Feb 012018


Below the front page of my newspaper yesterday evening.  It might appear strange that Dutch media would pay so much attention to a yearly and mostly rather ceremonial event in American politics. Are the Dutch that much interested in it? The answer is short: no, they aren’t. But note the first header of the article, right below the picture (which tells a whole story on its own) in bright red letters. Over the course of the past year Guus Valk has started writing almost daily columns from Washington, which are midway between straight-forward reports and op-eds, analyzing the shenanigans of  American President Donald Trump and the Republican party which he represents. It is very clear to many Dutch that whatever Trump and the GOP get up to in (one of) the most powerful countries in the world it will have great repercussions for the rest of that world. So reading about Donald Trump is of great interest to many Dutch, who in general have always shown an interest in what is happening in the rest of the world. And most of the time it makes for bewildering and hilarious reading ; so yes, that too.


State of the Union shows unprecedented division

Trumps tone was unctuous and patriotic. But his message was as always ‘America First’.


In this article, Valk again gives more of an analysis of Trump’s State of the Union than a report on the contents, places the speech within the context of the current American political climate and picks up on certain passages which are of interest to his Dutch readers. The headlines make it clear: Valk wasn’t very much impressed, neither by Trump’s mild tone when reading the script, nor by its contents, and hints at the possible writers of the speech with his use of “unctuous” in the sub header. The White House had indicated beforehand that Donald Trump would use his first official State of the Union to unite America after a year of extreme polarization, but Valk wasn’t seeing any of it.

He continues with a description of how both parties in Congress reacted to Trump’s “unifying words”

In the Chamber of the House of Representatives, where Trump made his speech, it was visible how divided the political climate is. The Republican Congressmen, to left of Trump, have abandoned their aversion to Trump. They stood up as one man again and again to applaud the president. For the first time in the history of the State of the Union, there was prolonged scanting of: ‘USA! USA! USA!’ (emphasis mine)

The Democrats sat to the right of Trump: looking away, playing with their phone, disapprovingly shaking their heads. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House, had instructed her group not to interrupt Trump’s speech. But the hissing , growling an booing became increasingly loud especially when Trump spoke about immigration.

Valk then goes on to explain Trump’s need to reconcile both parties on ‘Dreamers’ to avoid a new closure of the government on February 8 but with the strict conditions he linked to the deal and the way he put it, it seems Trump has blown his chance:

At least as important was rhetoric, which was reminiscent of the way he depicted immigrants as criminals during his campaign. ‘For decades, open borders have ensured that drugs and gangs flew into our most vulnerable communities.‘ He also said, ‘Americans are dreamers too.’ (emphasis mine)

By summing up all the conservative results he achieved in the past year, Trump was the president as Republicans wanted him: An ordinary Republican president

No tweets, no Russia research, no war against the intelligence services and the FBI. That explained the dozens of standing ovations.

But Valk notes that Trump came up with remarkably few plans, even though a State of the Union is meant to do so. Even now, in a president’s best-prepared speech, Trump remained close to the alarmist tone that made him great, but he couldn’t deliver new plans and new inspiration to a Republican Party which is heading for a possible big defeat in the midterm elections in November.

Valk then ends with a remarkable observation:

Trump said the most interesting and most polarizing words just before he left the room. The speech was over, Trump walked to the exit, shaking hands. A Republican Congressman, Jeff Duncan, accosted him and said, ‘Just release the memo.’ A TV camera recorded the conversation.

Duncan was referring to a memo that here that has an explosive status in Washington. A Republican, Devin Nunes, is said to demonstrate in that memo that the FBI is biased against Trump. The Republicans want to release the memo, but that will almost certainly lead to a total escalation of the conflict between Trump and the FBI, and that between Democrats and Republicans. It will also endanger Robert Mueller’s Russia research.

The person who now has to decide on releasing the note is Trump himself. He has received the document and must now make a decision. He already anticipated  on that to Congressman Duncan. He said, ‘Do not worry, hundred percent.’ When he was off-script, Trump showed what his conciliatory tone was worth this evening.

Guus Valk obviously wasn’t fooled by Trump’s State of the Union, to him it was just another one of this showman’s many campaign speeches and I think many Dutch will agree with him and can’t wait for the next chapter to unfold. “New Republican Weapon: Memo” is the headline of today’s article on Trump, or rather in the parallel series : RUSSIA INVESTIGATION US

Cross-linked with Care-2 here


  17 Responses to “As Seen From Afar 2/1/2018”

  1. I have to question the “Trumps tone was unctuous and patriotic.” statement.
    I do not consider divisiveness and lying to be patriotic.
    I do not consider taking credit for someone else’s achievements to be patriotic.
    I do not consider denying someone their Constitutional rights to be patriotic.
    I do not consider xenophobia to be patriotic.

    • Neither do I, nor does Guus Valk, I’m sure (but we Dutch are very leery of the word patriotic). But Drumpf’s base does!

    • The content was, certainly, not patriotic, but the “tone” of the speech may have been. tDump can not be patriotic, unless the country to which he is referring is the land to the Trump!  Beyond that he does not give a damn.

  2. It was none other than Dr. Seuss way back in 1941 who recognized the dangers and perils guaranteed when a country adopts a “America First” mindset.



  3. Kudos to Mr. Valk for his article that you shared with us.
    He views him (dt) the same as we do.
    Appreciate you and Thank you, for posting this, Lona.

    *Nameless: Thank you for your comment, it’s very telling with no words needed in today’s climate.

  4. Thank you for this look at how the  dutch look at us.

  5. Thanks so much Lona!  I expect it is more than just the Dutch who look at us roughly the same way.  

    WRT to “unifying” and “patriotic,”  Patriotism does not actually mean what everyine in America seems to think is does …  which is flag waving, the National Anthem, and, yes, “America First.”  No, that is not patriotism, far from it, but his base – and I fear more than just his base – think that’s exactly what it is, and I expect Meneer Valk is well aware of that.  And “unifying” – The Great Kumquat thinks he is unifying the nation by unifying his base to gang up on everyone else.  Barf.

  6. I don’t agree with one key thing he says!
    “But his message was as always ‘America First’.”
    I thought his message was (as always!!!) “Trump First” 😛14

  7. Well my computer went down for several hours and I lost my comment so let’s see if I can reprise it.

    The phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute” is attributed to PT Barnum to mean it is simple to con people out of their money.  He would quake at the performance of these elephants, particularly the chief bull elephant in this circus called Washington.  And make no mistake, it is a circus where the elephants are conning everyone and running amuck through the streets, destroying everything in their wake!

    But Valk is not conned at all.  He sees the circus for what it is . . . all flash, no substance.

    Drumpf using the phrase “Americans are dreamers too.” is totally on point with his racist beliefs, akin to the phrase ‘all lives matter’ rather than ‘Black lives matter’.  This rogue elephant needs to be put down, politically speaking.

    I looked for some Canadian reaction but found it totally lacking.  Having said that, I talked with a few people who said they were totally disgusted with Drumpf and the US government.  When I asked if they paid  attention to the SOTU, the consensus was “a waste of my time”, to which I could not agree more.

    Great piece Lona!

  8. Excellent article, Lona.

    I suspect that the phrase “unctuous and patriotic” may have a flavor in Dutch that it lacks in English. 46

  9. “Unctuous” in Dutch has the connotation of the smooth-talking and the hypocrisy of the pseudo-religious like Pence, and “patriotic” isn’t a word many Dutch would use to describe themselves because it calls up an image of a lot of showy (to us) flag waving and singing the national anthem and us-against-them feelings. We reserve those feelings for international sport events in which Dutch compete. When the Dutch soccer team get to the (semi-)finals we all get terribly “patriotic” and color ourselves orange from top to toe. No, that is not a tribute to Drumpf; he should be made to pay for taking the fun out of it.

    • Orange is not the only thing he has taken the fun out of, and he ought to be made to pay for everything he has taken the fun out of.  “Unctuous” comes from “oily” which to many of us suggests snake oil.  We have two schools of though on patriotic, and his speech does fit one of them.  (The way that people who think they are “hot s**t” are generally half right.)

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