Trump enters the chamber having lost a shutdown battle with the House led by Nancy Pelosi. The President did press forward with the longest government shutdown in more than 50 years. His Rasmussen approval rating is listed at 48% on this date and slightly above Obama’s rating at the same time of his Presidency.
His line about victory for country rather than party did elicit a standing ovation from both sides. Several guests of the President were featured in the speech-- which has become a staple of this genre of Presidential address. Buzz Aldrin was present for the speech in the gallery. As the second man on the moon he draws attention to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Middle class was a strong elemental theme to the address. Trump highlighted the historic change of the US from an oil importer to oil exporter. Energy independence has vexed American Presidents in many SOTUs since Nixon. The President attacked the partisan investigations against him. The chamber was predictably divided in its response. Many House women were dressed in white as a signal of political resistance drawn from the history of women’s suffrage. Criminal justice reform elicited a strong bipartisan reaction in the chamber.
President Trump’s description of illegal immigration at the southern border was sobering and elicited visible nonverbal resistance from Democrats in the chamber. President Trump addressed family members who lost loved ones to murders by illegal immigrants recently. Trump’s comments about women in the workforce and in Congress elicited a rare enthusiastic response from Democratic House women dressed in white. Chants of USA filled the hall again.
A discussion of reducing drug prices elicited another bipartisan reaction. The President pledged to raise Congressional financing for a project to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Funding for childhood cancers was also promoted.
President Trump confronted the issue of late term abortions in legislative agendas of New York and Virginia. This divided the gallery in a strong way.
The President covered several international issues including: withdrawal from the INF treaty, Venezuela and North Korea. The President said the United States will never be a socialist country. The President explained his desire to withdraw from Middle East wars.
Officer Matson who helped detain the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter was given a long ovation for his sacrifice in that work. A Holocaust survivor from the shooting was also recognized. The President created a circle of memory between WWII veterans and Holocaust survivors to motivate the audience to think of a common national purpose.
The President did appear to soften the hearts of his Democratic opponents during the speech and they did enthusiastically applaud some of his remarks toward the later half of this speech.
Georgia Democratic governor candidate Stacey Abrams gave the SOTU response. Abrams began with an endearing personal family story. She spoke in front of a group of Georgia voters. She moved to staples of Democratic party politics such as gun control, labor unions and cheaper college tuition.
America is made stronger by immigrants not walls was a key line early in the speech. She did re-initiate her complaint about her own loss in Georgia regarding voter suppression. She said she did not agree with the President but that she did not want him to fail.
Her speech paralleled Trump’s in its conclusion by referencing fighting for shared values.