Washington: Twenty-four hours after the first contest among the Democrats seeking to replace him in November and 24 hours before he will be formally acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union address to a bicameral session of Congress on Tuesday night.
It was a decided departure from Trump’s freewheeling campaign speeches and Twitter talk, a more measured recitation of his accomplishments in his first three years in office as he looks to run for and win a second term this fall.
Trump snubbed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to shake his hand before beginning his address. (The two reportedly haven’t spoken in months.) Pelosi could be seen shaking her head — albeit only slightly — at several points during Trump’s speech, including when he said his health care plan would protect all people with pre-existing conditions.
In two stunning moments that book-ended the evening, Trump, as he began his speech, turned his back on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s outstretched hand in a snub that encapsulated their boiling bad blood. Then, after he wrapped up, Pelosi, channeling her disgusted and outraged Democratic members, ostentatiously tore up the speech in full view of the cameras, in a sure-to-go viral moment that showed she can do theatrics too.
When Trump mentioned lowering drug costs, a group of House Democrats stood up and chanted “HR 3” in reference to the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. Shouts of “no” could be heard when Trump awarded conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
*Economy, economy, economy: Previewing his planned re-election message, Trump began his speech with an extended riff on the success of his economic policy — declaring a “great American comeback” and proudly asserting: “The state of our union is stronger than ever before.”
Many of the stats Trump used to back up that argument — a 70% increase in the stock market since he entered the White House, record low unemployment for black and Hispanic people — are familiar to anyone who has listened to or read the President’s standard stump speech.
Trump’s economic focus is a savvy one from a political perspective. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans approve of how he has handled the economy — a stark contrast with how his handling of issues like immigration and foreign policy is viewed.
If there was any doubt about the goal of all of this economic messaging, the chants of “Four more years!” from Republican House members and senators cleared that up quickly.