That’s a wrap on our State of the Union live blog. There’s a lot to unpack in Trump’s speech. (Note: That’s not quite the same thing as saying that a lot in the speech will end up mattering.)
For a detailed play-by-play on how everything went down, start at the bottom of this live blog and scroll up. But, if you’re in a rush, I also asked the team to give me their main takeaway(s) — in the form of a newspaper headline if they so chose. Those are below. As always, thanks for joining us.
Perry: “A State Of The Union Address Where Standing Up For The Base Trumped Bipartisan Outreach”
Harry: I would be really surprised if this moves any dial. These speeches generally don’t do that, and I thought the substance of this speech is what we’ve been hearing from Trump for a while now. We’ll see though.
Clare: My headline is, “Trump’s First State Of The Union Doubles Down On Campaign And First-Year Themes Of Immigration And Law And Order”
Nate: I gave away my thesis earlier on Twitter-dot-com, but I think my theme is that this speech was the start of the 2020 campaign. That is to say, a fairly partisan speech, with quite a lot of red meat for the base — and even some sections that trolled Democrats — but delivered in a more controlled and less impulsive fashion than the “modern-day presidential” approach that Trump takes on social media. Any pundit who thinks it was a “pivot” is an idiot, full stop. It’s the opposite of a pivot — it’s a doubling-down. But this version of Trump would be fairly effective if he were on the campaign trail every day in 2019 or 2020.
Anna: “There’s No Question Where Trump Stands On Immigration”
Julia: I can’t quite nail a headline, but my takeaway is that across a bunch of different ideas, violence was a unifying theme: the families of gang violence victims, the violence of repressive regimes, discussions of terrorism.
Amelia: No mention of the Russia investigation. Trump’s allies are probably relieved.
Andrea: Trump stuck to the script. He seemed more formal/authoritative/not as angry as he can sometimes be. I also learned from reading the last FiveThirtyEight live blog that academics write terrible headlines and this is clearly no exception.
Hilary: “Trump Has Really Improved His Ability To Read From A Teleprompter”
Dhrumil: “Republicans Like Trump’s Speech, Democrats Not So Much”
Poll Bot: “100 Percent Of Poll Bots Enjoyed Doing A Live Blog”
I don’t see this speech as changing much politically for Trump, in that he didn’t really try to reach out to Democrats that much. In terms of policy, I didn’t hear the kind of commitment on infrastructure that I think is necessary to get that issue moving.
On immigration, I think his speech matters. I’m somewhat skeptical that Trump actually wants to sign a bill granting amnesty to a large number of people. I view the limits on family migration that he is now proposing as kind of a poison pill. He campaigned on the wall, Dems are giving him the wall, but now he wants more. I think his demands on legal immigration and his MS-13/”Americans are Dreamers too” rhetoric will only make it harder to reach a deal on immigration. And maybe that is the intention.
Poll Bot enjoyed providing polls for all these humans. As a reminder, Poll Bot is definitely not two humans and their names are definitely not Dhrumil Mehta and Andrea Jones-Rooy. In conclusion, good night, America, and bleep bloop …
I agree with Andrea that it’s surprising Trump didn’t spend more time claiming credit for the economy — though Obama always did that in his speeches, and he alienated the people that it wasn’t going well for. And Trump trades very much on the politics of grievance, so maybe that held him back.
According to a CBS News poll this month, 50 percent of adults are optimistic about the next three years under Trump. Forty-six percent are pessimistic.
Here are the answers to the 17 questions I asked at the start of the speech.
- Does Trump indicate a desire to extend DACA protections as part of an immigration compromise? YES. He said that as part of his bipartisan immigration plan would include “a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age.”
- Does he promise to build a border wall? YES. He referred to “building a great wall on the Southern border.”
- Does he promise to have Mexico pay for the wall? NO.
- Does he engage in any partisan banter about the FBI? NO.
- Does he mention the Nunes memo? NO.
- Does he mention Hillary Clinton in any context? NO.
- Does he engage in an extended riff about the stock market on a day when the Dow Jones fell by 363 points? YES. Per the prepared remarks: “The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.”
- Does he claim to have accomplished more than any president in his first year in office? NO.
- Does he spend any significant amount of time — at least a paragraph’s worth of remarks, not just a throwaway sentence or two — signaling interest in a bipartisan infrastructure plan? YES. He called for “both parties” to come together to pass an infrastructure bill and went into a fair amount of detail about its parameters.
- Does he promise to repeal Obamacare and/or claim that Obamacare has already been repealed? YES, he made this claim very explicitly: “We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare,” referring to the individual mandate.
- Does at least 10 percent of his speech deviate from his prepared remarks? NO. We didn’t measure it precisely, but Trump was sticking very close to his prepared remarks, adding only very short riffs here and there.
- Does the speech clock in at over President Obama’s average speech time of 63 minutes? YES. Trump’s speech easily beat Obama’s average, registering at about 80 minutes.
- Does he use the phrase “Make America Great Again” or a close variation? YES, he did so in the prologue to the speech.
- Does he use the phrase “fake news”? NO.
- Does he threaten North Korea or Kim Jong Un? I’d say YES. One could debate the semantics, but Trump indicated a hawkish approach and spoke about the “depraved character of the North Korean regime” and the “threat it could pose to America and our allies.”
- Does he use any disparaging nickname to refer to any of his rivals/opponents, e.g. “Cryin’ Chuck” or “Rocket Man”? NO.
- Finally, does he refer to his approval ratings or other polling-based measures of his popularity? (Bonus question: If so, is it a good use of polling or a bad use of polling?) NO, and so the bonus question doesn’t apply.
For those keeping track, I was wrong about Nos. 6, 8 and 12 but right about the other fourteen. So in that sense, it was a fairly predictable speech.
I really am surprised he spent so much time on MS-13 and immigration and not too much on the economy — I actually expected a lot more credit-claiming than looking ahead.
No major foreign policy rollouts tonight, unless you count his action on Guantanamo.
A poll by Bloomberg and Selzer & Co. in December 2016 asked whether people would prefer Trump to continue to be combative after he became president. Sevety-nine percent of people said they would prefer that he take a less combative tone.
The percentage of adults in America that were proud to be Americans was lower in 2017 than in any recent year. However, 75 percent of adults were still extremely or very proud to be Americans.
I can’t get over how visceral Trump’s rhetoric is, particularly the story about what the North Korean man went through. George W. Bush used to talk quite a lot about torture (especially as the Iraq War started to lose support around 2006), but I don’t remember anything that vivid in a major speech.
Now that Trump seems to be through a detailed and lengthy section on immigration, a recap: He started out by saying that immigrants have a negative impact on low-wage workers (a hot topic of debate among economists) and focused heavily on crimes committed by migrants. (These crimes were horrific, but immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.)
Then he outlined the four pillars of his immigration plan:
- A pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
- To “fully secure” the border. (You may have heard of his wall?)
- To end the visa lottery, which gives priority to applicants from countries that don’t send many immigrants to the U.S.
- And finally, to end “chain migration,” which has long been referred to as family reunification in the U.S.
His outline may be somewhere in the middle between Trump’s hardline immigration restrictionist stance and liberal Democrats, but it’s pretty far right of where the two parties stand more generally on immigration.
This is reminding me a lot of a passage from George W. Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address: “I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.”
During the earlier, domestic portion of the speech, I felt very much like we were back at President Trump’s inauguration just over a year ago: the America first themes, the stark law-and-order imagery. But the foreign policy portion seems much more like a Bush-era Republican speech, highlighting national security and oppressive regimes. Will the administration have to figure out this contradiction or reconcile competing political approaches?
Earlier today, administration officials said Trump’s comments on North Korea would be “eye-opening.” They must have meant his remarks would open eyes on the nature of the regime — because there’s no new policy here to speak of.
He’s wrapping up. Just remember, he could be like this all the time! This style would be better for him politically. But we know he doesn’t want to be.
Notably, Trump just declined to reissue his threat to scrap the Iran nuclear deal after delivering an ultimatum earlier this month to European powers deeply reluctant to reopen the agreement on Iran sanctions. Trump officials started negotiations with Britain, France and Germany last week to try to find a path forward.
Speaking tonight, Trump instead asked Congress to “address the fundamental flaws” in the deal — his original preference, but a strategy that has stalled and has been destined for failure from the start.
I think it’s pretty notable that Trump is ending on this North Korean defector’s story. Seems like a pointed jab at another world leader …
According to this poll by the Pew Research Center from last fall, 84 percent of adults believe that President Trump is willing to use military force against North Korea.
Third reference to religion, for those keeping track at home.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month, 38 percent of adults trust Trump to handle the authority of ordering nuclear weapons attacks on other countries, 60 percent do not trust him, and 2 percent have no opinion.
Question 15 was whether Trump would “threaten North Korea or Kim Jong Un.” I’d give this a YES. One could debate the semantics, but Trump indicated a hawkish approach and spoke about the “depraved character of the North Korean regime” and the “threat it could pose to America and our allies.” That’s unusually direct rhetoric, at least for the context of a State of the Union address.
Trump is warning about North Korea’s missile threat. But there are also the biological and chemical weapons to worry about.
This gets at Nate’s point. I think this speech will be well-received by Trump’s more conservative, anti-immigration supporters.
According to a CNN poll from last month, 44 percent of respondents approve of the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Forty-five percent disapprove.
Americans really don’t like North Korea, but, as I’ve written about, they’re not ready to go to war with them.
Trump is touting his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv, as a major accomplishment of his first year in office and a move that has previously enjoyed bipartisan support. He claims that the move advances peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but Palestinian officials have refused to speak with him ever since the Dec. 6 announcement, prompting a crisis between Washington and the Palestinian Authority.
Already having cut funding to UNRWA by nearly half, pulled out of UNESCO over its Israel stance and nearly shut the PLO’s offices in Washington, Trump is now threatening to cut all direct aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it returns to peace talks. The bullish approach threatens Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s peace plan, but it is consistent with the president’s views on foreign aid and his general attitude toward people who disrespect him.
Interestingly, Trump’s approval in Israel is 14 points higher than Obama’s in 2016, according to a Gallup poll taken as news broke of the Jerusalem decision. It’s the largest increase of any country worldwide over the same period.
Trump wants Congress to cut foreign assistance to countries that disagree with him publicly in international forums. It’s a policy of “strengthening friendships” and “restoring clarity about our adversaries,” he says. You’re either with us or against us, 2.0.
Harry, Poll Bot thinks you are saying something nice, but Poll Bot does not understand love.