5 Things That Jumped Out At Us From Trump’s State Of The Union

President Calls For Unity, Then Offers A Very Divisive Speech, With One Small Idyllic Interlude

“Trump calls for unity — on his terms.” That’s how Politico succinctly describes the speech. For those of you looking for more comprehensive coverage, here’s a wrap- up from the Washington Post, also an annotated transcript from the New York Times, and video of the full 82-minute extravaganza from C-SPAN.

Here’s our selective view:

1. The President Devotes About 1/5th Of His Entire Address, Nearly 20%, To A Single Topic: The “Tremendous Onslaught” Of Illegal Aliens

To hear it from Trump, the biggest threat facing the country, or at least the one that deserves by far the most focus and time compared to anything else in the State of the Union, is incursions and crimes committed by illegal aliens, and an out-and-out invasion if we’re not careful. All leading up to this:

“The proper wall never got built. I will get it built….Walls work and walls save lives.”

Here’s the full video of that part of the speech. Just be sure you’ve got a good chunk of time set aside before you sit down and watch it:

Will any of that have any impact on ongoing bipartisan border security negotiations? No, says Senator Richard Shelby, Republican from Alabama and the Senate leader on those talks. He tells Roll Call:

We’ve heard it before. I haven’t heard anything new tonight.”

But Shelby says he’s optimistic: he wants to get a deal done, and he thinks Democrats do too.

2. The President Makes Some News:

Both those things had been expected, just not formally announced until now.

  • Another little bit of news (maybe) about immigration seems completely unexpected and totally out of character.

The President saying:

I want people to come into our country in the largest number ever, but they have to come in legally.”

What? The people in the caravans are for the most part attempting to “come in legally”, under U.S. asylum laws. Yet they are the folks Trump’s working hardest right now to keep out. Did he change his mind from one sentence of his speech to the next? Is his administration suddenly not going to move to deport legal immigrants who might’ve used food stamps or government-sponsored childcare? Is the Trump Administration trend of admitting far fewer legal immigrants than at any time in recent history soon going to be reversed?

Politico says Trump ad-libbed that line; it wasn’t in his original speech.

3. The President Previews Some Issues He Thinks Will Be “Winners” For Him In The 2020 Campaign, And He’s Probably Right…

And they are:

  • Democrats threaten to transform the U.S. into a socialist country: “We are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”
  • Democrats “cheered with delight” about passing legislation “that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.”

Frankly, the latter is something Democrats need to start talking about a lot more clearly, because when they try to explain what the President is saying is not accurate, it sounds like they’re saying it is. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, starts out well when he says

Don’t chase the bone that the Republicans are throwing.”

But then he says:

The quote-unquote late term abortions is 1 percent for the life or health of the mother. It is the federal standard.”

Huh?

Or the disgraced Democratic still-Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, who is a pediatrician by training and whose recent troubles all started out when he described a situation where parents might choose to allow nature to take its course with a mortally sick infant, but ended up sounding like he was advocating baby murder:

If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. So I think this was really blown out of proportion.

And we just noticed New York Times reporter Katie Rogers live-Tweeted that the White House just sent out an email blast as an appeal to Trump supporters, using this part of Trump’s speech:

To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

Curiously, at the same time, the President does not say anything about Democrats wanting to take away guns from people, nor does he mention the 2nd Amendment at all. Also, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi points out afterwards, he devotes not one moment to gun violence. Less curiously, the President also neglected to bring up climate change.

4. Most Of The Rest Of The Speech Is A Toned-Down, Teleprompter Version Of A Typical Trump Rally Speech, Minus The Attack On The Media, And Him Actually Saying “Make America Great Again.”

This might seem nit-picky, but it really set the tone. One of the first lines in Trump’s address is:

The agenda I will layout this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda, it’s the agenda of the American people.”

What’s so bad about that? The Democratic Party calls itself the Democratic Party, not the Democrat Party. Calling it that is something Democrats react to “like fingernails on the blackboard”, according to NPR. Probably because it’s meant to have that effect.

You know who popularized “Democrat Party”? One of the most reviled Senators of all time: Joseph McCarthy, in the 1950’s. Didn’t think the Democratic party really represented democratic ideas. Then Trump surfs in riding a wave of far-right media, who mostly all have taken to using that term. Is it derogatory? Is it offensive? Maybe not explicitly. But it’s obviously disrespectful, especially when you are trying to appeal for unity with the very people you are simultaneously disrespecting.

Yeah, we’ve spent too much time on this. But think about it: if you called yourself James, say, and someone asked if it was O.K. if he called you “Jimmy” and you said “no, my name is James,” yet he kept calling you Jimmy, would it be more or less likely you’d want to be his friend?

So why would the President go and do that at a moment when he is saying he really wants to be friends? Especially when there are other ways to say it.

Then again, Trump seems to repudiate himself early in the speech, when he says:

We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.

C’mon, even you know your Presidency is precisely, almost exclusively about “the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution”.

And before long, the gloves are off, and Trump equates world peace with Democrats dropping “ridiculous partisan investigations” into him:

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”

As Philip Bump of the Washington Post points out, that sounds eerily close to these words:

I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.”

That was President Nixon in his 1974 State of the Union.

5. The President Celebrates Women, Though Maybe Not Exactly In The Way He Intends…

The President’s touting his own accomplishments when he gets to the point in his speech where he says:

No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58% of the newly created jobs last year.”

And the newly elected Democratic women in the House of Representatives, almost all dressed in white, look at themselves, and you can see some of them saying: “Hey, that’s us!” After which a cheer erupts, and eventually a chant of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” from both sides of the House.

Trump seems slightly uncomfortable but also seems to enjoy the moment. He does congratulate the new Representatives and acknowledges there are “more women in Congress than ever before.” He doesn’t mention that there are only 13 Republican women in the House compared to 89 Democrats. But that’s obvious to anyone watching.

We’ll end on that clip (click on the photo to watch):

*Oh, and in case you are keeping score, Energy Secretary Rick Perry was the “designated survivor”. And Justice Ginsburg did not show. Nor did Justice Thomas, nor more than half the Justices on the Supreme Court. Four did attend: Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kagan, who never miss it, and the two Trump appointees: Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch.