Nancy Pelosi’s clap overshadows Donald Trump’s attempts at bipartisanship in State of the Union address
Nancy Pelosi applauded Donald Trump after he called for more compromise in politics. (AP: Doug Mills)
US President Donald Trump began by calling for bipartisanship and cooperation.
“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good,” he said.
And Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right in his face with what looked like sardonic applause — if there is such a thing.
Her response to that line quickly ricocheted around the internet.
@eugenegu More Through a single clap, Speaker Pelosi tells Trump she’s going to dog walk him. Iconic picture for the ages.
One US media outlet has deemed it the “sarcastic point clapback heard round the world”.
And while calling for bipartisanship on the one hand, the President decried “ridiculous, partisan investigations” on the other.
There was also this line which wouldn’t be out of place in a Dr Seuss book:
“If there is going to be peace and legislation there can’t be war and investigation it just doesn’t work that way,” Mr Trump said.
And he dug in on the border wall.
“I’ll get it built!”
Considering that the government just shut down for 35 days due to a deadlock over the wall funding, this hardly looks like the new era of happy “comity,” promised by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.
Basically, Donald Trump wants to have his cake and eat it too
President Trump is a chief executive born and bred after all, and with the gradual departure of his team of Generals (Kelly, Mattis, McMaster), he’s increasingly running his White House the way he ran his company.
It’s a cause of endless frustration to him that he can’t just shake off the Russia probe, shut down a spate of incoming Democratic investigations, and do business.
That is — build the border wall as he promised, cut a trade deal with China, cut another one with North Korea on nukes (probably with a real estate kicker), pull troops out of Syria (and Afghanistan), crack the heads of profiteering prescription drugs companies together and use a whole pile of money to build new roads, bridges, and schools.
But now he’s coming to terms with a Democratic house for the first time.
Their refusal to budge on the wall is getting him down because he values the art of the deal — and the wall is one of his core promises.
The Democrats are not particularly interested in collaborative fireside chats with the President, either.
In the hours before the speech, he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer taunted each other on Twitter after the Senator badmouthed the address hours before it was even delivered.
“It seems every year the president wakes up and discovers the desire for unity on the morning of the State of the Union,” Senator Shumer said.
“Then the president spends the other 364 days of the year dividing us and sowing a state of disunion.”
The President, having already reportedly argued with his team about the text of the speech, saying it was too soft, responded thus:
@realDonaldTrump I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet.
Bipartisanship and border security emerged as the speech’s biggest themes
Nonetheless, his State of the Union address proceeded as the White House said it would — with ‘comity’ strong from the outset.
If you’re wondering, ‘comity’ means showing courtesy and considerate behaviour to others.
“The agenda I lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It’s the agenda of the American people,” Mr Trump said in his opening remarks.
“Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.”
But as much as he talked about bipartisanship, he also dedicated more time to border security than any other subject.
And it’s that very issue — funding over the border wall — that he and the Democrats have failed to compromise on.
It led to the record 35-day government shutdown, which in turn led to the originally scheduled State of the Union being postponed in the first place.
“Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis,” Mr Trump said during the speech.
“Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our Government, protect our homeland and secure our Southern Border.
“Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers and human traffickers out of business.
Stacey Abrams argued for a more unified society that gives every American a chance at prosperity. (AP: John Amis)
“Where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down,” he said.
The Democrats’ rebuttal, delivered by former candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams, was unequivocal.
“We know bipartisanship could craft a 21st century immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart,” Ms Abrams said.
“Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders. President Reagan understood this. President Obama understood this. Americans understand this.
“Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders,” she added. “But America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls.”
There was little in the way of surprise on the speech’s additional points
The President’s major foreign policy points included the official dates for the next summit with North Korea later this month.
He also reiterated US opposition to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, pushed for a reciprocal trade agreement with China, and celebrated the “defeat of ISIS”.
President Trump thanked the US soldiers in Afghanistan, reminded the audience he’d be withdrawing them (probably via a deal with the Taliban) and said it was the time to look for another solution.
His stance toward Iran was brief but harsh and the same as usual: “The world’s leading sponsor of state terror.”
His domestic policy points were predictable, with a few exceptions.
One was the decision to raise abortion, which was, by some reports, a late addition.
Mr Trump mentioned a law recently passed in New York, saying politicians cheered the “passing of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth”.
Technically, the law permits abortions after 24 weeks if a medical professional deems the health of the mother is at risk or the life of the foetus is not viable.
It’s come under scrutiny recently as Virginia is considering passing a similar bill.
Among the subjects he spoke the least about was infrastructure, which was certain to be a bipartisan homerun, and will be prominent as 2020 looms.
@NateSilver538 If you’re going tease a speech about unity and bipartisanship, maybe spend more than 20 seconds on infrastructure, which is something Trump might actually be able to do and which could be quite popular?
In moments where he knew would be applauded on both sides, the President took care to draw it out.
“Don’t sit yet, you’re going to like this,” he said, smiling, before mentioning the record number of women elected to office in 2018.
Ironically many female Democrats ran for office in response to Mr Trump’s election, so he did put them there, I guess.
@abcnews Good vibes all around at the #SOTU as @realDonaldTrump notes the economic success of women in America and the record number of women in Congress
The economy is rightly his go-to talking point for his success as president.
The US employment rate is skyrocketing.
But he claimed that success was under threat from partisanship.
He linked it to the dozens of investigations that Democrats have pledged to launch into the President’s personal finances, his tax returns, his handling of the disaster effort after major hurricanes, his ties to Russia and everything in-between.
“An economic miracle is taking place, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” he said.