After the most turbulent first year in office of any president in recent U.S. history, Donald J. Trump took to the national stage to deliver his initial State of the Union address. First Lady Melania Trump attended the event but broke with tradition by not arriving with her husband. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was simply so Mrs. Trump can greet guests while the president “can go straight in.” Nevertheless, with reports recently resurfacing that Mr. Trump had sexual relations with adult entertainer Stormy Daniels in 2006 and was allegedly paid $130,000 to keep quiet about it, some are speculating that there is a rift between POTUS and FLOTUS.
Trump opened his speech by saluting American heroes and then began talking about the economy. He stated, “We enacted the biggest tax cut and reform in American history,” which FactCheck.org rated as false, noting that it is only the eight-largest tax cut in the last one hundred years. The president also claimed that the unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are at historic lows, which is true but the decline in these rates began under President Obama. Touting his handling of U.S. trade deals with other nations, Trump said, “America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals,” but the trade deficit has actually increased by 11.5% since he took office.
The Immigration Plan
Trump’s mention of his immigration plan was booed by the Democrats present. A huge point of contention between the president and Democrats has been Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It was one of the issues that led to a temporary government shutdown earlier in January. During the State of the Union address, Mr. Trump said he wants “a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age.” However, the president has vacillated on the issue before so how that statement plays out remains to be seen. He reiterated his desire for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and called for a reform of the visa lottery which he claimed, “hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people.” Nevertheless, those in the lottery already have to meet educational and work experience requirements.
The president focused on the continued fight against ISIS by correctly stating that nearly all of the land controlled by the group has been retaken. In a far less accurate statement, Trump said that the U.S. is restoring its standing abroad but FactCheck.org reported “the number of foreigners telling pollsters they have a favorable view of the US fell nearly everywhere. The only big gain was in Russia.”
The president’s address lasted one hour and twenty-one minutes, only seven minutes shy of the longest State of the Union address in U.S. history, which was delivered by Bill Clinton in 2000. Representative Joe Kennedy III (Democrat – Massachusetts), the great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy, delivered the rebuttal on behalf of the Democrats. Regarding immigration, he said, “Many have spent the last year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fractured fault lines across our country. This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us. They are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”