President Donald Trump focused on victims of illegal migration in his first Oval Office address Tuesday night. Democrats — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — focused on the government.
That was the observation made by callers to Breitbart News Tonight shortly after both addresses. It was a contrast that illustrated the difference between the parties — and how thoroughly Trump routed his rivals.
The Democrats’ decision to rebut the president’s Oval Office address was a catastrophic mistake. Perhaps they made it after the networks perseverated about whether to carry the president’s address at all.
Democrats and the media both share the conviction that President Trump is illegitimate, and therefore not entitled to address the nation without being “fact-checked.” Their hubris led them into a political trap that will shape the outcome of this debate.
The first problem was always going to be the setting: no stage can compete with the Oval Office.
The second was having Pelosi and Schumer appear together. They often repeated the same talking points: for example, they both called the wall “ineffective and unnecessary.” That was likely by design — prepared by consultants with focus groups, no doubt, believing political messages must be repeated to be remembered. But it sounded inauthentic.
The third problem was that Pelosi and Schumer failed to talk about the problems Trump raised in emotive terms: the murders, the drugs, the sexual assaults — not just targeting Americans, but targeting the migrants themselves. The victims of the cartels were totally absent from their address. Instead, they wrung their hands about “turmoil in the administration.” They looked and sounded as if they did not care about the human suffering at the border.
Fourth, Pelosi and Schumer failed to bring out their best argument: the supposed cruelty of the “family separation” policy. The images of “children in cages” provoked national outrage last summer, and brought the administration to its lowest point. Somehow they failed to bring out that point, which would at least have provided a contrary image to the victims that Trump described. Perhaps they were afraid it would support his claim of a crisis at the border.
Finally, Pelosi did something inexcusable: she accused President Trump of “malice.” Not only is it unseemly to accuse any president of bad motives, but the word “malice” has deep connotations in American oratory. At the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln urged Americans to have “malice toward none.” Pelosi implied the opposite.
No wonder Pelosi and Schumer wanted to debate this issue behind closed doors. They have no case.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.