What happened exactly is hard to say — maybe he got sprinkled with fairy dust — but President Donald Trump was not just OK in his first speech to a joint session of Congress. He was superlative. He was better even than his gifted predecessor and, in his unifying, uplifting tone, his directness, his sense of sympathy, his focus on the relevant and his evocative delivery style, he said much that needed to be said.
The subjects were many, and an alert teacher would hardly be handing out top grades on every utterance, but here was someone using reality, not political correctness, as a guide on tough questions. Crime, for instance, is a real problem in our inner cities. Murder jumped up significantly a couple of years ago. In a place like Chicago, thousands get shot every year. A foremost answer is good policing, and what’s crucial is respect and help for those who do it.
Trump got that right, just as he was on target that too many of our schools are not getting the job done. If children are trapped in one that simply is not performing, let the parents put their children in a school that does work. It is known as school choice. Public programs facilitating it are especially crucial for the poor.
Our tax system is crazy, especially that part of it aimed at businesses. Our European cousins may flunk in many departments but they are smart enough to keep business taxes down so that businesses can compete better and flourish to the public’s benefit. Trump showed that he gets it that jobs will be generated by corporate and other taxes coming down and that this is a lot better for the human good than welfare that is ever-less affordable.
How about the Food and Drug Administration? It’s there largely to save us from harm or getting killed but has itself killed through laggardness. As has been documented by Henry Miller, a physician and Hoover Institution fellow who worked at the FDA for years, the bureaucrats overdo caution in admitting new drugs to market. They thus protect themselves from castigation if something goes amiss but deprive Americans of a means to save their lives. Trump made it clear in the speech that he wants to fix this, and it’s about time.
Trump’s immigration plan is not just to deport those here illegally after they’ve committed crimes. As he made clear in the speech, he wants to go further in admitting legal immigrants on the basis of merit. Yes, many low-skill immigrants do a great deal of good, but many struggle. It is just as compassionate to admit those with high skills as it is to admit those with low skills, and in a high-tech society, they can contribute massively instead of costing us massively.
Here was not a speech focused only on such issues, but also on how we Americans are in fact united on standing up against the horrors of anti-Semitism and racism. It was an emotional evening during which those in attendance poured out their hearts for a woman whose husband had given his life for his country. Trump reminded us of our inventiveness as a people, the ways in which we have done so very, very much and spoke of how we still have so much to do.
Too often, Trump has done himself in with small-mindedness or juvenility on top of what’s best about him. But on this occasion, everything about him seemed a step up the ladder from where he had been. No, many steps up the ladder.
Please, Mr. President, keep it up, and please, Congress, work with him, and please, critics, give credit where credit is due.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at [email protected]