President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, just like every president before him since 1790. Initially, it seemed that the expectation of a bipartisan speech and a goal of unity that many expected was coming true.
“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” said Trump.
However, if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s facial expressions during Trump’s call for unity are anything to go by, the chances of that actually happening are slim.
In his Democratic response, Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III also showed that that the Democratic Party are far from getting on board with the plans of the Trump administration.
“This administration is not just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection,” Kennedy said in response to Trump.
Reactions to the address have been the same choose-your-party narrative we have seen since his election. Republicans praised the president for his 80-minute speech, especially on the topic of economics.
“We’re coming out of this economic funk that we were in throughout the Obama years, and the president was right to talk about it and to take some credit for the direction America is heading in,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
While Democrats were far from impressed with his message, as shown by their lack of applause and enthusiasm during the president’s address. Democrats in the audience even went so far as to moan audibly when the president addressed immigration reform.
“Hours before the speech, his administration and Pundit Nation promised us the theme would be ‘unity,’” Joan Walsh said in The Nation. “Instead, we got nativism and jingoism, gibberish, heavy breathing and appeals to divisions of every imaginable sort.”
The actual speech itself was more put together than speeches in Trump’s past, which have occasionally been reduced into unintelligible rambling. He appeared much more presidential, yet remained very Trump, clapping for himself and urging those in the audience to stand at the end of some of his points. His speech also contained a predictable amount of self-congratulation, but few actual proposals or plans for the future. It was almost an hour into his remarks that Trump first mentioned a proposal — a massive infrastructure bill — that he wanted Congress to take up.
Trump also left the elephant in the room unmentioned by never acknowledging Russia or the ongoing investigation into interference of the 2016 election and possible collusion with members of his campaign. In fact, the president only used the world Russia once, referring to rival countries that challenge our interests. It is not terribly surprising that Trump would not want to bring up an investigation that could put his presidency at risk, but it is still worth noting that it is missing given that Trump tackled almost all topics he possibly could during his 80 minute speech.
Trump’s campaign relied heavily on appealing to Republicans as an anti-Obama candidate and Republicans — who disliked President Obama for representing everything they disliked about big government liberals — were pleased on Tuesday to hear just how much Trump has done to erase the actions of Obama’s presidency. Trump’s speech highlighted to his base all the ways in which he has succeeded in reversing many of President Obama’s decisions during his first year in office: repealing DACA, gutting the Affordable Care Act, getting rid of many regulations Obama put on place and announcing that he would keep Guantanamo Bay open, despite Obama’s long-made pledge to close it.
Following the address, President Trump proved once again that he believes in alternative facts by falsely claiming on Twitter that his State of the Union speech was the most viewed in history.
“Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech,” Trump said on Twitter. “45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history. @FoxNews beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in. Delivered from the heart!”
The most watched address is, in fact, George W. Bush’s address from 2003. Trump does not even make the top five.
All in all, Trump’s first State of the Union address went as expected. He appealed to his base, angered those who are not and then tweeted some false facts. Should we have expected anything different?