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Opinion: A new Trump?

Soric Miodrag Kommentarbild App
Miodrag Soric
March 1, 2017

Not much new in terms of policy, but at least he seemed predictable. Donald Trump's speech to Congress was the first one where he looked semi-presidential. Miodrag Soric thinks Republicans should be relieved.

USA Donald Trump vor dem US-Kongress in Washington
Image: Getty Images/J. Lo Scalzo


Maybe he is learning from his past mistakes? Instead of inciting fear or defaming political opponents, Donald Trump delivered a speech full of assurance to a joint session of Congress. He emphasized America's strength and promoted a fresh start to modernize the US.

He even offered to cooperate with the Democratic opposition on developing healthcare, immigration and education policies. Democrats are hesitant, still mistrusting this new Trump. Yet they had no choice but to applaud when the president highlighted the sacrifices of American soldiers or police officers and condemned " hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms."

Sticking to script

Trump's eyes were glued to the teleprompter. It was the first speech in which he seemed semi-presidential. He mostly struck the right tone and made no big mistakes. Republicans were relieved. Rarely before had they stood so united behind their president as when he declared America's claim to leadership, emphasized the partnership with Israel, stressed the fight against Islamists, and professed support for NATO.

It looks like his internal critics forgave the fact that Trump had described the North Atlantic defense alliance as "obsolete" just a few weeks ago and had looked to strengthen relations with Russia. In Congress, the words "Moscow" or "Russia" did not pass his lips. This is remarkable, particularly when following the American media, which has been speculating for weeks to what extent Trump's campaign aides had regular contact to the Kremlin.

Soric Miodrag Kommentarbild App
Miodrag Soric, head of DW Washington bureau

Foreign policy? Maybe not

But that didn't seem to bother the president at all. Foreign policy barely played a role in Trump's speech. He mainly focused on three topics: strengthening the national economy, protecting America's borders and the reforming the healthcare system. The biggest weakness of his speech? His lack of detail. For example, he failed to give any specific information on how to make healthcare affordable to uninsured Americans. Trump left it to platitudes to explain where the money for a better infrastructure or a more modern army should come from. He promised low taxes, but didn't refer to any numbers - that is the "old Trump" again: someone who makes big promises but remains silent on how he plans to keep his promises.

Trumps speech had little new to offer in terms of content. The president remains on his national-conservative track in terms of domestic and economic policies. Isolationist ideas still influence his foreign and national security policy. Nevertheless, his tone was more conciliatory, making him seem more predictable. That's worth something, at least.