation, as we are dealing with an administration that is collapsing in on itself before our very eyes.

On Feb. 13, Michael Flynn resigned as the National Security Advisor after information regarding his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. was uncovered, revealing that he had distorted the facts about his involvement with Russia when speaking to top White House officials. Protests for the resignation of a second member of the Cabinet, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, began less than a month later. On March 2, Sessions recused himself from any further investigation regarding Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election after it was discovered that he too had undisclosed contact with the Russian ambassador to the US.

And President Trump, only two days after his successful Congressional address, took to Twitter to defend his defamed Attorney General, claiming that Jeff Sessions is “an honest man” and that the real story is about “the illegal leaks of classified and other information.” He concluded that the investigations on his administration were nothing more than “a total ‘witch hunt!’”

Less than a month and a half into the presidency, the Trump administration’s ties to Russia are becoming more and more nefarious. The increasingly complex web of possible connections between the Trump administration and Russia could lead one to believe that Trump is not fully acting according to his own free will when it comes to dealings with Russia. This is an unprecedented controversy that cannot be undermined by Trump’s improving ability to read from a teleprompter.

I’m not impressed by a president who, 40 days into his presidency, is just now beginning to sound presidential, and I won’t allow his sudden rise from atrociousness to mediocrity to distract from the questions still surrounding him and his administration. The fact that a decent speech is more surprising than a scandal regarding connections to Russia is a problem that cannot be emphasized enough, and I hope that the work to uncover the truth continues no matter how “presidential” our president becomes.

Tess Halpern is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at tjhalpern@umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Don’t give the president an “A for effort””
  1. David Hunt 1990 says:

    STILL waiting for your condemnation of Barackus Rex being caught on video doing a quid pro quo agreement with the Russians to “cool it” – after which he could be more flexible.

    And while you’re typing that reply, please comment on Ted Kennedy’s letter to the Soviets offering his help in a PR campaign to soften their image in the US public’s perception, even as he sought their aid to undermine both Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative AND his 1984 re-election campaign.

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