In his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Donald Trump plans to emphasize in an upbeat tone that his administration is “building a safe, strong, and proud America,” according to excerpts released by the White House.
Among the accomplishments Trump is expected to highlight: passing the “biggest tax cuts” in American history; eliminating regulations; ending the so-called “war on coal”; defeating ISIS; and undoing “unfair” trade practices.
“Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family,” Trump plans to say – emphasizing his hope that his administration can bridge partisan divides in Year Two.
“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 excerpts say.
In the coming year, the Trump White House plans to pursue an infrastructure plan and immigration policies, which the White House contends will “focus on the best interests of American workers.”
In a nod to foreign policy and recent provocations against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Trump will say that “complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of the past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.”
The marketing-obsessed president has adopted the moniker of the “New American Moment” to describe this moment in history, and he will argue that “there has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
The White House spent days building up anticipation for the speech – telegraphing the broad themes to journalists and surrogates through fact sheets, talking points, background briefings, and on-camera interviews with top administration officials – as is the typical practice for any typical White House, particularly one helmed by a such media-obsessed leader.
Staffers sought to push the narrative that Trump’s first State of the Union would be positive and forward-looking—a tone in keeping with his recent Davos speech but one that’s in sharp contrast to the dark and divisive rhetoric of Trump’s inaugural address, in which he talked about “American carnage.”
“This is a president who wants to lead for everybody,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Monday. “He’s not looking to lead for any one person, any one group, but he wants to be the president of the United States. And I think that if you look at the policies that he has enacted over the first year, you can see that he’s doing exactly that.”
The president and first lady’s guests for the State of the Union included families and individuals who the White House say have benefitted from the historic tax bill; families of victims murdered by the gang, MS-13; a veteran of the Iraq War; people who rescued others during the California wildfires, or hurricanes; and the adoptive parents of a baby whose parents suffered from opioid addiction.
Trump also hosted television anchors for lunch in the West Wing on Tuesday. For part of the session, he struck a conciliatory tone. When asked what he learned in his first year in office, he replied: “Having a business background and a successful business background is great, but oftentimes you do things you would never do in business because you also have to govern with heart.”
He cited immigration as an issue that demands one approach it with “much more heart and soul.”
Trump’s bipartisan tone in Tuesday night’s speech is born partly out of political necessity. After passing major tax reform legislation at the end of 2017, Trump faces long odds of passing any additional major legislative packages before the midterms given the Republicans’ one-vote margin in the Senate and Democrats’ unwillingness to upset their liberal base by cooperating with him.
The State of the Union address also comes against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, a probe that has expanded to include the question of whether Trump or people close to him obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey.
While Tuesday night marked Trump’s first official State of the Union speech, it follows a similar address he delivered to Congress in late February 2017, roughly a month after he assumed the presidency.
In that speech, Trump spoke optimistically—even, some felt, presidentially—about how “everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope.”
Back then, he touted strong gains in the stock market, greater enforcement of existing immigration laws, conservative judicial picks, and the need for tax reform as part of his first-year to-do list – all promises for which the Trump administration followed through.
Other agenda items Trump mentioned in that 2017 speech have yet to fruition, dogging even the Republican-controlled federal government like the repeal of Obamacare, construction of a border wall, infrastructure package of $1 trillion, or a complete overhaul of the country’s immigration system.
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