maggie haberman cpt jan 8
NYT reporter: Trump wasn't into doing speech
01:39 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered.” The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

As the President took to the Oval Office for the first time in his presidency to make the case for his border wall and for House Democrats to approve it, questions loomed: Would he declare a national emergency? (He didn’t.) Would he include misleading and inaccurate information to bolster his case? (He did.) Would he stay on Teleprompter? (He appeared to.)

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But did anything change? Between Trump’s address and the Democratic responses from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, neither side seems ready to compromise. It looks likely that the partial government shutdown will continue.

What a waste. To take you back: Trump’s ascendency to the presidency began with that descent on the golden escalator at Trump Tower. It began with a crudely-worded description of the illegal immigration crisis and a promise to secure the borders. That single message, drummed on over and over again for a year and a half, galvanized a sizable enough voting block to win him the presidency.

And instead of turning that capital into currency, doing the work of getting legislation to his desk while Republicans held the majority, he squandered it. He preferred governing by tweet, slamming the press, sowing distrust in our institutions and turning Americans against each other at WWE-style rallies meant to stoke his fragile ego. On his key issue, his raison d’être, he has utterly and completely lost.

So here we are, just a week into the new Congress, and the President is left making a scripted plea to a national audience that increasingly doesn’t believe him and to a Democratic Party that finally holds some cards. He’s in a far weaker position than he was a year or two ago, and yet he’s asking Democrats for more in border funding than he ever asked from his fellow Republicans. This isn’t how any of this works.

Also wasted? The President’s speech. While lacking his usual bluster and bravado, he made a fairly convincing case – not for a deal from Democrats, but for the need to finally solve this intractable problem that’s been exploited and punted by presidents and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for far too long.

He spoke of the humanitarian crisis caused by a broken system. He spoke of the scourge of human trafficking and drug trafficking. He highlighted recent victims of heinous crimes committed by illegal immigrants. He talked about the real problem of MS-13 and the need to make our communities safer.

That’s all compelling, and a majority of Americans support securing our borders. But for any of what Trump said to resonate you’d have to pretend you don’t know what he really thinks.

You’d have to pretend he never said that Mexicans are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” You’d have to forget he ever defended the cruel and inhumane policy of separating children from their parents as a form of deterrence. You’d have to forget what he thinks about “shithole countries,” or that he referred, in Charlottesville, to some “very fine people” – who just happen to want to kill American blacks and Jews.

And you’d have to pretend he didn’t recently boast that he is what everyone already knew: a nationalist.

That is the real Donald Trump. The man we saw Tuesday night in the Oval Office is just acting – with a gun to his head – and not very well. What a waste, indeed.