The result was not as lopsided as the Clemson annihilation of Alabama in the National Championship game Monday night, but the outcome of the first head-to-head television effort of the new Congress was decisive. President Donald Trump clearly gained ground and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lost ground.
Part of President Trump’s advantage was structural. Presidents almost always do better than Congressional leaders in a nationally televised setting. The emotional power of the Oval Office and the authority of the presidency have given every president in my lifetime a huge advantage over their congressional opponents.
Smart congressional leaders never pick themselves to respond. Ideally, they pick someone who offsets the president’s strengths. Last night, a young Latina freshman congresswoman speaking with intensity and sincerity would have been 100 times better than the Nancy and Chuck show.
To a degree no one could have anticipated, the two Democrats just looked bad. A friend of mine who consults on political media wrote me: “Trump should pay these guys to speak to the nation. They look like mummies risen from an ancient tomb. It’s like [an] SNL sketch.”
The self-destructive appearance of Pelosi and Schumer reminded me of “The Ev and Charlie Show” named for Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen and House Republican leader Charles Halleck. They tried to compete with President John F. Kennedy, who was a young charismatic master of television, and they ended up being ridiculed and becoming a symbol of ineffective old politics. Nancy and Chuck were building that reputation last night with their appearance.
President Trump had an advantage in simply having the clearer, better case. He used facts and references that built the argument for protecting our southern border as a matter of protecting Americans. The party that wants to protect Americans will almost always win against a party that wants to risk American lives for ideological and political objectives.
When the President asserted that, “In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records – including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes and 4,000 violent killings,” he was being the commander in chief defending Americans from danger. The liberal media will do all it can to debunk and undermine this claim. However, every time an illegal immigrant kills or attacks an American, the public will move a step closer to President Trump.
The President’s claim that we need a physical barrier for our national security was also reinforced by professionals with years of experience on the border. When President Obama’s chief of U.S. Border Patrol, Mark Morgan, goes on Tucker Carlson Tonight to defend Trump, it is clear where the argument is heading. Consider what Morgan said:
MORGAN: The President is right, the President of [the] Border Patrol council is right, [and] the other day when they had the national press conference and they got up and they said the wall works, they’re [sic] right. And it’s not based on a personal political ideology. That’s based on historical data and facts that can be proven.
CARLSON: So why do you think people oppose it?
MORGAN: That, I think, is a political point that they are trying to make. I personally, in my experience and I was also with The FBI for 20 years, I was special agent in charge of the El Paso Division right on the border. Tucker, I cannot think of a legitimate argument why anyone would not support the wall as part of the multilayered border security.
When President Obama’s head of the Border Patrol says the argument Pelosi and Schumer are making is not legitimate and only serves a political point, the Democrats are walking on very thin ground. They could rapidly find themselves in quicksand as the party which is unwilling to protect Americans.
There is more law enforcement support for President Trump’s proposed control of the southern border. Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot said that the fence and other security measures under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 dramatically impacted crime. “We were able to reduce [ancillary crimes] by 91 percent,” Wilmot told the Epoch Times. “The deaths in the desert, the rapes, the robberies, the homicides, the burglaries, the thefts.”
President Trump gained ground when he alluded to Senator Schumer’s vote in favor of the Secure Fence Act (which was also supported by Senators Clinton and Obama and has substantially reduced crime in Yuma, Arizona). Schumer can claim it was a different time and different circumstances, but it undermines his own hostility to a fence and makes it look like opposition to Trump rather than a principled position.
The President also helped his cause when he drew a strong distinction between legal migration and law breaking: “America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration.”
This was the President’s first Oval Office Address to the nation. Compared to the debut of the Nancy and Chuck Show, the President can feel good that he has advanced the cause of securing the border while his opponents have further driven home how negative and lacking in solutions they are.
Clearly, on balance, it’s Trump 1, Pelosi-Schumer 0. Not a bad start on this new Congress.
Newt Gingrich is a former Speaker of the House. He is also a contributor to Fox News and the author of several books.