First thing's first.
President Trump was right to honor Senior Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, the first armed services member to lose his life in combat during this presidency.
Trump calling attention to Owens' service, and prompting a standing ovation for Owens' widow, was easily the most notable moment of the president's address to Congress on Tuesday night.
Such a powerful moment. God bless this precious family. May we live lives worthy of this fallen hero's sacrifice.pic.twitter.com/rMTwVq8boq — Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) March 1, 2017
Simply put, Trump did was presidents should do, which is why former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush made similar gestures during their own speeches before Congress.
These moments are expected of them, and are about the veterans and their families more than anything.
That's why it was so surprising to see CNN political commentator, Van Jones, declare that Trump had reached some sort of milestone via praise for Officer Owens.
He did something extraordinary. For people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment. For people who have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight.
Jones then added,
Because that thing you just saw him do, if he finds a way to do that over and over again, he's going to be there for eight years.
Breaking down the comments:
The compliment was interesting, considering it came from a former Obama administration official. It was also strikingly naive.
Just to be clear, that's not a comment on the actual claim that Trump is "presidential," either (he's the president, regardless).
Deeming Jones' statement naive is rather a simple examination of his logic, because it seems awfully strange here, especially considering how vehemently opposed to Trump Jones has been (and likely still is, to be fair).
So, let's carefully walk through this: For months now, Jones has criticized Trump's movement and agenda as one that was sparked, in part, by xenophobia, nationalism and racism.
And yet, the moment that Jones deems unifying -- a moment that Jones himself says can secure Trump two terms, if repeated over and over again -- was a moment that addressed none of those issues?
Logically speaking, Jones argument is simply incoherent.
By the way, none of this is to say that Trump's critics should hammer him all the time for everything forever and ever, amen.
What they should do is give nuanced and measured analysis as often as possible. But what Van Jones did, along with other pundits, seemed like such a transparent attempt to "look" fair, rather than an actual attempt to be fair.
Nothing underlines that point more than this bit of info from Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, who said even Trump's own employees are surprised at how pundits praised the president as some sort of changed man.
The honor given to Ryan Owens and Carryn Owens was the best thing that happened during the joint address and both are deserving of appreciation. Regardless of whether Trump was right to assert the mission was successful during the moment (an assertion which, according to reports, seems questionable), the tribute was the most notable part of the speech.
That much is certain.
As for the subject of Van Jones comments on what the tribute means from Trump presidency, deeming it a unifying moment was simply naive.
Considering the skilled commentator he is, there's no getting around that, especially given Jones' own analysis of Trump in the past.