"It's T-Day" as one trader put it this morning. President Trump will address a joint session of Congress tonight for the first time as president in a much anticipated speech in which he will tell lawmakers the “time for small thinking is over,” and “the time for trivial fights is behind us,” as he lays out his policy agenda.
The Guardian reports that in a contrast to Trump’s gloomy inauguration day “American carnage” speech, the mood this evening is expected to be lighter.
“My speech will be a message of optimism, hope, and love for the greatest country in history. I will lay out our agenda for a stronger, freer, and more prosperous America,” Trump said in an email to supporters this afternoon, calling on donations for his re-election.
But while the administration is touting it as optimistic, advisor Steve Bannon, seen as Trump’s most influential advisor, spoke this week at CPAC about the three “verticals” the Trump administration will focus on, and it’s a less positive affair: national security and sovereignty; economic nationalism; and “deconstruction of the administrative state”.
- Trump to outline what he’ll pitch as benefits of more stringent immigration enforcement - it will “save billions of dollars and make our community safer for everyone”
- Will pitch what he’ll call a “historic tax reform” plan in development; promising “massive tax relief for the middle class”
- Trump to say U.S. needs to learn lessons of the past on foreign policy and conflict; adding “only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding”
- In possible nod to Russia, which he has said U.S. should have friendlier ties with: “America is willing to find new friends and to forge new partnerships were shared interests align”
- On Islamic State, to say will work with allies incl. in Muslim world to “extinguish” ISIS
Some key excerpts have been released (h/t @BradJaffy):
The time for small thinking is over.
The time for trivial fights is behind us.
We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.
Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people, cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.
My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.
Our veterans have delivered for this nation and now we must deliver for them.
The challenges we face as a nation are great, but our people are even greater and none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.
Live Feed (the president is due to speak at 9pmET)...
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As The Hill notes, the speech isn’t an official State of the Union - that will come next year - but it’s a chance for Trump to set out his legislative priorities after a tumultuous first month that has at times rattled congressional Republicans.
Here are five things to watch for in Trump’s speech...
Will Trump stay dark or go light?
The president’s first major address to the American people offered a grim view of the country he was elected to lead. At his inauguration, Trump painted a picture of a nation in decline, marked by “American carnage” such as “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and marauding criminal gangs plaguing major cities. Stephen Miller, the influential White House aide who wrote that speech, has been tasked with authoring this one, too. But White House officials say the address to Congress will present “an optimistic vision” aimed at how his administration will help Americans of all races, parties and economic status. He will also stress how his early actions, while controversial, have fulfilled campaign promises. Offering a positive message that appeals to people outside his base could help bring together a country that remains deeply divided over a presidential election in which Trump lost the popular vote. It would also break with the style that got Trump elected. And previous “pivots” telegraphed by his team have not panned out. Before the inaugural address, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, then a spokesman for the Trump transition effort, told reporters it would focus on “areas where he can unite the country.”
Will there be specifics?
After spending his first month handing down a flurry of executive orders, Trump looks ready to get down to business with Congress. Trump is not a policy wonk, and the White House says he’ll reaffirm his desire to work on broad goals such as tax reform and repealing and replacing ObamaCare . But Trump will eventually need to take a side in specific policy debates if he wants to get his agenda passed. For example, he’s been grappling with what to do about Medicaid if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Millions of Americans gained coverage under the healthcare law’s Medicaid expansion. Figuring out if or how to provide coverage to those people if federal funds supporting the expansion are eliminated is a difficult question for the GOP. The White House has largely left the specifics to congressional Republicans. “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated,” Trump said during a meeting Monday with a group of governors.
Will Trump challenge the congressional GOP?
Trump’s relationship with the Republican Congress has been far from perfect, from the rocky rollout of his travel ban to simmering disagreements over tax policy, infrastructure and trade. Lawmakers have publicly and privately complained about Trump’s bombastic style and penchant to go it alone. And members are taking some heat themselves from the right. “Republican party should be sued for fraud,” Matt Drudge, founder of the conservative Drudge Report, tweeted earlier this month. “NO discussion of tax cuts now. Just lots of crazy. Back to basics, guys!” It’s unlikely that Trump will voice those same frustrations with the lawmakers he needs to pass his agenda. But they might not like what the president has to say on some issues. For example, Trump has been reluctant to throw his support behind the border-adjustment tax that’s at the center of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) tax reform plan. Trump also hinted Monday that he would make a “big” announcement on infrastructure spending during his speech, something that could give heartburn to fiscal conservatives. Separately, GOP defense hawks said Trump’s plan to boost military spending in his 2018 budget didn’t go far enough. Despite those disagreements, GOP leaders emerged from a meeting with Trump Monday afternoon insisting they are on the same page. “We’re looking forward to a positive, upbeat presentation tomorrow night and then proceeding with our agenda, which is exactly the same as the Trump agenda,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.
Will Trump break with protocol?
Trump has shown a penchant for shaking up staid Washington traditions, but it’s unclear whether he will veer from the usual format for State of the Union-style speeches. The joint-address format has remained relatively unchanged for years. The president makes a dramatic entrance into the House chamber and then delivers his speech from the Speaker’s rostrum to members of both chambers, Supreme Court justices, military brass and handpicked guests, with tens of millions of people watching live on television. Some past presidents have tinkered around the edges. Former President Obama released the entire text of his 2015 State of the Union on the online publishing platform Medium ahead of its delivery. The White House has not yet indicated what, if any, changes it will make, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the former reality television star did something different. “The Trump address won’t be boring, because Donald Trump’s not boring,” counselor Kellyanne Conway said last week on Fox News.
How will Democrats react?
Democrats have vocally opposed nearly everything Trump has done in his first weeks as president. And the president has responded in kind by lobbing personal insults at top Senate Democrats. Many are wondering whether that feud will boil over in his Tuesday night address. If it does, it would certainly break with the typically civil tone during presidential joint addresses. Some Democrats are planning quiet forms of protests by filling the gallery with immigrants, ethnic minorities and LGBT individuals. In 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted “You lie!” at Obama during an address on healthcare reform, a shocking moment at the time that earned him an official admonishment from the House. Trump has shown no qualms about verbally confronting critics and protesters at his campaign rallies, so such a disruption could cause him to break from his prepared remarks and respond. A typical speech to a joint session includes passages that win standing ovations from both parties, but it seems possible that some Democrats will sit for the entirety of Trump’s speech. “I hope a very robust and applause-filled reception,” Spicer said Monday when asked how Trump hopes he will be received by Democrats.
We suspect it will look a little more like this...
Axios reports some chatter of possible compromises on Obamacare and Immigration, but warns don't get too excited about the idea that President Trump is having a last-minute conversion to Jeb Bush-style immigration reform. We've been talking with conservatives in his orbit, and here's what you need to understand about how Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions view the issue:
- The people who are in this country illegally who haven't committed crimes have always been viewed as points of leverage in a negotiation over immigration, whether that's border security or any other deal that can be struck with Congress. As we've seen in the opening weeks of his administration, Trump is also willing to use existing law to get started on deportations without Congress.
- But that bargaining chip is down the road, and Trumpworld is wary about the example of Ronald Reagan, who is remembered by populist conservatives for allowing an amnesty before locking down better immigration enforcement.
- When Trump talks about comprehensive immigration reform, it's not on the terms of the Gang of 8. His orbit believes any deal will include extreme vetting and border security.
- Remember Trump's trip to Mexico, where Trump said nice things to President Nieto and then went to Arizona and delivered one of the most red meat speeches of his campaign.
Remember: People will hear what they want to hear from Trump tonight, particularly on immigration. Some can take away that he's converting to Marco Rubio or Lindsey Graham-style conservatism, but his people still believe any immigration deal will be on the terms he set on the campaign.
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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg always hugged President Barack Obama before his speeches to Congress; but sadly for President Trump, as Bloomberg reports, she doesn’t even plan to attend his first one.
Ginsburg, who called Trump a "faker" during his campaign, intends to skip Tuesday night’s speech, leaving it to five of her colleagues to represent the court.
Chief Justice John Roberts will join Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in attendance, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed. All are regulars at the annual event. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito aren’t planning to attend, continuing their past practice.
Alito hasn’t gone to a speech since 2010, the year Obama criticized the justices’ just-issued Citizens United campaign-finance ruling. Obama accused the court of ignoring a century of precedent, a claim that prompted Alito to shake his head and mouth "not true" as Democratic lawmakers directly behind the justices rose to cheer.
Thomas has gone sporadically over the years and hasn’t attended since Obama’s first speech in 2009. He said in 2010 the event had become so partisan that "it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there."
Roberts later likened the presidential addresses to a “political pep rally” and questioned whether justices should continue to attend. Even so, the chief justice hasn’t missed a speech.
Ginsburg, a 1993 appointee of Democrat Bill Clinton, also skipped Republican President George W. Bush’s speeches. She attended all eight of Obama’s.
Her attendance Tuesday night could have created an awkward moment given that the president typically greets members of the court before the speech. Trump called on Ginsburg to resign after she made the “faker” comment during the campaign.
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The bond market is beginning to lose faith, will stocks?
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For those who want to play along, here is the "President Trump Addresses Congress Official Bingo Game"
And finally, thanks to Geoffrey Dickens at NewBusters, here is your reminder of the media gushing all over President Obama's first address to congress in 2009...
"He took us to the mountain tops.”
“Big and bold.”
“He wowed us!”
No, these aren’t movie critic blurbs on a movie poster praising a star actor’s performance, these were the immediate reactions from the liberal media to President Barack Obama’s first address to Congress. Will Donald Trump’s speech tonight receive similar accolades? Given the press’s hostility to the new president, it seems unlikely.
But back in 2009, the first takes on Obama’s speech were effusive. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews gushed “He wowed us!” CNN’s Jack Cafferty proclaimed “He’s got what it takes to lead this country back into the sunlight.”ABC’s George Stephanopoulos cheered that Obama “began on hope” and “ended on hope.”
Stephanopoulos’s colleague Terry Moran called the speech “big and bold” but never called it liberal, even though it was a wish list of leftist policies. On the other hand, Governor Bobby Jindal, who delivered the GOP response that night, was called a “Debbie Downer” by CBS’s Maggie Rodriguez.
The following is just a sampling of the most enthusiastic responses to Obama’s first address to Congress from the MRC archives:
“He Wowed Us!”
“It was his debut and he wowed us. That’s the running headline from last night’s presidential address to the Congress.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opening Hardball, February 25, 2009.
Applauding Obama’s “Start at Inspiring Hope”
“[President Obama] came right out of the box and said, ‘make no mistake about it, we are going to recover.’ That’s the most important thing he wanted the country to hear last night. He began on hope. He ended on hope. Now, in between, there’s an awful lot of hard things to be done....But I think he made a start at inspiring hope out in the country.”
— ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, February 25, 2009.
Obama the “Excellent” Centrist
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann: “What can the Republican response be?...How do you come out against recovering the nation’s sense of self and its optimism? How do you come out against words like ‘boldly,’ ‘wisely,’ ‘swiftly,’ and ‘aggressively?’”
Co-anchor Chris Matthews: “[Bobby Jindal]....is running for the outside rail of the Republican Party, the right-wing rail....That’s all the room that’s left on that side because Barack has grabbed the center with the charm he showed tonight in his excellent rhetoric.”
— MSNBC’s live coverage following Obama’s speech to Congress, February 24, 2009.
“Serene” Obama Will Lead Country “Back Into the Sunlight”
“But our president seems remarkably unruffled by all of this, serene in an inner confidence that he’s got what it takes to lead this country back into the sunlight....It was quite a performance....It occurred to me watching the president last night, Wolf, that he was born to do exactly what he was doing. He had that place in the palm of his hand for the entire time he was in that room, and that can be a tough audience, a tough room to work.”
— Host Jack Cafferty on CNN’s The Situation Room, February 25, 2009.
Obama “Took Us Up to The Mountaintops”
“A rousing speech, took us up to the mountaintops.”
— Senior political analyst David Gergen on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, February 25, 2009.
“Big and Bold” Obama
“It was a big and bold speech by a new President facing deep challenges and huge expectations, delivered at a crucial moment when the country has been battered by talk of bailouts and the reality, the harsh reality of recession. And while President Barack Obama didn’t sugarcoat it — he found bad guys on Wall Street and in Washington — he did try to strike an optimistic tone and a hopeful note that with patience and personal responsibility and by working together, the country can prevail and thrive.”
— ABC’s Terry Moran on Nightline, February 24, 2009. Moran offered no “liberal” label of Obama’s agenda.
We Have a President Again
“It made me feel pretty good. I mean, I thought it was a great speech....You know, a friend of mine said, ‘Oh my God, we have a President again!’ Now, in some ways, that’s not fair to Bush, but that’s the way you felt. You felt this was a guy who was totally in charge.”
— NPR’s Nina Totenberg discussing President Obama’s address to Congress, February 27, 2009 Inside Washington.
Adoring “Ambitious” Obama’s Liberal Agenda
“This was the most ambitious President we’ve heard in this chamber in decades. The first half of the speech was FDR, fighting for the New Deal. The second half was Lyndon Johnson fighting for the Great Society, and we’ve never seen those two presidents rolled together in quite this way before....’ I think we’re watching one of the greatest political dramas of our time.”
— Senior political analyst David Gergen on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, February 24, 2009.
Obama’s FDR-Like Fireside Chat
“This was actually a fireside chat. This is what I found so fascinating. From the very first sentence he basically said to the Congress ‘I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the people who sent us here.’ And it reminded me, in some sense, of the radio speeches FDR gave where he talked about complicated issues in simple ways. Obama tried to explain how he got into this mess, why will my program make it better. Very intensely personal in the sense of talking to people at home watching one or two at a time in front of their TVs.”
— Correspondent Jeff Greenfield during CBS’s live coverage of Obama speech, February 24, 2009.
Public Loved Obama, Jindal Was “Debbie Downer”
“And Americans loved it. The polls show that they’re very optimistic, and then out comes Bobby Jindal, Debbie Downer, saying ‘hated it, it’s not going to work.’”
— Co-host Maggie Rodriguez on CBS’s Early Show, February 25, 2009.
We suspect the media's response - no matter what Trump says or does - will not be any of the above.