Ethics & Public Policy Center

The State of Our Union Is . . . Entertaining

Published in The Wall Street Journal on February 5, 2020

Tuesday’s State of the Union address brought President Trump’s high-concept politics—history as reality show or three-ring circus—to a new pitch of excitement, distraction and entertainment.

The impeached president delivered the speech on the eve of his acquittal in the Senate. The results from the Iowa Democratic caucus this week remained unclear, lost in a ferocious electronic screwup that, nonetheless, raised the interesting possibility that a 38-year-old gay man from South Bend, Ind., might threaten Mr. Trump’s hold on the presidency. The idea that Pete Buttigieg could move into the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, with his husband as “first gentleman” acquired a sudden speculative plausibility. Or perhaps the new tenant would be a democratic socialist.

In this abundance of distractions and dramas, the political fate of the nation oscillating between extremes, a fairly subdued President Trump delivered his annual address to Congress in a monotone. From time to time, he would cock his head in a quizzical, half-challenging way, working his smiles and freeze-pose grimaces.

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Lance Morrow is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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