SOTU: Trump boasts of economic gains on eve of impeachment verdict

Political News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Standing before a Congress and nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address Tuesday to extol a “Great American Comeback” on his watch, just three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor.

The partisan discord was apparent for all to see as the first president to campaign for reelection while facing impeachment vigorously made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted “Four More Years.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech as he ended his address.

“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump declared. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”

Offering the nation’s economic success as the chief rationale for a second term, Trump’s speech resembled a lower-volume version of his campaign rallies, offering something for every section of his political base.

But while he tweets daily assailing his impeachment, Trump never mentioned the “i-word” in his 78-minute speech. He spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate one day later was expected to acquit him largely along party lines.

Pelosi, a frequent thorn in Trump’s side, created a viral image with her seemingly sarcastic applause of the president a year ago. This time, she was even more explicit with her very public rebuke.

Trump appeared no more cordial. When he climbed to the House rostrum, he did not take her outstretched hand though it was not clear he had seen her gesture. Later, as Republicans often cheered, she remained in her seat, at times shaking her head at his remarks.

Trump, the former reality TV star added a showbiz flavor to the staid event: He had wife Melania present the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer.

He stunned a young student in the gallery with a scholarship. And he orchestrated the surprise tearful reunion of a solider from overseas with his family in the balcony.

Even for a Trump-era news cycle that seems permanently set to hyper-speed, the breakneck pace of events dominating the first week of February offered a singular backdrop for the president’s address.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has presided in the Senate over only the third impeachment trial in the nation’s history, was on hand again Tuesday night — this time in his more customary seat in the audience. Trump stood before the very lawmakers who have voted to remove him from office — and those who are expected to acquit him when the Senate trial comes to a close.

The leading Senate Democrats hoping to unseat him in November were campaigning in New Hampshire.

In advance of his address, Trump tweeted that the chaos in Iowa’s Monday leadoff caucuses showed Democrats were incompetent and should not be trusted to run the government.

Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been trying to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally.

The president offered Guaidó exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power. Trump called Guaidó “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

“Socialism destroys nations,” Trump declared.

The president entered the evening on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong. H e struck a largely optimistic tone Tuesday night, though even in past moments when Trump has struck a tone of bipartisanship and cooperation, he has consistently returned to harsher rhetoric within days.

In the closest historical comparison, Bill Clinton did not mention his recent impeachment when he delivered his State of the Union in 1999. In his address a year ago, Trump did remain on message, making no mention of how Pelosi had originally disinvited him from delivering the speech during the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.

Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class, though the period of growth began under his predecessor, Barack Obama. And what Trump calls an unprecedented boom is, by many measures, not all that different from the solid economy he inherited from President Barack Obama. Economic growth was 2.3% in 2019, matching the average pace since the Great Recession ended a decade ago in the first year of Obama’s eight-year presidency

Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.

While the White House said the president would have a message of unity, he also spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue — immigration — trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.

He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.

The Democrats were supplying plenty of counter-programming, focusing on health care — the issue key to their takeover of the House last year. Trump, for his part, vowed to not allow a “socialist takeover of our health care system” a swipe at the Medicare For All proposal endorsed by some of his Democratic challengers.

Many female Democrats were wearing white as tribute to the suffragettes, while a number in the party were wearing red, white and blue-striped lapel pins to highlight climate change, saying Trump has rolled back environmental safeguards and given free rein to polluters.

Several Democratic lawmakers, including California Rep. Maxine Waters and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced in advance of the speech that they would be skipping it, with the high-profile New York freshman tweeting that she would “not use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her party’s official response and drew a contrast between actions taken by Democrats and the president’s rhetoric.

“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Whitmer said. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs.”

LOCAL ASPECT OF SOTU:

(WWLP) – President Trump delivered his third annual State of the Union address Tuesday night in Washington D.C. 

The president’s address to the nation had big implications for the upcoming 2020 presidential election. President Trump stood before the nation to give his final State of the Union address of his 4-year term.  

It came less than a day before the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on two articles of impeachment against him. President Trump talked about a range of issues Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, including immigration and an improving economy. 

“The economy is going fantastic and everyone has to love that even if you hate the president you got to love the way the country is working right now,” said Tom Wright of Longmeadow. “I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.” 

Trump talked about phase one trade deal with China, national security, and lowering the cost of health care. 

Paul Robbins at Paul Robbins Associates Strategic Communications told 22News, “I would expect trump will talk about things he knows is important health care, maybe a middle-class tax cut. The issues Democrats care about global warming, things like that I don’t think we will hear. Teeing up the 2020 election is what I would expect to hear tonight.” 

Robbins added that the State of the Union address continues to attract a very large television audience. According to a recent Gallup Poll, President Trump’s approval rating hit the highest level of his presidency, at 49 percent.  

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered the Democratic response to Trumps’ speech.  

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