Donald Trump promises ‘bipartisan’ State of the Union speech amid discontent on both sides – Donald Trump’s America
The President will touch on immigration, national security, health care, trade and infrastructure in his speech. (AP: Evan Vucci)
“Choosing greatness” is the title. An inspiring vision of America and a call for bipartisanship in Congress are the themes.
President Donald Trump will touch on immigration, national security, health care, trade and infrastructure in his State of the Union (SOTU) address as he begins the second half of his first term in office.
It’s a potential turning point in the President’s choice of tone as he sets himself up for 2020.
“Republicans suffered big losses in the November elections, and we just went through a major government shutdown. So this SOTU is a chance for the President to reset the agenda going into the 2020 elections,” said Darrell West, a scholar at the Brookings Institute and the author of Divided Politics, Divided Nation.
But the President and the Democrats just had a weeks-long stoush over his border wall, which shut down the government and postponed the SOTU in the first place.
A sudden surge of bipartisanship seems like a stretch.
“I think it’s going to be hard for him to reconcile what he’s been doing over the last two years with any type of bipartisan appeal. He’s never really been a bipartisan president,” Mr West says.
The SOTU tone after midterm losses is often conciliatory, Mr West adds.
“Bill Clinton did that after his 1994 losses, George HW Bush did it after the Republicans lost in 1976. (Barack) Obama did it after his 2010 midterm defeat,” he says.
“So the logical thing is for Trump to try to reach across the aisle and talk about ways Republicans and Democrats can work together.
“But of course, Trump has never really done that.”
Border security will be a key issue
In a CBS interview on the weekend, Mr Trump didn’t back down on the border wall issue, still threatening to declare a national emergency to get the wall funded if he has to.
“It’s a national emergency,” he said.
“And we’re going to have a strong border. And the only way you have a strong border is you need a physical barrier. You need a wall. And anybody that says you don’t, they’re just playing games.”
You can be sure that border protection will feature heavily in the speech.
After all, the President will have the joint houses of Congress as a captive audience, not to mention a live TV following in the multi millions.
The White House on Twitter: “Unsecured borders gives traffickers free and clear passage to transport their victims into the United States.” We have to stop this.
However, over the last two years his speeches to the joint session have been more “teleprompter Trump” than “Twitter Trump”, reflecting his capacity for striking a dignified tone when the setting demands it.
With more Democrats in the room, Trump may strike a different tone
Mr Trump is an unconventional president to say the least.
A leak of his schedule from the White House to online news site Axios reflects that, showing that 60 per cent of his time is unscheduled “executive time”.
By way of comparison, former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush spent more than 10 hours in scheduled presidential duties each day, Mr Bush in rigid 10-minute blocks.
But Mr Trump prides himself on knowing how to read a room, and has previously said that he doesn’t like overplanning because it restricts his capacity to do that.
This year, with an increased number of Democratic lawmakers, the energy in “the room” will feel a little different.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will be seated just behind him, visible to those watching the televised address. She won’t be cheering every policy point in the same way Republicans did last year.
Andrea Mitchell on Twitter: [email protected]: it won’t just be Pelosi over his shoulder, but the chamber itself, so many new young diverse faces, those people will all be there and they probably won’t be applauding for parts of the Presidents speech #AMR
Other Democrats have invited guests like Victorina Morales, an undocumented worker formerly employed by Mr Trump’s New Jersey Golf Club.
There’s also Ana Maria Archila, a #MeToo activist who gained fame when she confronted a senator during the hearings on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
And if the President commits to declaring a national emergency on the wall, he risks losing applause from his own party.
Burgess Everett on Twitter: Sen. Collins says declaring a national emergency for the border wall could be “of dubious constitutionality”
Infrastructure may be the only issue applauded by the whole audience
While immigration and national security will be touted as works in progress by the President, trade will be in his success column as he talks up his renegotiation of NAFTA and current talks with China.
Infrastructure development and health care are two areas he wants to push in the lead up to 2020.
Surveys show that health care is a key issue driving the way people vote.
In midterms exit polls, 41 per cent of voters said it was the top issue facing the nation.
Gallup had 80 per cent of those polled saying it was extremely important, above the economy and immigration.
And infrastructure — plans to rebuild schools, roads and other basic facilities that help a community run — might be the only issue that warrants nods and applause from both sides of the aisle.
“There aren’t too many issues on which Democrats will be receptive,” Mr West said.
“So it’ll be interesting to see if that would be one issue that he could use to appeal across party lines.”