- President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night, on what has already been an eventful first few weeks of his second year in office.
- During Trump’s big speech, given at the Capitol in front of a majority Republican Congress and guests, the president declared a “new American moment,” saying “there has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
- Trump focused largely on jobs and the economy and US victories in the war against extremists abroad.
- His remarks come 24 hours after one of the most pivotal moments in his presidency, in which the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was forced out of the bureau after months of blistering attacks from Trump, and the possible release of a GOP memo seen as critical of the FBI and DOJ also loomed – posing further threat to the Russia investigation.
President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night, focusing largely on jobs and the economy in touting what he called a “new American moment.”
“There has never been a better time to start living the American dream,” he told Congress, according to prepared remarks.
“We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work; we want every child to be safe in their home at night, and we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love,” Trump said.
Trump pointed to the major overhaul of the US tax code, which he signed into law in December, and touted the flurry of employee bonuses that followed.
“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses – many of them thousands of dollars per worker,” Trump said.
But the news around tax law hasn’t all been positive. After Walmart announced it would give bonuses to longtime employees and raise it minimum wage to $US11 an hour, it announced massive layoffs the same day.
Rebuilding trust and economic growth
Trump highlighted a need for accountability. Evolving the rhetoric of his 2016 campaign, in which he vowed to rebuild Americans’ confidence in government by draining “the swamp,” Trump took a newer tack, saying his administration has sought to “restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.”
For Trump, that effort includes trimming down regulations that he has described as a roadblock to economic progress. He also reemphasized his goal to restore America to equal footing with the rest of the world in terms of trade, declaring that America has “turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs and our nation’s wealth.”
“The era of economic surrender is over,” Trump said.
Trump continued: “So, to every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been or where you have come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, be anything. And together, we can achieve absolutely anything.”
Touting patriotism and honouring veterans
Trump turned briefly to a familiar tone, honouring veterans and praising demonstrations of patriotism – in part by standing for the national anthem. Last year, the president spurred a public uproar over professional football players who kneeled during the national anthem.
Though the practice is done to raise awareness of police brutality and racial inequality, Trump and his allies have sought to recast the demonstrations as disrespect for the American flag and US service members.
“We celebrate our police, our military, and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support,” Trump said, before publicly honouring Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old boy from Redding, California, who placed American flags on the graves fallen soldiers on Veterans Day.
Trump used the moment to deliver another rebuke of silent demonstrations performed during the national anthem, calling Preston’s actions a reminder to Americans “why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem. The line earned another raucous round of applause.
The president continued his longstanding argument for his version of immigration reform, couching the need for such measures around crime. Trump has in the past referred to certain immigrants as dangerous and predisposed to poverty and criminal activity.
That rhetoric reached a new tipping point earlier this month when it was revealed that Trump allegedly referred to some African nations as “shithole countries.”
Trump highlighted four pillars of his administration’s immigration plan. Here’s a paraphrased version:
- A path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents as children, and who meet certain education and work requirements.
- A fully secured US-Mexico border.
- Establishing a merit-based immigration system that gives preference to skilled workers.
- Limiting policies that allow immigrant family members to join their relatives in the US. Under Trump’s proposed plan, family sponsorships would apply to spouses and underage children.
“This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future,” Trump said.
Terrorism and America’s nuclear arsenal
Trump has previously taken a hawkish tone toward the ongoing fight against terrorism. He reprised that position Tuesday night, calling up his move to keep open the offshore Guantanamo Bay detention center. Trump said he asked Congress to ensure that “in the fight against ISIS and al-Qa’ida, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists – wherever we chase them down.”
Trump added: “Our warriors in Afghanistan also have new rules of engagement. Along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans.”
On the national’s nuclear arsenal, Trump added: “As part of our defence, we must modernise and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.”
The president also moved to criticise the North Korean regime while highlighting the American student Otto Warmbier, who fell ill while in North Korean custody, and later died shortly after he was brough back to the US. Trump announced Otto’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, and Otto’s brother and sister, Austin and Greta, as surprise guests.
“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world,” Trump said. “And your strength inspires us all. Tonight, we pledge to honour Otto’s memory with American resolve.”
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