SOTU: The Showmanship of President Trump


For a President who often seems to value image and showmanship above all else, Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address likely feels like an absolute success.

Stunning Moments

Opening Remarks

The President’s speech was filled with stunning moments, beginning with a major breach of protocol. Ordinarily, the President is introduced by the Speaker of the House before beginning their address. President Trump, however, jumped right in without the customary introduction. Many will likely view that as a personal commentary on the tense relationship the President has with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In his opening remarks, Trump referenced two anniversaries happening later this year: the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in WWII, and the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. After introducing American astronaut Buzz Aldrin as a guest, Trump announced, “This year, American astronauts will travel into space again on American rockets.” The statement was followed by thunderous applause.

U.S. Economy

The first issue of importance Trump tackled was the U.S. economy. After talking about increased wages and job numbers, lower unemployment, and the U.S. becoming a net exporter of energy for the first time (a claim that was found to be false), Trump issued this statement:

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.”

Trump seems to be calling for an end to the Mueller investigation, in much the same way that Richard Nixon called for an end to the Watergate investigations during his 1974 State of the Union address.

Immigration

After taking a few moments to congratulate his administration on the passage of the First Step Act (which Trump held up as an example of working bipartisanship), the President moved on to what he considers to be the most pressing issue the country faces: immigration.

Here, Trump once again repeated claims attempting to tie illegal immigration to drug and human trafficking. In this part of his speech, Trump seemed to abandon all attempts at touting unity and bipartisanship and took a divisive tactic instead:

“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working-class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders, while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards. Meanwhile, working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal immigration, reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools, hospitals that are so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.”

He then went on to push for the building of the border wall that has been the center of his immigration policy.

Women in the Economy

After pushing for the border wall, Trump turned back to the economy, pointing out that women have filled 58 percent of the new jobs created in the last year. He then drew thunderous applause and a chant of “USA, USA” by pointing out:

“Exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than ever before.”

Trade

Next up in Trump’s speech was the issue of trade, where he lauded the fact that his administration has imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods. He also pushed Congress to pass the recently-negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace NAFTA before making his next big policy announcement:

“Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product they sell to us.”

Healthcare

After very briefly touching on infrastructure, Trump quickly moved into the issue of health care and prescription drug prices. After noting that in 2018 prescription drug prices experienced their “single largest decline in 46 years” (0.6 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), Trump asked Congress to work to pass legislation requiring insurance companies, drug companies, and hospitals to disclose their pricing.

Trump’s next two big moments came during this portion of his speech. The first, is when he announced that his administration’s budget will ask Congress for the funds necessary to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States. The second, when he announced the budget will also include $500 million over 10 years to fund childhood cancer research.

Finally, the President garnered another thunderous round of applause with this announcement:

“I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.”

This announcement was used as a segue for Trump to bring up New York’s recent passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which allows a mother to receive an abortion after 24 weeks if a doctor determines the mother’s life or health is at risk, or if the fetus is not viable. Trump claimed that:

“These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.”

However, that claim is simply not true.

National Security and Foreign Policy

The President next turned to matters of National Security, proudly lauding his administration’s military spending ($716 billion this year). He also officially announced that he is withdrawing the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned ground-launched missiles with a range between 311 and 3418 miles.

“We really have no choice. Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t – in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.”

He then announced a new meeting between himself and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on February 27 and 28. He also

Next, Trump turned to Venezuela, turning his support of Juan Guaido into an opportunity to hit at political opponents such as Senator Bernie Sanders, saying:

“Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence, not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that Sanders and others in Congress are not calling for true socialism, but rather a form of democratic socialism. According to the Democratic Socialists of America’s website, “At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people.”

Finally, Trump turned to foreign policy. He renewed his resolve to pull troops out of Syria, and to continue holding talks in Afghanistan, including with the Taliban – policies that even the Republican-held Senate has criticized. 

Speaking Against Anti-Semitism

The next big moment of the State of the Union happened after Trump spoke out against antisemitism in abroad, and in the United States.

“We must never ignore the vile poison of antisemitism, or those who spread its venemous creed. With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”

Trump then introduced another guest, a survivor of both the Holocaust and the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting, Judah Samet. When Trump announced that it was Samet’s 81st birthday, the entire chamber erupted to sing to him.

Closing Statements

Trump finally attempted to bring things back to bipartisanship:

“This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots. This is our future — our fate — and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness. No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together. We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world.”


Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Children’s Hospital through Extra Life.

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