I like red meat. I like red meat a lot. I like a seared ribeye, crispy on the outside and still cool in the middle. I like to grill a burger, and mine are so good — the secret is a cast-iron grate over a charcoal grill — that my kids complain that the burgers they get in restaurants just don’t compare. Every few weeks I fire up the smoker and turn six pounds of red meat into a couple of pounds of jerky. I like my wife’s beef stew on a snowy night, and I like to take a skirt steak and some peppers to make a spicy chili in the summer.
I like red meat in a campaign speech, too. Give me a politician who knows what he believes, knows his crowd, and knows how to put the two together to send spirits soaring. The whole “Go us!/Boo them!” thing is a lot of fun during the heat of a campaign, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The State of the Union Address is a curious thing. It’s a political speech held in a (supposedly, anyway) non-partisan setting. The president has a great opportunity to rally the troops, but he’s also speaking to attendees of both parties and, more importantly, to the entire nation.
As President Trump strolled into the House chamber last night for this year’s SOTU, there were two huge chunks of political red meat dangling right out in front of him, dry-aged and ready for him to hurl into the crowd. I’m speaking of course about the Democrats’ failed impeachment effort, and the Iowa Debacles.
ASIDE: On our PJMedia Slack channel Monday night, one of your favorite other PJ writers (I won’t say who!) was looking for a family-friendly version of “clusterf***” to describe the Iowa Caucuses. The only suggestion I could come up with, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a spot-on synonym for “clusterf***” was “Iowa Caucuses.” So the next time you see some stuff hit the fan, you can sagely tell everyone, “Wow, that was a real Iowa Caucus.”
My question was, what would Trump do with that tasty red meat?
The way I figured it in the intro to my SOTU drunkblog was that on impeachment and Iowa, he could go one of three ways:
• Politely ignore it
• Dismiss its importance with a polite, humorous jab
• Go for the jugular
Going for the jugular would have meant rubbing the Dems’ noses in their own mess like the bad puppies they are. For Republicans it would have been like throwing entire strip steaks into a crowd of keto dieters who hadn’t eaten all day. It would have been very much like Trump to do such a thing… but at SOTU? The red meat would have been tasty, but also a lot like eating it with your hands at a fine restaurant.
A humorous jab might have been perfectly acceptable in the context of SOTU, especially if done in a “let’s put this all behind us” way. But given the enormity of impeachment, and the still-ongoing slow-motion train wreck in Iowa, “let’s put this all behind us” wouldn’t have been right, either.
But to ignore both issues… that was the tell of how Trump gauges his political strength right now.
You might remember Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery The Adventure of Silver Blaze. Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson were called to Dartmoor to investigate the disappearance of a prize racehorse and the murder of its trainer. Holmes suspected that the supposed break-in was actually an inside job, his reasoning revealed in a conversation with Scotland Yard Detective Gregory:
Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
The dog didn’t bark at any strangers in the night, because there were no strangers present. Therefore, the perpetrator must have been someone the dog knew and trusted.
In the House chamber on Tuesday night, Trump was the dog that stayed silent about his own impeachment, and about his rivals’ utter failure in Iowa. The dog didn’t need to bark, because there was no reason to alert anyone to the plain facts that everyone already knew: The Dems are imploding, just as his own political fortunes are rising based on a strong economy and an incredible sense of wellbeing in the American public. To ignore those things illustrated Trump’s strengths and the Democrats’ weakness far better than big chunks of red meat thrown to the right side of the chamber.
Although it’s almost a shame, because as far as I’m concerned the only thing tastier than red meat is red meat seasoned with progressive tears.