WASHINGTON — In his third State of the Union address, President Donald Trump presented a positive vision of his administration’s first term while illustrating the depth of the partisan divide in Washington.
“Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback,” Trump said. “Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results. Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again!”
Republicans coalesced behind the president in Tuesday’s address, chanting “four more years” as the president took the lectern and rising frequently for standing ovations that pushed the president’s speech past 80 minutes.
Delivered one day after the Iowa caucuses, the president’s speech was a laundry list of his first term’s accomplishments, making his argument for re-election, not unusual for such addresses. Trump focused on a range of fiscally and culturally conservative issues, from what he call his strong border enforcement and support for the Second Amendment to job creation and the high number of federal judges – 187 — confirmed under his administration.
From the beginning, when Trump seemed to ignore House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s extended hand, to the end, when Pelosi ripped up her copy of the president’s remarks, partisanship ruled much of the evening. While Republicans clapped and cheered repeatedly, Democrats largely remained seated and silent throughout much of the proceeding.
As the president called for bipartisan legislation that would dramatically lower prescription drug prices, many Democrats stood up, holding up three fingers — a reference to H.R. 3, ta bill to lower drug prices that the House passed in December. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has not set a vote for it in the Senate.
The president delivered the speech at an interesting point in any presidency: on the eve of his expected acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial and, with the presidential election nine months away, on the heels of a recently released January Gallup poll showing the highest approval rating of his first term, at 49%.
With Tuesday’s address, Trump became only the second president to deliver a State of the Union while facing impeachment charges. President Bill Clinton gave his 1999 address amid his Senate trial for charges of perjury and lying under oath; he was acquitted the next month. Trump took a page from Clinton’s book, ignoring the vote on his charges scheduled for Wednesday, with acquittal in the Republican-led Senate highly likely.
Trump’s special guests, sitting in first lady Melania Trump’s box, put a face to the president’s vision of the country, with many doubling as a validation of his policies. The president pointed out the widow and son of an Army staff sergeant killed by ordinance ostensibly supplied by Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a missile strike authorized by Trump last month; a longtime Border Patrol agent recently promoted to second-in-command of the agency; and multiple beneficiaries of “opportunity zones” where tax advantages are offered for investment in low-income areas.
A surprise guest was Juan Guaidó, head of Venezuela’s National Assembly who declared himself the interim president of Venezuela last January, shortly after President Nícolas Maduro took office. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets, calling Maduro’s election unconstitutional, and many countries backed Guaidó’s resistance, recognizing him as the leader.
“Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland,” Trump said. “All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom.”
The address also prominently featured conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The president awarded Limbaugh, recently diganosed with Stage 4 advanced cancer, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the first lady hung it around his neck.
For more details on Trump’s policy proposals in the State of the Union address, read the stories below.