Recap: President Trump's second State of the Union
Tuesday, February 5, was President Trump’s second State of the Union and first given to a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives; the SOTU had been pushed back, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to host it during the government shutdown. Here’s your summary of what was said.
Trump began with a relatively normal, presidential-sounding intro, talking about America’s great potential, referring to how we were gathered “not as two parties, but as this great nation,” to which he received a standing ovation (many standing ovations throughout the night, however, were partial, with Democrats participating far less than Republicans). Some of Trump’s messages of unity sounded similar to intros President Obama gave in his SOTUs, such as when Trump said the “agenda is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda; it is the agenda of the American people.”
When Trump talked about seizing our new opportunities, the camera panned to a shot of Democratic women not clapping (a large number of whom wore all-white as a reference to the suffragettes of the early 20th century). The shot was a little odd to look at, as you could hear the sounds of applause but no one on the screen at the time was clapping.
Trump continued past his intro by highlighting two important anniversaries that will occur in 2019—75 years since the D-Day landings at Normandy and 50 years since the moon landing. Four D-Day veterans were in attendance and given special recognition in Trump’s speech, as was Buzz Aldrin, the first person to set foot on the moon. As the standing ovations/cameras on Aldrin continued, he honestly looked a little stressed, like he was suddenly contemplating all of his life decisions, or like when people panic about what to do when being sung “happy birthday” to.
Trump then moved on to political and governmental issues, saying his administration had worked with “historic speed” fixing problems caused by past leaders of both parties and labeling the tax cut, which has not seen increases in investment or higher wages, as being a cut for working families. He claimed that the U.S. economy is “the envy of the world” and celebrated that we are the world’s number one producer of oil and natural gas.
He then arrived on the subject of investigations, which predictably did not go over well, saying the only thing that can stop our success is “ridiculous partisan investigations,” adding that we can’t have “peace and legislation if we have war and investigations.” Some responses have noted that what’s good for the president as an individual isn’t necessarily what’s best for the country.
Trump next highlighted Alice Johnson, the African-American women whose sentenced he commuted last year after urging from Kim Kardashian. Johnson was convicted of drug trafficking in the 90s and sentenced to life in prison; her case was highlighted by activists as an example of harsh sentences disproportionately affecting people of color, as she was a non-violent offender and a model prisoner. Trump said at the SOTU that he was “deeply moved” by her story; his move to release her was surprising to some, as he has previously made comments supporting the death penalty for some drug dealers.
Trump soon switched to immigration, however, focusing a large part of his speech on the matter, a sharp contrast with what aides had described as a unifying speech. He talked about our “very dangerous southern border",” said America must commit to ending illegal immigration, and brought up the topic of caravans again, alleging that to deal with their illegal immigration, Mexican cities get trucks and buses to send these immigrants to our border. Trump said he would like to see high immigration to this country, but only if it’s legal, saying “legal immigrants enrich our society in countless ways,” evidently ignoring that many immigrants he has cracked down on are seeking asylum, which is legal under both U.S. and international law.
Some guests at the SOTU linked to Trump were family members of two people shot and killed by undocumented immigrants, and Trump talked about how horrible it was that parents were killed by undocumented immigrants. To that, however, we have to ask, what about the American parents killed by Americans? Why not highlight Jayme Closs, the Wisconsin girl who was kidnapped in October by the same man who shot and killed her parents? What about the thousands of Americans shot by other Americans? Trump was using anecdotal evidence to claim a trend that just isn’t there, at one pointing saying “countless” people are killed by undocumented immigrants.
However, that number can be counted. In 2018, only two cases of an undocumented immigrant killing someone made the national news. While yearly data is hard to come by, PolitiFact made a best estimate; undocumented immigrants have been found to be no more likely to commit crimes here than American citizens are (and in some cases, have been found to be less likely to), but if we assume that every person in this country is roughly equally likely to kill someone, PolitiFact determined that between 450-600 of the nation’s more than 19,000 yearly homicides are committed by undocumented immigrants.
Similarly, Trump talked about saving women from trafficking and assault as they make the journey north, to which again the question must be asked: what are we doing about the American women being trafficked and assaulted by American men? His final comments on the topic of immigration were pledges never to abolish ICE and reiterating that we will build a wall along our southern border.
One message of unity, however, was calling for funding more research to cure childhood cancer. A girl named Grace Eline was in attendance at the SOTU; Grace had started raising money for cancer patients at a young age, eventually becoming one herself at the age of 9 and has just finished chemotherapy. Unsurprisingly, Grace received a standing ovation from the entire chamber.
Trump finished his speech by briefly touching on a variety of issues, including endorsing school choice, saying his election prevented war with North Korea, and calling for a ban on late-term abortion and repeating the lie that New York has legalized “ripping babies” from the womb “moments before birth” (what the law actually allows is abortions after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable/will not be born alive or if it is necessary to save the mother’s life). Trump also reiterated his support in recognizing the opposition leader as the true president of Venezuela, said the U.S. will never be socialist, and reiterated his belief that the U.S. was right to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Late in the speech, he also honored Judah Samet, Holocaust survivor and a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue who survived the 2018 shooting. February 5 also happened to be Samet’s 81st birthday, and congress said “happy birthday” to him.
Ultimately, there wasn’t anything terribly new in Trump’s speech. There were some issues that could see bipartisan support, such as infrastructure spending or reducing the hikes in prescription drug prices, and then many issues that likely won’t pass, such as taking up abortion legislation or full funding of a border wall. If you didn’t watch the whole thing, you didn’t miss much.
Parts of this piece are opinion in nature and do not reflect the views of The Rival.