The weird(est) thing about the State of the Union

You’ve had plenty of time by now to digest the State of the Union, so while I intended to write a long-ish piece breaking down a bunch of its topics, life got in the way – and let’s be honest, there are some pretty good national sources to check out for that. Fivethirtyeight, CNN, and Washington Post had some breakdowns I found particularly useful, if you’re so inclined.

I also found the bulk of this speech to be surprisingly normal with parts of it bordering on inspirational, especially considering this president’s usual, animal-like instinct to veer into absurdity. It looks like America largely agrees with that assessment, too, though that may be because a good majority of the captive audience for these tend to be from the president’s own party.

What I want to do instead is focus on the one thing this speech had that was different than anything I’ve heard in a State of the Union address. Something that reminds us however adult and even presidential Trump sounded for most of the night, he’s still a uniquely blunt object in American politics, using his force for corruption. The trouble started with this quote that got my ears up, but didn’t strike me as corrupt all on its own:

The only thing that can derail this economic miracle is ridiculous, partisan investigation.

Now, maybe you think Trump brought us an economic miracle. I don’t, and the numbers aren’t particularly miraculous, but this struck me as the normal kind of exaggeration politicians have been doing forever. What is unique here is the idea that America’s economic success is tied to making sure the president isn’t investigated. I hoped it was just a weird, clunky one-off but a couple minutes later came this:

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.

Um, why not? War and peace are opposites – by definition, you can’t have both simultaneously – but legislation and investigation? We can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, why?

Every president gets investigated. Back in 2012, some terrorists in Benghazi, Libya attacked a remote diplomatic outpost and killed four Americans including our ambassador to Libya. This was an obviously tragic event, and a responsible congressional investigation to determine what happened and how we could improve in the future was warranted.

That’s not what happened. Republicans responded by asserting that President Obama affirmatively chose to watch those four Americans die, then launched seven separate congressional investigations. None of them, predictably, found evidence of criminal wrongdoing by anyone. Case closed, right?

Wrong. Republicans chose to open an eighth investigation: the United States House Select Committee on Benghazi. They investigated this event longer than anyone investigated the JFK assassination, or the attack on Pearl Harbor. They investigated so long the controversy spanned two presidential elections. Benghazi might’ve began as President Obama’s fault, but it eventually morphed into Hillary’s fault.

Does anyone remember exactly how Hillary was found to be operating a private email server as Secretary of State? The Benghazi Select Committee uncovered that. It was a fact that had nothing to do with Benghazi at all, but it didn’t matter.

The last Benghazi investigation ended like the first seven before it – no criminal action. Republicans’ response to Benghazi was the very definition of a “ridiculous, partisan investigation,” but you know what Obama never did? He never threw up his hands and declared legislation and investigation were mutually exclusive.

He never said this for the same reason George W. Bush never said it during the investigation into why he fired all those U.S. attorneys. Or Clinton during Whitewater. Or George H.W. Bush or Reagan during Iran Contra.

Hell, Nixon didn’t even say anything like this during Watergate. And why not? Why wouldn’t Nixon just make all the country’s business contingent upon his own personal impunity from the law?

No one ever said this because it’s something only a mobster would say. Hey, nice country you got there. I bet you’d like to see some laws passed and things like that. Yeah, we can do that. Just as soon as you get your filthy fingers out of my business.

This was the language of a guilty person. Now, maybe President Trump has not committed any crimes. If not, his near-constant focus on the status of all these investigations is counterproductive. After all, you’re too busy overseeing an “economic miracle” to care about people looking for something they’ll never find, right? Why not put on a brave face and say the right things, then go about your day like all other recent presidents?

Hot take: the President is focused on the details of all this because he knows what he did. He knows his team was in contact with Russia. When he said no one in his campaign spoke to any Russians, he knew better than anyone that at least 17 campaign members had contact with Russians at least 100 times.

He knows he’s laundered money. He knows he promised to relieve sanctions on that Russian bank he signed the letter of intent to finance Trump Tower Moscow. He needs it all to go away, and he can’t stop thinking about it.

That’s the only way such a corrupt bargain could’ve made it into an otherwise pretty normal State of the Union speech, in my humble opinion. It’s a reminder that, no matter how hard he tries to act the part, this president is anything but normal. There are a bunch of hidden sins that the president needs to keep continually buried from public view, and in the end that says more about the state of our union than anything.

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