Speeches made by President Donald Trump
on January 20th (Inauguration)
and on February 28th 2017 (in Parliament) - Annotated.
by Dr. Christian Heinze - Kontakt/Contact - In English language only - 18th March 2017
I. Summary of the contents of the speeches.
1. The read thread.
The speeches *) contain a strong call for national efforts to be made by all US-Americans and the expression of a powerful claim of personal leadership and for corresponding allegiance. Announcing power to have been given back to the people through the election of President Donald Trumps has no other meaning than to claim identity of President Trump’s will with that of the people. The idea intends to back the President’s call for cooperation of the political parties. Tjhe president also claims the USA to influence or lead the world.
The speeches employ all available rhetoric instruments designed to thrill and carry the people along. Their call for inspiration and aspiration, self confidence, pride, optimism, hope, dreams, spirit, courage, bravery, love, thinking big, dealing bold and daring suggest advantages to derive from such spirits and attitudes presuppose relevant opportunities. The call “to get the job done” also mentions challenges and hardships involved. The call is underlined by suggesting continued American success in history and giving examples like that of a father enabling life for a child under condition of an incurable rare disease or the sacrifice of the life of a national hero. The call also suggests, by making statements in the present tense, that some of the remedies are already well on their way. For cases where all these may fail, the speeches invoke miracles and God’s blessing.
Trump’s rhetoric implies the speaker’s capacity as a leader to make these spirits and attitudes result in the relevant achievements, solutions and advantages, adding his promise to dedicate his whole personality to this end. The importance of this leadership is underlined by evoking fear of violence, illustrating the danger by conjuring an existing “American carnage”.
The speeches fuel the aspirations of the speaker by contrasting his promises with accusations against former administrations and administrators of unnamed mistakes and even of grave misconduct:
“A small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost … Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed … while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
A description or a reasoned evaluation of the actions purported to be faulty are not given, with the exception of some details attached to the criticism of the recent US health care policy named after the former president Barak Obama.
3. Deficiencies, goals, ways and means.
The speeches indicate as the gravest existing deficiencies hate and evil, a lack of safety vis-a-vis internal violence and of law enforcement, poverty of 43 millions, unemployment, lack of investments and women’s access to entrepreneurship, dysfunctional health care, lacking child care and paid family leave, low level of education, crumbled infrastructure, neglect of inner cities, overregulation, a lack of veteran’s and victim’s care, public contracting disadvantageous for the public interest, corruption through lobbying, drugs pouring in, uncontrolled immigration, disastrous foreign policy, a lack of external security (Iran, Isis), dwindling military resources, disadvantages caused by unlimited foreign trade.
As concerns the description of goals to be aspired and of ways and means to be employed for their realization by the government and the people, the speeches advertise general goodness, peace, harmony, stability, love and freedom. The goals seem to amount to the abolition of all existing deficiencies. They establish ideals like American “greatness” or the principle “America first” (as every country has the right to set its interests first). Racial equality and civil rights are addressed but should always be applied in line with “solidarity”.
To a degree more contentful are announcements of plans like that of increasing military resources or those for exploring space, or of protecting the American economy from adverse influence of foreign trade, for example by promoting buying and hiring “American”. Trump announces plans of reducing overregulation and administrative barriers, enhancing sovereignty, safety, law enforcement, child care, education. Some substance is indicated by the preference attached to the interest of the middle class and the importance attached to technology and investments, particularly in connection with the plan of reforming taxation. Meaningful are the demands for investments in infrastructure like highways, bridges, airfields and railways, the demand for negotiating public contracts and purchases (F-35 fighter-planes) so as to serve better the public interest, and the plan of reducing foreign aid. A definite direction of efforts can also be gathered from the intention of better care for veterans and victims.
Quite clear statements promise introduction of paid family leave and a return to the principle of “own coverage” supplemented by sufficient government medicare in organising the people’s health care. One of the most substantial description of goals, ways and means is given concerning immigration control: it is to be organized according to the Canadian or Australian examples so as to make merit the main criterion for admission, and it is to be put into effect with the help of building a wall along the USA-Mexican border. Of utmost clarity is the promise of eradicating Isis from the face of the world.
1. The read thread,
Attributing more (or utmost ?) importance to the nation meets with similar trends to be observed presently in several parts of the world. They are usually categorized as “nationalism”, but at the bottom of such trends lies a desire for effectiveness and leadership of States as a requirement for peace and justice, States from which well defined policies can be expected. This desire is indeed justified by a considerable part of the present international political problems deriving from tendencies to reduce the unfolding of the State in the wrong quarters while exaggerating it in others. The desire raises the question of policies and means suitable and available to ensure better politics. The speeches do not address a basic change of important institutions. Therefore, realization relies on the activity of the existing institutions and the persons governing them.
Leadership is lacking or unsatisfactory indeed in many parts of the world. This is due to societies being weary of performance and engagement and of accepting limitations or hardship in the interest of the common good. It is also due to disappointment with concrete experience with pseudo- or hubristic leadership. On the other hand, a natural human desire continues to exist for leadership and for participating in a successful community and State. This desire is deeply rooted in the nature of man, even when pushed to the back of the mind. Donald Trump quite legitimately promises to reverse the lack and, even without clearly stating so (or probably even without being so aware), of functional statehood. It also appears legitimate for president Trump to employ rhetoric to underline his claim for leadership in the right direction. However, in the face of a majority in number of US-Americans having voted against his presidency, his identification with the will of the people is not fully convincing and could be interpreted as indicating an exaggerated self-confidence or a lack of realism. Both indicators would not add to confidence in favorable achievements.
The claim raised by president Trump addresses, in the first place, national leadership. But the speeches also proclaim world leadership. In order to enable evaluation of this apsiration, the direction in which the world is to be led amd the ways and means by which goals are to be reached would need definition. Whatever it would consist in, however, the claim for international leadership clashes with the principle “America first” insofar as leadership, contrary to self-sufficient dictatorship, is based on responsibility for those to be led. This responsibility cannot be realized without contributions and even sacrifices to be made by the leader and his close followers.
2. The rhetoric.
The speeches discussed here combine all that has always been used by aspirers of political leadership. Some parts display strong similarity with proclamations made by Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburgh address) or Thomas Jefferson (declaration of independence), or by Cicero (in Catilinam) or Marc Anthony (praising Ceasar as published by Shakespeare), but also of well remembered more recent great political seducers who had successfully usurped leadership with disastrous effects in history.
Rather unsubstantiated slogans like „yes we can“ (Obama), „wir schaffen das“ (= “we shall cope” - Merkel), „podemos“ (= “we can”, the Spanish party), “blood and tears” (Churchill), „ein Ruck muss durch Deutschland gehen“ (= “Germany must make a spontaneous effort” - Herzog), “die Lage war noch nie so Ernst” (= “the situation was never so serious” - Adenauer), “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Jefferson) belong to the rhetoric tools always used by serious statesmen and would-be dictators. They derive their moving power not from reason or argument but from the charisma of their author. Sometimes, but not necessarily, this charisma is supported by true or apparent qualities or performances of the author, particularly by longstanding successful experience in government or administrative work in connection with true dedication to the well-being of the people and to peace. In the case of Donald Trump, performances of this sort can probably be seen in his achievement of building or maintaining an impressive economic enterprise. But more often than not the moving force of such slogans is also due to the mere wish of the people for a change and even for adventure, for which they are ready to make sacrifices. The speeches discussed here like their historic examples combine slogans with invoking sentiments like fear and hope, suggesting dissatisfaction and pride, they remind of distress and praise big thinking and courage of the people as granting success, adding promises of the fulfillment of dreams by passing through hardships. They draw on a certain desire for adventure vested in all men and women and do not hesitate to employ God’s blessings which appear to come free of charge. This combination of slogans with sentiments has sometimes turned out as tools not only for attaining leadership but for turning it into dictatorship.
Speeches applying for or demonstrating leadership are expected to avoid unpleasant topics and to suggest abilities indicated by what they present as achievements by the orator, like a rise of stock market rates or the bargaining success of lowering the price for air craft. And they may tend to enhance fortune by a bit of cheating. So do the speeches discussed here, for example, by contending, that each American generation has so far passed the torch of truth, liberty and justice “in an unbroken chain”. However, by accusing former administrations and personalities of grave mistakes and even of exploiting the people in their own interests, president Donald Trump has taken resort to tales harming the reputation of persons without mentioning details or presenting evidence. This is incompatible with his quest for truthfulness. While there is nothing to prove inclinations of Donald Trump towards a misuse of his office, this incompatibility indicates an inclination towards a generosity in dealing with the truth that surpasses “normal” cheating. It raises concern about constant responsibility and justice to be expected from president Trump.
Concerning prospects for future achievements of president Trump or of the USA, such rhetoric certainly promises the urgently needed leadership. It may indicate a greater independence of Trump from roped parties than that of his competitors. It does remind of how splendidly the American spirit invoked by president Trump met with challenges like those of the Second World War or of the McCarthy era. But obviously, success is not guaranteed. Honoring promises can turn out for better or for worse.
3. Deficiencies, goals, ways and means.
The list of deficiencies of the present USA presented in the speeches is convincing ana important (and could apply to other western states as well). Its publication indicates the clarity and courage required for corrections (and sometimes reserved, in other western states, to so called "populist" or "nationalist" parties). However, the list as such offers little reliable outlook. It should be supplemented by substantial descriptions of objectives by viable plans employing ways and means likely to be or to be made available. Presidential public speeches made at the beginning of a term of office cannot be expected to present detailed plans for the whole scope of imminent government. But the announcement of some substantial guidelines; explained with some degree of evaluation of problems and accompanied by outlines of plans of adjusting goals, ways and means to realistic possibilities must be expected from a responsible leader. Evaluating the substance and concerning the explicitness od the speeches discussed here, the following can be remarked:
The regulation of immigration announced by president Donald Trump satisfies a basic need, as maintenance of its really existing population and its social condition constitutes the very existence and identity of a State. Reference to the Canadian and Australian regulations describes clear and viable ways and means. Even the plan of constructing a wall for the purpose cannot be denied legitimacy. Likewise convincing appears the quest for better configuration of public contracts if it means more competition and clearer description of goods and services to be procured and more effective execution of obligations. Reducing lobbyism deserves applause but requires means not yet sufficiently developed and should not be restricted to former administrative officers or to public contracts.
Other particular plans like the proposal of a health-care system relying on self coverage deserve no other criticism than that of remaining vague in detail. Individual coverage of health care depends on the availability of the necessary means to the individual, taking into account other obligations like that of caring for old age support. The proposition also needs more detailed description of the shape and financing of supplementary government medicare. Increasing care for children and veterans or introducing rights for recreational family leave is definitely necessary but the difficulties lie in details of realization. Giving importance to civil rights is of course very justified, but a question mark must be attached to the addition made by president Trump to the effect that their exercise must always be in line with solidarity, because solidarity is an extremely ambiguous principle capable of being used for demanding all sorts of unacceptable limitations of freedom. Another idea to be principally welcomed is the announcement of promoting investments. It needs to be remembered, however, that only profitable investments can produce wealth or well-being, while in a market economy system, only such investments are profitable that meet with sufficient demand for the product or service to be financed. Disregarding this correlation, governments tend to promote unprofitable investments for the purpose of inducing short-term incomes resulting from investment spending or underpriced sales. Such policies are bound to result in the loss of capital or in the call for help of the taxpayer and other detrimental consequencesous (cf. the case of the Lehmann breakdown and the problem of banks “too big to fail”).
Trump’s reference to American greatness and priority appears ambiguous. The third highest per capita yearly national income of app. $ 47000 and military spending of app. $ 600 bn. (109) yearly (that is more than the sum of military spending of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, UK, India, France and Japan) indicate however (even taking into account inaccuracies of such a comparison) an already existing greatness and priority. Therefore, the reference raises the question of what greater greatness should consist in. Imagining the possibility of a better distribution of wealth or of greater effectiveness of security politics does not compensate for the details missing in the speeches made by president Trump. In particular: An increase of the already enormous military strength of the USA, as proposed by the president, needs careful consideration, as exaggerated security-arrangements conflict with security interests of other States. The historic Cuba crisis and her solution provide a lucid example.
Equally important as announcements made is the omission of remarks on major tasks of present government of the USA. In this respect, the list of problems contained in the speeches by president Trump is not complete. Probably most important factor not contained in this list is an exaggerated dedication of “the West” including too great a part of the people of the USA to their individual material interests combined with a lack of personal engagement and performance beginning in the education of the individual. Another is a lack of the degree of racial and economic integration of the society needed to cope with the requirements of peace and well-being in a world at the present stage of globalized science, technology and, in particular, of communication. Still another concerns the growing anti-American and anti-western resentments in large parts of the world. Success in coping with the political task of overcoming this phenomenon is as important for the well-being of the USA as it is for world-peace.
Many of the statements and announcements contained in the speeches and many of the tasks not mentioned in them (and in particular some obviously very difficult and expensive ones) raise the question of how and by which means they can and should be realized, how the necessary manpower and institutional requirements can be provided and how the necessary financial funds can be raised. This touches on the impression of truthfulness emanating from the uttering of the orator. The fulfillment of some promises, well meaning as they are, is obviously difficult or even extremely difficult. The failure of the president in offering at least some basic ideas about causes or solutions of primary importance raise doubts concerning his capability to play his part in fulfilling these tasks. This applies in particular, for example, to the prospects of making all Americans wealthy or of eradicating Isis from the face of the world. As the propaganda of his competitors display a similar lack, the voters have no choice of substance. This lack indicates a partial failure of democratic function.
It remains to eagerly await and evaluate further presidential announcements and, more important, the actual political measures to be initiated and executed by Donald Trump.
|*) Attached to this essay is the wording of the speeches . Another attachment offers an index to their contents.|