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Grobe's view: style trumps substance in Congressional address


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Grobe's view: style trumps substance in Congressional address

After a rocky first few weeks in office, President Trump was given his biggest stage yet, to address Congress, the nation and the world on his administration’s future ambitions. White House aides had insisted beforehand it would be an optimistic speech. But, did it live up to that promise?

Euronews’ Paul Hackett spoke with our Washington correspondent Stefan Grobe who saw it all.

Paul Hackett: The president spoke of a new era of American greatness. What’s your assessment?

Stefan Grobe, Washington correspondent: “This was probably the first ‘presidential’ speech of Donald Trump, the first speech-like speech that I have ever heard from Donald Trump. He was very restrained, reading his speech from tele-prompters and sticking to the text almost verbatim, sticking also to the Republican play-book and to his own narrative.

Paul Hackett: I think it’s fair to say up to now President Trump hasn’t really been big on detail and substance so far. Did he succeed, so to speak, in putting some meat on the bones here?

SGrobe: Well, you are absolutely right, he is not a policy wonk and he is not interested in details, he is interested in the broader picture. About all the controversial issues like tax reform, only very vague hints.

On healthcare, he said that every American should have access to affordable healthcare, and that his plan, or the Republican plan, or a mix of that, will enable Americans to purchase health insurance through tax breaks or tax advantages, saving accounts – that was about the most prolific detail we heard.

He used immigration as a means to attack undocumented immigrants and created the impression that every illegal immigrant in this country is a criminal. He referred to alien immigrants that are criminals several times during his speech. That was a kind of bizarre obsession that we have heard from him before of course, and this was I think the only red meat that he was throwing at his core supporters.

PH: He’s facing historic lows in the opinion polls. Do you think, with this address, he might have turned the corner?

SG: Well that is to early to say at this point, after all it was just another day of the Trump administration. Trump says something on Monday, and something else on Tuesday, and something else again on Sunday.

During his speech, he again, for example, mentioned the city of Chicago and the high crime rates in Chicago, depicting it and other inner cities in the US as crime infested battlegrounds and he vowed everything possible to reduce that violence. Then yesterday he signed the bill that would make it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns. So how can you reconcile these two positions here?

And there are similar issues where Trump is contradicting himself or the Republican leadership. So it is way to early to say whether we’re seeing a new Trump with a new policy directions or whether it is just a matter of style, a question of style rather than substance.