Trump is expected to refer to his kept promises, economic opportunities and protecting the American people, perhaps once more attacking the “crooked media”, present his health care plans and, generally, deliver an “optimistic” speech in his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday (28/2) evening at 9 p.m. ET. 

He remains to this day the most divisive president, mostly, after a negative and polarising presidential campaign involving hacking, sex scandals and …fake news. Added to that dangerous mix is his campaign’s alleged Russian connections which remain one of the most haunting controversies surrounding the White House. The presence of Steve Bannon is a wholly or unholy different matter in itself. His crusade against Republicans and the dismantling of the administrative state at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference aren’t to be taken lightly. He is an eccentric and provocative figure with a dangerous ideological agenda. 

In a meeting with health insurers Trump promised a replacement plan for Obamacare while threatening them that if his “fantastic” plan doesn’t work “I’m blaming you anyway.” As always, using his rich vocabulary consisting of the two most used adjectives: “fantastic” and “special,” and the idea of everything being performed fast, Trump asserted: "We have a plan that I think is going to be fantastic. It's going to be released fairly soon. I think it's going to be something special ... I think you're going to like what you hear."

Maybe like isn’t the word, but we are going to hear from him on Tuesday. Perhaps sales of popcorn would increase as global audiences look forward to another unmissable, and mostly unpredictable, show. His aides are promising an “optimistic” speech that will reassure Americans about the future. He will stress that he’s kept some of his campaign promises including the withdrawal of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and that he has put creating more jobs at the top of his to-do list. This probably comes just after the $54bn he wants to spend on defence to combat a “dangerous world,” while cutting non-defence spending by the same amount.  Ahead of his speech later today, he had promised to destroy Isis, which he has likened to a “hornet’s nest” by saying that: “We’re going to straighten it out”, as if the world is uncomplicated. In terms of his ability as negotiator and his skill of cutting costs, Trump proudly recalled when he dealt with previous military contracts: “We cut the hell out of the price.” 

Real problems for real people

He also plans to address the country by fixing “real problems” for “real people.” This populist rhetoric that defines all individuals as “real people” with “real problems” simply ignores everything and everyone, making general appeals that are as meaningless as saying he will “straighten out” this or “cut the hell out of the price”, as if anything and everything can be solved by making it cheaper, faster, or just killing it. Many Americans thought that they haven’t seen a president like this since the time of former President George W. Bush, and Bush just came out on Monday attacking Trump’s anti-Muslim propaganda on NBC’s “Today” show. Bush himself, conservative and Republican, is now saying that terrorists “are not religious people” and that the right to worship anything or nothing is “the bedrock of our freedom.” Bush is now a lamb next to the wolfish Trump. 

Despite usually attacking the Obama administration, Trump and his White House aides also rely on Obama’s words and ideas, possibly more than they would like. Resonating with what President Obama said back in November 2008 financial crisis, Trump’s administration official said that President Trump’s speech today will cover this theme: “Americans have been waiting for help from their leaders for too long. During his speech the president will let them know that help is finally on the way.” In general, Trump, like other presidents before him, will give his “address to a joint session.” Nothing non-traditional here. This is why this speech isn’t a State of the Union address, because he hasn’t been in office for a year yet. 

His speech, as an administration official tells us, has been inspired—because Trump finds inspiration all around him—particularly, by meetings with health care CEOs, law enforcement, coal miners, union representatives, and “other front line workers.” Perhaps, these are the real people Trump had in mind when he wrote his speech. Such a diverse and mixed group of people with different demands and needs, is difficult to put in one big group with the label: the American people. But still, Trump plans to defend all of these groups and individuals, especially by building the US-Mexico border and leave all those bad hombres outside. Here economic nationalism and America first foreign policy converge.

Not only the US-Mexico wall will be mentioned, but also tax and regulatory cuts to help the economy grow. He will also stress his $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build bridges, tunnels, airports, public utilities highways and railroads. He will also explain why cuts are necessary and where the country needs to save money or get rid of projects that aren’t productive.

Criticism

But Democrats are arguing that Trump’s promises to create more jobs or raise wages haven’t materialised. Nancy Pelosi said that by placing former bankers in his cabinet he has “put Wall Street first” and accomplished making “America sick again.” She said mockingly that he’s “done nothing:” “He has no jobs bill, so he has got to talk about the press. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about kids, transgender kids in school. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about immigrants and have a ban on Muslims." This is his strategy of “deflection from the fact that he has done nothing.”

Members of Congress usually bring guests at the session who represent or symbolise some of the big ideas they want to address. For example, the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, will bring an illegal-immigrant medical student. The democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren is bringing an Iraqi refugee who has recently become a U.S. citizen. The far-right Republican congressman from Texas, Louie Gohmert, is bringing Fox news host Sean Hannity. The president and first lady also invite their own people, but they haven’t yet indicated who these might be. 

But as the theme of the speech tonight focusses on the “renewal of the American Spirit—an optimistic vision for All Americans,” we can expect anything and everything. Most importantly, everyone would like to know what this American spirit is and how it would be renewed, especially when Trump’s priority is to call for a $54bn increase in military spending. Is this what he means by optimism or reanimating the American spirit?