With Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, sitting stone-faced behind him for much of the time, President Donald Trump delivered a stirring, upbeat State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. “I say to the people of our great country and to the members of Congress: the state of our union is stronger than ever before,” the president declared.
President Trump followed Bill Clinton as the second president in U.S. history to have delivered his State of the Union address while impeachment proceedings against him were still ongoing. President Trump delivered his State of the Union address on the eve of his expected Senate acquittal of the two hopelessly partisan articles of impeachment that the House had rushed through its chamber and then delayed sending over to the Senate for weeks.
Like Bill Clinton, President Trump did not lob any recriminations against his political adversaries during his speech. There was no mention of the impeachment ordeal the Democrats had put him and the nation through. Instead, the president extolled what he called “The Great American Comeback” and projected optimism for America’s future.
“America is the place where anything can happen. America is the place where anyone can rise. Here, on this land, on this soil, on this continent, the most incredible dreams come true,” the president said. “The American age, the American epic, the American adventure has only just begun. Our spirit is still young. The sun is still rising. God’s grace is still shining. My fellow Americans, the best is yet to come.”
The contrast between President Trump’s positive and unifying vision for America and the Democrats’ hate-Trump doomsday agenda could not be clearer. After President Trump concluded his address with a paean to America’s great spirit and boundless opportunities, Pelosi was seen ripping up the pages of the speech text she had been reading behind President Trump at the podium.
Time and again, Pelosi either sat motionless or shook her head incredulously as the president described how the strong economy under his watch has lifted Americans up from all walks of life and encouraged Congress to work with him to continue building an inclusive economy. “Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro- family, pro-growth, and, most importantly, pro-American,” President Trump said. “We are advancing with unbridled optimism and lifting our citizens of every race, color, religion and creed very high.”
President Trump singled out the blue-collar boom in particular, evidenced by the fact that the greatest wage gains have gone to the lower end of the income scale. “After decades of flat and falling incomes, wages are rising fast, and wonderfully,” the president said. “They are rising fastest for low-income workers, who have seen a 16% pay increase since my election.”
President Trump noted the historically low levels of unemployment of minorities and women, as well as the overall record of job growth nationwide under his watch. “The unemployment rate for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans has reached the lowest levels in history,” the president said. “African-American youth unemployment has reached an all-time low. African-American poverty has declined to the lowest rate ever recorded. The unemployment rate for women reached the lowest level in almost 70 years, and last year, women filled 72 percent of all new jobs added.”
In more specific terms, President Trump pointed to the importance to the economy of two key trade deals accomplished by his administration – the phase-one trade agreement with China and the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada known as USMCA that replaced NAFTA. “Fairness and reciprocity” were the president’s pithy description of his key objectives in trade negotiations. “I say that finally, because it has been many years since we were treated fairly on trade.”
President Trump referred to opportunity zones for distressed communities created by the Trump administration under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “Jobs and investments are pouring into 9,000 previously neglected neighborhoods thanks to opportunity zones,” he said. He noted that under the plan “wealthy companies are pouring money into areas that have not seen investments in many decades, creating jobs, energy, and excitement.” The president singled out an army veteran in the audience, who turned his life around after finding a construction company that had invested in opportunity zones and became a top tradesman.
President Trump extolled America’s energy revolution that has led to energy independence. He also highlighted his support for paid family leave and expanding access to affordable childcare.
President Trump’s State of the Union address included a section on health care. He focused on efforts to reduce drug prices, end surprise medical billing and deal with the opioid epidemic. He repeated his pledge to “always protect patients with preexisting conditions.” He also assured Americans that “we will always protect your Medicare, and we will always protect your Social Security.” Pelosi sat expressionless.
President Trump contrasted his vision for improving the nation’s health care system, including by offering more affordable choices to Americans, with radical socialist proposals. “132 lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our health care system,” the president warned, “wiping out the health insurance plans of 180 million very happy Americans. “To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: We will never let socialism destroy American health care.”
In looking ahead, President Trump did not offer a detailed legislative wish list. However, he did make a few significant requests for Congressional action, which (except for his request for more spending on infrastructure and perhaps for more action to dramatically lower the prices of prescription drugs) did not receive much of a positive reception from the Democrat side of the aisle. The president, for example, asked Congress to pass legislation to empower parents with school choice – not exactly what the Democrats beholden to the public teachers’ unions would dare support. “Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunities Act,” the president urged, “because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.” When President Trump asked Congress for additional money to fund high quality childcare, Pelosi neither stood up nor applauded even though that should be something dear to her heart (if she has one).
President Trump did not shy away from the controversial issue of immigration. He sharply criticized the endorsement by over 100 legislators in Congress of legislation “providing free taxpayer-funded health care to millions of illegal aliens, forcing taxpayers to subsidize free care for anyone in the world who unlawfully crosses our borders.” He added, “If forcing American taxpayers to provide free health care to illegal immigrants sounds fair to you, stand with the radical left. If you think we should defend patients and seniors, stand with me to pass legislation to prohibit free health care for illegal aliens.”
President Trump discussed the progress his administration has made in securing the southern border through a multi-pronged approach to the problem that has included more wall construction. “Early next year, we will have substantially more than 500 miles completed,” he predicted after noting that over 100 miles have already been completed.
The president took head-on Congress’s failure to deal effectively with the current loopholes in the immigration system as well as the grave threat to public safety posed by sanctuary cities. He gave specific examples of illegal aliens with prior criminal records who were released into the sanctuary community despite ICE’s detainer requests and went on to commit more horrific crimes. The president mentioned legislation being introduced that will allow families of victims “to sue sanctuary cities and states when a loved one is hurt or killed as a result of these deadly practices.” He added, “The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens.”
President Trump devoted a relatively short portion of his speech to foreign policy, although emphasizing the buildup of America’s military strength.
President Trump acknowledged the presence in the House chamber of Juan Guaido, the man recognized by the United States and other countries as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. “Please take this message back, that all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” President Trump said in addressing Mr. Guaido.
President Trump also focused on the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. “Our message to terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice,” the president warned. “If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life.” He also reiterated his maximum pressure policy against the Iranian regime.
President Trump noted his administration’s successes in destroying the ISIS territorial caliphate and killing its blood-thirsty leader, al-Baghdadi. The president also pointed to the killing of the Iranian regime’s leading terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, who had the blood of Americans on his hands and orchestrated the deaths of countless other individuals. “The U.S. military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever,” the president said. President Trump illustrated the human cost of the evil acts committed by al-Baghdadi and Soleimani when he told the stories of two of their victims whose immediate family members were in the House chamber.
Finally, President Trump repeated his call to end American wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He praised America’s warriors who, he said, “either want to fight to win or not fight at all.” In a very touching moment that appeared to be a complete surprise to the wife and children of a soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, who has been in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment, President Trump announced to them as they stood up in the audience that he “is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight.”
There were other emotional moments during the president’s address. Conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh, who disclosed that he has been diagnosed with an advanced case of lung cancer, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in person. Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, the first black fighter pilots, was also present as President Trump noted that he had signed a bill promoting Charles McGee to brigadier general and pinned the stars on his shoulders in the Oval Office.
President Trump commanded the House chamber with one of the greatest speeches of his presidency. Nancy Pelosi, whose impeachment gambit has backfired, looked petty behind him by comparison. She told reporters that tearing up the speech at its conclusion was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.” What would have been her “alternative”? Handing the president another set of impeachment articles after the first set is about to go down in flames? Pelosi’s disrespectful act says all one needs to know about the depths to which she and her Democrat partisan cohorts like the Schiff-Nadler duo are willing to take the country.