By Jack Hervela
Following a 36-day partial government shutdown, which left politicians bitter on each end, President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Par-tradition, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat behind Trump, the former robbed of customary Speaker introduction practices as Trump wasted no time delving into the address.
This address marks Trump’s first to a joint session as one House is controlled by Democrats, and this Congress of course still in talks on deals to secure the border to prevent another shutdown before mid February.
Democratic women, Pelosi included, flooded areas of the hall in white, a coordinated fashion statement rich in history.
The House Democratic Women’s Working Group invited these politicians to wear white as a message of solidarity and nod to the early suffrage movement of the 20th century.
Early on, Trump called for compassion and consideration from the new Congress in an attempt to bypass party lines saying, “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.”
Of course, while not necessarily a Democratic or Republican agenda, Trump laid out his agenda in agreeable terms, reminding Congress these ideals were what “many of us” had campaigned for.
“To defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of healthcare and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first,” Trump said, echoing nationalist ideals formerly the root of criticism.
Quick to bolster spirits potentially skeptical of this agenda, Trump focused on important historical landmarks the nation should rally around this coming year in search of unity as a country.
“In June, we mark 75 years since the start of what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the Great Crusade — the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 15,000 young American men jumped from the sky, and 60,000 more stormed in from the sea, to save our civilization from tyranny. Here with us tonight are three of those heroes: Private First Class Joseph Reilly, Staff Sergeant Irving Locker, and Sergeant Herman Zeitchik. Gentlemen, we salute you,” Trump said.
Acknowledging the 50 years since America landed on the moon, Trump introduced guest Buzz Aldrin, while assuring the nation, “This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets.”
In the spirit of the crusader such as Reilly, Locker and Zeitchik, or the explorer such as Aldrin, Trump reminded the nation of its duty moving forward.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make,” Trump stated, “But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.”
While consoling to hear such unification presented, it was only hours earlier at a private luncheon Trump shared shrewd comments about fellow Democrats.
Trump touted the economy, saying, “We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”
While comforting, the bipartisan facade did not last long.
In response to the Mueller-Russia probe, Trump reminded Congress not-so-subtly that, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Trump segwayed into his administration’s prison reform strides, introducing guests Alice Johnson and Matthew Charles, both deeply reformed former inmates and examples of what Trump calls, “A nation that believes in redemption.”
Soon, Trump was back on the border wall. Sparing details of his plan which have been well known, Trump summed up the need for a wall neatly, saying, “This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well‑being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”
Jumping into the drugs, human trafficking and gangs which Trump sees as the border issue, Congress was divided between silent Democrats and Republicans enamored by the speech, occasionally whooping, “U.S.A!”
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has come under fire as of recent with the border wall, yet Trump reminded the nation of the, “266,000 arrests of criminal aliens.”
Trump made note of guest ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez, an agent responsible for taking down 1,500 sex traffickers and prompting Trump to promise, “I pledge to you tonight that we will never abolish our heroes from ICE.”
After recognizing the 58 percent of new jobs filled by women and largest number of women in Congress, Trump spoke on further initiatives to empower women.
“As part of our commitment to improving opportunity for women everywhere, this Thursday we are launching the first ever Government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.”
Trump spoke on China and trade deals, saying a new deal with China, “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.”
On trade deals closer to home, Trump introduced a revitalized plan to replace North American Free Trade Agreement, “Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers.”
In concurrence with 10-year-old cancer survivor guest Grace Eline, Trump said he, “will ask the Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical life-saving research.”
Trump introduced new plans for national security and while he did have numerical errors too cumbersome to edit, Trump did assure Congress, “Under my administration, we will never apologize for advancing America’s interests.”
Perhaps one of the more interesting points of national security was Trump’s announcement of withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, a decades old treaty in which Russia has, “violated the terms,” according to Trump.
Trump touched on the bettering of relations on the Korean peninsula and the upcoming summit between him and Kim Jong Un on February 27-28 in Vietnam.
In what could be interpreted as a dig at politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Trump warned, “We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
Touching on the Middle East, Trump spoke on defeating ISIS and returning all troops home, a hollow statement following a Syrian ISIS claimed attack which left four service members dead.
After laying out his agenda, Trump came back into the compassionate, bipartisan agenda found early on.
“I ask the men and women of this Congress: Look at the opportunities before us! Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead. Our most exciting journeys still await. Our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream,” Trump bellowed. “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.”
For a complete transcript and stream of the speech, head here.
For a complete list of what Trump got wrong, head to NPR’s Fact Check here.