With a president as mercurial as Trump, it was anyone’s guess what would happen during his first State of the Union address. The appearance is the president’s most high profile public speaking moment of the year and Trump was expected to touch on some of the issues of the moment, including funding for a border wall, infrastructure and an immigration deal.
While less likely if things went according to plan though totally possible if he veered off script, it wasn’t clear if Trump would dig into the white-hot topic of the ongoing Russia investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That scenario would have proved a nightmare for his legal team and the White House, though with the speech done, they should be able to rest easy (for now).
As the address began, Trump hit a series of surprisingly hopeful notes, with declarations of “a new tide of optimism” and praise for the nation including an unusually ego-less assertion that “our state of the union is strong because our people are strong.”
As he moved deeper into the speech, Trump waded into some familiar ideological territory, chiding those who kneel during the national anthem as an act of protest.
In a portion of his speech touching on the tax cuts, Trump touched on Apple’s recent announcement that it would bring much of its tax-sheltered wealth abroad back to American shores thanks to a friendlier tax rate:
“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly three million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses. Many of them, thousands and thousands of dollars per worker and it’s getting more every month, every week. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.”
Trump was widely expected to tout the Republican tax cut plan, his only significant legislative win from a year spent navigating the process of lawmaking with a fully Republican-controlled Congress.
A bit later, Trump detoured into an portion of the speech on the pharmaceutical industry, declaring the “injustice” of high U.S. drug prices as one of his “top priorities for the year.”
“In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States and it is very, very unfair,” Trump said.
As expected, Trump announced plans for a $1.5 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill “tapping into private sector investment.”
Toward the end of the speech, Trump launched into the four pillars of a plan that would resolve the congressional gridlock around creating a path to citizenship for DACA-recipients. Expectedly, the path of the Dreamers is tied directly to “building a great wall on the southern border,” which in all likelihood will look more like a patchwork of physical barriers and surveillance technology.
Trump also announced an end to the Visa lottery system in favor of a “merit-based” system of immigration, “a program that randomly plans out green cards without regard for skill, merit, for the safety of American people,” in the president’s words.
“Time to begin moving toward a merit based immigration system, one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society,” Trump said. He also announced plans to limit immigration sponsorships to “spouses and minor children.”
To see how the American public responded to the big speech, Google pulled together some search trends to depict what people were searching for as the address went on.
Popular search terms during the speech included “steve scalise,” “who is sitting behind trump,” “trump party planner, “live fact check trump” and, oddly, “trump clapping,” possibly a reference to what appear to have been his own very amplified claps into the microphone following major talking points.
All told, the speech was a mix of style — rousing the base, hitting the right anecdotes — and a bit of substance around actual policy proposals like the immigration deal. Given the potential nightmare scenarios here, Republicans and White House officials are likely to be pleased with the president’s performance.
By any other presidency’s standards, the speech had some wildly controversial moments — particularly an alarming call to remove federal workers who “undermine the public trust or fail the American people” while rewarding the loyal — but by 2018 standards, and Trump standards, it was fairly safe.
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