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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The State of the Union Is Clapping for Itself

Posted by on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 8:55 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

I’m sorry to say that I did not stay up to watch Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. I did this for two reasons: 1) yesterday was a long and trying day and the last thing I wanted to think about was politics; 2) I really didn’t care what Mango Mussolini had to say, as his words and his actions are so often divorced from one another. So I’m thus not in a position to tell you how I thought of his delivery, etc. From my perusal of the news this morning, it seems he read the teleprompter just fine. Also, he clapped for himself, because of course he did. [USA Today]
  • If you, like me, didn’t catch the speech, here is the transcript, along with NYT reporters annotations. [NYT]
  • WaPo frames it thusly: President Trump, whose first year in office saw near-constant turmoil and division, claimed Tuesday that he has ushered in an ebullient ‘new American moment’ and issued a summons for “the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.’ The conciliatory tone of Trump’s first State of the Union address was sharply at odds with the combative manner in which he has conducted his presidency—and with the tension evident between Republicans and Democrats in the Capitol, where he spoke. … The president set an ambitious agenda for his second year in office, from a $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure to a four-pronged immigration package to a pledge to reduce prescription drug prices. His one-hour, 20-minute speech was the longest since Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address in 2000.”
  • Battle of the insta-polls: CBS found that 75 percent of viewers—who were overwhelmingly Republican—approved of the speech. [CBS] But CNN’s instant poll found that less than half—48 percent—had a “very positive” reaction to the speech, the lowest grade in at least two decades. Another 22 percent were “somewhat positive,” for a 70 percent total approval. [CNN]
  • Trump made a number of false or misleading statements throughout the speech and took credit for all sorts of economic trends that began under Barack Obama. (The adage “born on third base, thought he hit a triple” comes to mind.) [NYT]
  • Trump also stuck to his hard line on immigration while trying to portray it as a compromise. One line—“Americans are dreamers too,” a not-subtle jab at DACA recipients—drew praise from white supremacist David Duke. [Politico] He also warned ad nauseam about the perils of the gang MS-13 and portrayed immigrants as a source of crime. Data does not back up his claim. [USA Today]

WHAT IT MEANS: CNBC’s John Harwood has it about right: “President Donald Trump's first State of the Union speech changed nothing. There was no ‘pivot.’ There was no fresh approach to nation's problems or its political stalemate in Washington. There was no new Trump. Instead, the president, who spoke for well over an hour, was a slightly more sedate version of the one Americans have, for better or worse, become accustomed to. He offered ‘an open hand to work with Americans of both parties,’ but delivered a barbed message aimed mostly at rousing only the members of his own.”

Related: Here is Joseph Kennedy III’s rebuttal. [NYT] Perhaps more than what he actually said, however, the image that sticks—think Rubio and the water bottle—might be the apparent drool on the corners of his mouth. [Politico]

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