Stephen Colbert & Trevor Noah Went Live Last Night With the Only State of the Union Analysis You Need
Last night, both Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah forewent their usual pretapings in order to go live with commentary on Trump’s State of the Union address. If you didn’t watch Trump’s speech, you probably already know what you missed. 90 minutes (yes, he dragged it out to 90 minutes, the third longest SOTU in history, despite having a relatively low wordcount) of vilifying immigrants, taking credit for Obama’s achievements, and paying lip service to issues no one believes he has any interest in tackling.
For me, the worst part of the SOTU, like most of Trump’s speeches, isn’t even the speech itself. It’s the commentary afterward, the pundits debating whether or not being able to read off a teleprompter for more than an hour makes him “presidential.” (Not that he even managed to do that much all that well.)
Luckily, Colbert and Noah ditched the both-sidesism. Obviously, that’s not going to go over well with Trump supporters. For the rest of us, it’s pretty much the only post-SOTU analysis worth watching.
First, Colbert had the guys from Crooked Media on to dissect the speech. Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, and Tommy Vietor are the team behind the excellent political podcast Pod Save America (which has now expanded into a full media empire). Lovett and Favreau are former White House speechwriters, and Vietor served as spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council under Obama.
While many outlets are praising Trump for the bipartisanship in his speech, these guys point out what should be obvious: that Trump’s call for bipartisan cooperation in no way matches up with his actual presidency. Favreau says, “I don’t know how you take a speech and divorce it from an entire year of actions.”
Trump talks about wanting bipartisan immigration reform, but then spent 90 minutes depicting all immigrants as a danger to the country. He talked about wanting to make headway with North Korea, but actively rejects pretty much all diplomacy tactics. He talked about criminal justice reform and the opioid epidemic, but as Favreau points out, he talked about those last year, too, and hasn’t done anything since.
Lovett makes a great point in noting that The State of the Union isn’t the most important, or at least definitely not the most memorable speech the President makes. “We don’t remember State of the Unions; you couldn’t tell us your favorite lines from Obama’s State of the Unions, or jokes. We don’t remember.”
But, he says, “They matter because they sit between what came before and what came after.” And when you look at it through that lens, the empty rhetoric on display last night is glaring. “You don’t get to stand up there,” Lovett says, “and pretend like the last year didn’t happen.”
By the way, if you want a break from the SOTU awfulness, Colbert also had Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens on last night.
Over on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah also called out Trump’s hypocrisy in suddenly wanting to find common ground with Democrats, comparing him to the schoolyard bully who starts fights only to suddenly declare them over in order to get in one last sucker punch.
As Noah says, “This wasn’t a night for facts. If you came here for facts, you came here for the wrong thing.” Instead, it’s about celebrating Donald Trump, watching him clap for himself directly into a microphone, and talk about the things he wants to do, that we have no reason to believe will actually be fulfilled.
Later in the episode, Noah brought in New Yorker editor David Remnick for commentary, and he would like to remind everyone not to give Trump too much credit just because he didn’t, say, get distracted and start tweeting in the middle of the speech.
Remnick says that the State of the Union is historically important because it lays out policy going forward. For Trump, “Clearly the core of the speech tonight was about immigration.” And not just immigration, but the fear of immigration.
Of all the things Trump says he plans to do in the coming year, continued fearmongering is the one that’s actually easy to believe he’ll follow through on.
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