Trump’s State of the Union address – conducted the day after the Democrats’ chaotic Iowa caucuses and the day before the Senate renders its judgment in the president’s impeachment trial – remained politically historic.
At times emotional, at times aggressive, Donald Trump delivered what will possibly be his last speech to a joint session of Congress before attending re-election in coming November.
Say what you will about it – the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, delivered the 97 in-person State of the Union Address on Feb. 4, 2020, in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representative at the U.S. Capitol Washington D.C. – the whole evening was memorable.
Here are a few key takeaways from Trump’s address.
1) Tensions continued escalating
President Trump’s speech was bookended by two notable breaches of etiquette. It all started as the president handed written form of his speech to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He turned away quite intentionally while Pelosi reached out to shake his hand.
Pelosi afterwards declined to narrate the traditional words that it was her “honor” to introduce the president.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, ripped up the written speech and tossed it on her desk after it finishes.
It was the “courteous thing to do,” Pelosi told a Fox News producer about what she did to Trump’s speech text.
During the address, there were moments when tension boiled over. For instance, the president bluntly condemned Democratic proposals to end private health insurance, saying he “would never let socialism destroy United States healthcare.” He also continued extending his attack on the Democratic-run states of California and New York for their immigration policies.
While the president was speaking about gun rights – a member of the audience who is the father of a child assassinated in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida – was taken out of the chamber for shouting his complaints.
Throughout the president’s State of the Union speech, his lines were repeatedly greeted by raucous cheers from the Republican legislators, while Democrats sat in firm silence or howled in displeasure.
President Trump – in his address previous year – called for a declination of “the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution,” acclaiming “the boundless potential of compromise, cooperation and the common good.” Such rhetoric stayed quite absent on Tuesday night, suggesting the open partisan warfare that has surrounded the nation’s capital.
2) A re-election theme revealed
An obligatory State of the Union address in an election year generally suggests the themes of the campaign. If that is true, Trump’s speech reflects he’s going to bet his presidency on behalf of the economy.
While growth statistics for the preceding year stayed modest, the president has chaired over the economic expansion of record length.
At the top of president’s speech – the part that will have the most Americans watching – Donald Trump rattled through the recitation of facts & figures backing his contention that times are good and will stay likewise if he’s given another four years in office.
He quoted deregulation, new trade agreements and tax cuts as his recipe for prosperity.
3) A tone of inclusion
During the speech, Trump said he was cultivating “the world’s most prosperous and inclusive society.” Here, the use of the word “inclusive” was not unintentional. Throughout his address, the president made repeated overtures to minority groups in America – groups that, as per polls, sight the president with considerable scepticism.
Trump spoke of how he had passed criminal justice reform and subsidized historically black universities and colleges. He mentioned the low levels of unemployment, particularly for “African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanic Americans.”
President Trump’s guests in 2020 State of the Union address were the all-black World War II fighter wing group, the last surviving member of the Tuskegee Airmen, and his great-grandson. He announced that he was handing an “opportunity scholarship” to a teenage black girl to join a private school in Philadelphia.
The president called out Raul Ortiz, his recently appointed deputy chief of Border Patrol when talk turned to immigration.
Experts are anticipating if the president conclusively improves his standing among the minority voters – and confirms to independent voters that Democratic allegations of racism and xenophobia are scurrilous attacks – his way to re-election becomes potentially easier. Trump’s State of the Union address demonstrates he knows this very well.
4) A night of special guests
Every U.S. president called a special guest since President Ronald Reagan has relied on it as a means of exhibiting a policy proposal and, at the same time, recognizing the valor of noteworthy individuals. These moments give – even in the extremely acrimonious of times – the president an opportunity to solicit bipartisan approbation and applause.
In his Tuesday night’s speech, President Donald Trump – the inveterate showman – took things one step ahead. He paused mid-speech to have his wife award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. The president – meanwhile – surprised a wife and her family through a gesture of reunion.
For instance, he gave them “once in a lifetime” moment by letting her meet husband and the children their father, an Army sergeant who had spent the last seven months dealing with Taliban in Afghanistan.
“We could not keep him waiting any longer,” President Trump said in a moment seemed grabbed from a script of a daytime talk show.
5) Policy grab-bag
Democrat Bill Clinton used to be known for his plan-demonstrating State of the Union addresses, which would bring listeners with a laundry list of ideas & proposals of varying scope and prospects for future.
That’s not exactly Donald Trump did, but he at least highlighted a few priorities – none of which have much optimism for success in a Congress overwhelmed by partisan gridlock.
Trump called more finances to support vocational training in U.S. public schools and for step to moderate the cost of prescription drugs. All these announcements by the president prompted chants from House Democrats touting their already signed legislation that the Republican-rich Senate has yet to take up.
Groans of Democrats turned loader when the president suggested he was keen to ensure that health insurance always covers the pre-existing conditions. The reaction from Democrats was a reflection of the fact that Donald Trump backs a lawsuit that would reverse the law providing those protections.
Infrastructure cost, the white whale of bipartisan legislators of the entirety of Donald Trump presidency, garnered massive applause, as did yet another call for a U.S. mission to the Moon and Mars.
Trump, in his 4th State of the Union speech, called for a law permitting victims of crimes by unregistered immigrants to sue cities that don’t work with the federal immigration authorities. The president also asserted a ban on late-term abortions. Both these calls from the president received icy glares from the Democrats.