Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an intelligent, heartfelt and generous address to all Russians for the New Year. His words contained wisdom and original inspiration, spoken eloquently and at length, seemingly without cue cards.
By contrast, US President Donald Trump gave a churlish, selfish and shallow greeting to “some” of his citizens, a partisan address that was replete with divisiveness, militaristic jingoism and a few token words of cheer thrown in.
The two contrasting styles, and substance, say everything about the two political cultures. Russia’s is mature and intelligent. America’s, especially under Trump, has become openly self-centered, superficial and aggressive.
For starters, Putin gave a nationwide televised address in which he spoke from the Kremlin fluently for nearly four minutes without a single word misplaced. He was speaking from outdoors as could be seen from his exhaled breath touching the frigid air.
For his part, Trump didn’t actually give a nationwide New Year speech. The nearest thing was a 20-second soundbite from the White House lawn in which he wished everyone to have a “good party” while, in self-pitying tone, he added that he would be working in the Oval Office.
Later, the US president gave a phone-in interview to his favorite TV channel, Fox News, whose anchorman was reporting from reveling in New York City’s Times Square. The interview lasted for nearly nine minutes.
So, we may deduce that for all those American citizens who don’t tune into Fox, they didn’t receive a New Year greeting from their president. Not a propitious beginning for the year ahead.
Then there were the issues of style, substance and tone. Putin spoke from the heart beginning with his inclusive opening, “Dear Russians, dear friends.”
His speech was personal, endearing and compassionate. “Full of hope we eagerly await the New Year,” he said with sincerity and dignity. “As long as our families are gathered together our hearts are warm.” He appealed for “helping those in need or whom we have hurt, because no man is an island. Compassion generates kindness and brings the joy of companionship.”
There was no harping by the Russian president on “achievements” or egotistical grandstanding. Putin urged the nation to be unified and strong. It was forward-looking and optimistic, wishing everyone to pursue their dreams and, on a practical note, calling for political and economic endeavor to improve quality of life for all Russians.
Cynics may say Putin was painting a rosy picture with mawkish rhetoric. But surely a leader is one who strives to uplift people and to give unity of purpose. Listening to his words, there can be little doubt that the Russian leader is committed to delivering in practical terms on making life better for Russians.
Over to Trump, the style and tone could not have been more different or jarring. When he was asked by the Fox News anchor what he was doing for New Year’s Eve, Trump immediately plunged into his bottomless ego. “Well, I am sitting at the White House talking to you…” as if seeking praise for appearing to be a selfless, dedicated commander-in-chief.
For the next nine minutes Trump went on a rambling rant, barely able to complete his sentences. His top priorities included building the wall on the Mexican border, about the need for security against immigrants, and he just couldn’t resist making jabs at Democrats and others who disagree with his politics.
Trump bragged about supposed achievements, saying that he had achieved more than any other president. He crowed about supposed economic success under his administration, and – seriously – he claimed that he was bringing US troops home from Syria (illegally present in that country) because he had “eradicated ISIS”.
“Frankly I’ve done more than I said [I would]. Not only am I able to get out [of overseas wars] but also I have won. We’ve really largely eradicated ISIS.”
He talked about the 2020 presidential election which he said, “I’m gonna win big”.
Towards the end of his divisive, pugnacious rant, Trump did make an effort to sound inclusive, when he said he wished “great wealth for our country” and he talked about the “American people being the big winners” from his presidency.
“Just success, prosperity and health for our country that’s all I want,” concluded Trump.
Well, who is painting the impossibly rosy picture here? Many reliable indicators show record numbers of American citizens suffering from in-work poverty, chronic under-employment, housing and health crises. And this president seems to have no inclination to provide practical policies for improving social conditions. His oligarch policies for enriching the super rich are delusional claims about “making American great again”.
New Year messages are traditionally about goodwill and peace. Trump’s Fox-wide address was full of militarism. He boasted about “building up our great military” at least five times.
On the purpose of creating wealth, he didn’t say it was for improving public services of health and education. Trump said: “Great wealth for our country means we can do a lot more for our military.”
Admittedly, he did at one point say “hopefully we will never have to use our military”. Nevertheless, his speech was bristling with jingoism and aggression. His view of the world was typical siege mentality and threatening. “Our military will be so strong we will never have to use it.” Meaning: we’re going to contain the world under a reign of terror.
Russia’s Putin never made a single mention of militarism in his New Year address. Even though Russia has much to be proud about from the way it defeated the US-backed terror war for regime change in Syria.
Putin talked about cherishing family, friends and compatriots and working together as a nation for the collective benefit of all.
Yet, Western politicians and their supine media relentless portray Russia as an aggressor nation!
Trump was a demagogue on steroids who evidently had not the decorum to aspire for the greater good and peace. His speech was all “me, me, me” and more “me”. Bragging, self-indulgent, militaristic, divisive and bitter. And to cap it all, barely articulate.
This tale of two New Year addresses tells you which nation has the real strength to prosper in the future.