In his first State of the Union Address, President Donald Trump hailed a sweeping package of tax cuts that he signed into law just before Christmas, as he pledged to lawmakers of both parties that his administration would continue to find ways to improve economic growth in America, calling on both parties to join together in bipartisan unity on difficult issues like immigration.
“This is our New American Moment,” the President declared. “There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
“So tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, and creed,” the President said.
Let’s take a look at what came out of Mr. Trump’s speech.
1. Trump calls for political unity. After a year that both parties have labeled “tumultuous,” the President urged all sides to come together on major issues like immigration, infrastructure and more. Democrats were baffled, pointing out the intense partisan scrapes of the last year with the White House on health care and tax cuts – where not a single Democrat broke ranks. The State of the Union was punctuated by repeated scenes of Republicans standing in applause, while the Democratic side of the aisle showed glum Democrats stewing in their seats.
2. The President presses for action on immigration. Most Democrats showed little interest in the President’s plan for a deal on DACA, illegal immigrant Dreamers, and immigration enforcement, as he took time in his speech to set out his four point plan. Democrats like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) blasted the offer by the White House, saying a bill just on the Dreamers should be approved immediately. But the President has carefully set out what he wants, and even those GOP lawmakers who want no part of anything close to ‘amnesty,’ aren’t running away en masse. This signals to many that even if the effort blows up, the President will be able to say that he had a full plan on the table.
3. One poll certainly looked good for the President. All those nattering nabobs of negativism in the press were certainly guaranteed to give this speech the back of the hand, right? Well, one poll by CBS showed almost 80 percent of Americans approved of the President’s speech – they liked his call for unity and bipartisan cooperation (even though the President and Democrats have just spent a full year beating each other bloody). Whether you like him or not, President Trump can be a very effective communicator. He showed that on the campaign trail in 2016, and with this speech, he seems to start this year in a good position.
4. The Trump infrastructure plan remains a mystery. For two years, the President has talked about pushing a $1 trillion package for new roads and bridges, but never set out any details. Last week, that number jumped to $1.7 trillion, and then settled back at $1.5 trillion in the State of the Union Address. But no one on Capitol Hill knows the specifics. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) – who would carry the plan through the Senate as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee said he wasn’t sure what’s going to be in the final plan. I asked him when those details might be delivered. “The specifics? Let’s say three weeks,” Inhofe told me. We’ll see.
5. Remember what happened last year. President Trump in late February of 2017 delivered a well received speech to a Joint Session of Congress. It came after a crazed start to his time in office, and for one brief moment, it seemed like maybe things were going to calm down, and that the President would right the ship. Then he started tweeting madly about campaign surveillance by U.S. Intelligence, and all hell broke loose. Republicans know the President might go into the ditch at any moment on Twitter, but they felt good last night about this speech. Really good. I mean, really good. You could see it in their eyes. Their mood was much better than the Democrats.