Trump SOTU Post-Mortem: "Tonight, I Ask You To Choose Greatness"

Trump started off with a shun. Traditionally, the Speaker of the House introduces the President inside the House Chamber after the House Sergeant at Arms, as Paul Ryan did for Trump last year. But Pelosi didn’t have a chance tonight, as Trump instead launched right into his speech. It’s unclear if Trump’s jumpstart was intentional or not, but he and Pelosi did share a cordial handshake during the first standing ovation.

Trump largely stuck with the talking points that were leaked to the press.

As expected, his tone has been largely conciliatory, despite delivering the speech to a divided Congress for the first time since his inauguration. And the bonhomie could be felt across the aisle, as lawmakers from both parties stood and delivered a standing ovation to the president as he walked up to the House rostrum. For roughly one-third of the lawmakers in attendance, this is the first SOTU they have ever attended.

Trump started his speech by saying he stood ready to work with both parties to fulfill our nation's "unlimited potential", and that he hoped "we can work together not as two parties, but as one nation." As telegraphed ahead of the speech, Trump described his agenda "not as a Republican agenda, or a Democrat agenda, but as an agenda for the American people."

And that agenda is...

  • Reduce the costs of health care and price of prescription drugs.
  • Immigration that is safe lawful and secure
  • And pursue a foreign policy that puts Americans first.

After noting the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which Trump noted was the beginning of what Dwight Eisenhower called "the Great Crusade" to stop the Nazis in Europe, before introducing three WWII veterans.

Trump went on to exhort lawmakers to reject the "politics of revenge" and focus on "cooperation" and "compromise" for the common good.

"Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness."

Moving on to his economic accomplishments, Trump touted the "unprecedented economic boom" ushered in by his policies. As evidence of this, he cited,

  • 5.3 million new jobs
  • 600,000 new manufacturing jobs
  • Wages rising at the fastest pace in decades
  • And wages for blue collar workers growing faster than anybody else thought possible
  • 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps
  • Economy growing twice as fast today as when I took office.
  • Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century
  • African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have reached lowest levels ever recorded
  • Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low
  • 157 million Americans are working - more than at any time during the history of our country
  • Passed a massive tax cut for working families and doubled the child tax credit
  • We've virtually ended the estate tax for small businesses, ranches and family farms
  • Eliminated "very unpopular" Obamacare individual mandate penalty
  • Gave critically ill patients access to life saving cures with "right to try"

Touting his deregulation push, Trump ntoed his administration has cut more regulations during a shorter period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure, which has helped bring companies back to America in record numbers. And we've unleashed a revolution in US energy, with the US now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas, anywhere in the world.

And for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.

With America winning "each and every day" - thanks to our unparalleled military strength - the state of our union is "strong", Trump said, to chants of "USA, USA, USA" from Republican lawmakers.

Exhibiting his fondness for economic data, Trump touted Friday's jobs report, noting that the US added 304,000 jobs in January, almost double the number expected. "An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or foolish investigations."

In a shot at House Democrats preparing to let subpoenas fly, Trump warned that they should think twice before following through.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way." We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.

And this new era of cooperation can start by confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate, some of whom have spent "years and years" waiting.

He touted his sweeping legislation to combat the opioid crisis, the farm bill, and a bill calling for VA accountability, to punish those who mistreat "our wonderful veterans." They said it couldn't be done, but just weeks ago, both parties came together to pass criminal justice reform. Trump then brought up the story of Alice Johnson, who was sentenced to life in the 1990s for a non-violent first-offense drug crime. "Alice's story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing and the need to remedy this total injustice. She served almost that 22 years and had expected to be in prison for the remainder of her life. But in June, I commuted Alice's sentence."

Alice

Alice Johnson

Trump's "First Step Act" gives non-violent offenders a second chance.

Matthew Charles, in Tennessee, Charles was sentenced to 35 years at the age of 30 for non-violent drug offenses. Now, Matthew is the very first person to be released from prison under the first step act.

Matthew

Matthew Charles

Now, Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis. Congress has 10 days to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland and pass a bill that will secure our border. Congress must commit to putting "human traffickers, coyotes and drug smugglers out of business," Trump said, adding that "as we speak, large organized caravans are on the march to the Untied States. We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to areas where there is little border protection, Trump said he ordered another 3,000+ troops to our southern border to prepare for this onslaught. Trump added that we have a "moral obligation" to protect our borders and ensure that those immigrants who came here legally are respected.

"No issue better illustrates the divide between Americans working class and America's political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards," Trump said, a subtle dig at the Obamas, whom he has criticized for building a wall around their homes.

Tolerating illegal immigration leads to overburdened schools and hospitals, while one and three women traveling to the southern border are sexually assaulted during the journey north. Young women are sold into prostitution and sex slavery. Because of this, "open borders" are "actually very cruel."

Meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl pour across the border as well, brought by gangs like MS-13. Trump then cited the gang member who was arrested for a fatal shooting on a subway platform in Queens. And many innocent Americans, like the parents of Debra Bissel, are killed by illegal immigrants. She attended with her daughter and granddaughter.

Bissels

Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong, and Madison Armstrong

"I will fight for the memory of Gerald and Sharon, and that it should never happen again. Not one more American life should be lost because we failed to control our border. Last year border agents like Elvin Hernandez made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.

Trump credited Hernandez with rescuing more than 300 girls from sex trafficking, while more than 1,500 traffickers have been arrested.

Hernandez

Elvin Hernandez

Trump pledged that he will "never abolish our heroes from ICE."

Trump then outlined a proposal to Congress for the border including humantiarian aid, sophisticated drug detecting equipment, and funding for a wall to protect vulnerable areas along the border. "In the past, many people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built."

"This is a smart, strategic see-through steel barrier, not just a simple concrete wall, it will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents in the areas identified as having the greatest need."

"Where walls go up, illegal border crossings go way, way down."

Trump cited San Diego as an example: A wall along the border "almost completely ended" illegal crossings. A wall also brought down El Paso, Texas's high rates of violent crime.

"Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives."

"So let's work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe."

But we must also ensure that our economic resurgence continues apace. Nobody has benefited more than women, who have filled 54% of the newly created jobs last year. "All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before," Trump said.

In a line that will surely make Trump's SWJ critics uneasy, the president noted that "And exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before."

Next up: Trade. After years of stealing American jobs, we're making it clear to China that the theft has come to an end. Now we have tariffs on more than $200 billion in goods, and our Treasury is receiving "billions and billions" of dollars.

But Trump doesn't blame China for this. He blames his weak-willed predecessors. He reiterated that he has "great respect" for President Xi, and that the two must work together to make a fair deal.

Another "trade travesty" was Nafta. For years, politicians promised to renegotiate for a better deal, but nobody ever did until now. The USMCA will replace NAFTA and "deliver for American workers like they haven't had delivered to for a long time". With this, Trump urged Congress to work together to pass USMCA and ensure that "more cars are stamped with our four beautiful words: Made in the USA."

Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the US reciprocal trade act, so that if another country puts an unfair tariff on a US product, we can charge the exact same tariff...on products they sell to us.

Finally, nearly an hour into the speech, Trump finally touched on his plans for an infrastructure bill. But offering few details about his infrastructure plan, Trump moved on to what was touted prior to the speech as the highlight of the evening: Prescription drugs.

"This is not an option. This is a necessity. The next major priority for me and for all of us should be to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs and to protect patients with preexisting conditions. After my election in 2018, drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years. "But we must do more. It's unacceptable that Americans pay more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs made in the exact same place."

He asked Congress to pass a bill that delivers "fairness and price transpare3ncy for American patients and require drug companies and insurers to disclose real prices, which he said would foster competition and "bring costs way down."

And while we have made remarkable progress in the fight against AIDS in recent years, Trump's budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to "eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within ten years." "Together we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond."

In another health-care related announcement, Trump asked all Americans to support his "fight against childhood cancer." Which brings Trump to his next guest: A 10-year-old girl named Grace Eline, a cancer survivor.

Grace

Grace Eline

Even before being diagnosed with brain cancer, Eline had asked friends to donate to cancer research at every birthday since she was four for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

"Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My new budget will set aside money over the next ten years to help fund this research."

And to help working parents, Trump said, "the time has come to pass school choice" for America's children.

He also announced plans to include a plan for nationwide paid family leave - a top priority of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and something that probably took many Democrats in the audience by surprise.

On a more somber note, Trump touched on a state law in Virginia where babies can be aborted even minutes before birth. Trump asked Congress to pass a bill banning late-term abortion, for babies "who can feel pain in the mother's womb."

"Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth. All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of god."

Noting that the "final part of his agenda" was to "protect American security" Trump touted the $700 billion allocated to the military and his push to get other nations to "pay their fair share" for their security. Now we have secured over the past couple of years over $100 billion in increased defense spending from NATO allies.

Following the decision to leave the INF, Trump said the US is building a state-of-the-art missile defense system, before blasting Russia for "repeatedly violated" the treaty's terms. "That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the...INF treaty."

"We really have no choice. Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement adding China and others. Or perhaps we can't, in which case we will out spend and out innovate all others by far."

Listing all the positive developments involving North Korea, Trump said that if he had not been elected president, we would "right now be in the middle of a major war with North Korea. Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one."

He then confirmed earlier reports that he and Kim would meet on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam.

Moving on to one of the hottest topics of the day, Trump condemned the Maduro regime and reiterated his support gor oppositoin leader Juan Guaido.

As was previewed ahead of the speech, Trump also condemned socialism, much to the chagrin of most of the democrats running for president.

"Here in the United States we are alarmed by the new calls toa dopt socialism. American was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion and control. We are born free and we will stay free."

"Tonight we confirm our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."

Next up: The Middle East.

Trump touted his decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. But after 19 years of fighting, and 7,000 US deaths, and 52,000 badly wounded, we have spent more than $7 trillion in fighting wars in the Middle East. When Trump took office, he pledged to end this, and defeat ISIS. But today, ISIS's former territory has been liberated.

"Great nations do not fight endless wars."

And now, the US is working to destory the remanents of ISIS, it is time to give US troops in Syria a "warm welcome home." In Afghanistan, the Taliban is also "Very happy to be negotiating."

"As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troops presence and focus on counter terrorism. We do not know whether we'll achieve an agreement, but we do know after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace. And the other side would like to do the same thing."

"It's time."

In a headline that seemingly got lost amid the crush of news last month, Trump praised US soldiers for killing one of the orchestrators of the USS Cole Bombing. Trump then turned to Tom Wibberley, whose son was one of the 17 who died during the bombing of the USS Cole.

"We will not avert our eyes from a regime that threatens genocide against the Jewish people."

"We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-semitism and those who spread its venemous creed. Just months ago, 11 Jewish Americans were viciously murdered in an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Trump then introduced, officer Timothy Matson, a SWAT team member shot seven times while pursuing the shooter.

Matson

Timothy Matson

Trump also invited Judah Samet, a survivor of the shooting last fall, and a Holocaust survivor who narrowly survived the concentration camps. Today is his 81st birthday (which triggered a rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung by the crowd. "They wouldn't do that for me, Judah," Trump quipped.

Samet

Judah Samet

Trump then recounted a story told to him by Samet of his memory of being rescued by American soldiers while his family was on a train to another concentration camp.

Another Holocaust survivor, Joshua Kaufman, recounted watching through a hole in the wall at Dachau as American tanks rolled in to liberate the camp.

kaufman

Circling back to the beginning of his speech, Trump once again brought up D-Day, and credited the "blood, and tears and vision" of the "Americans who came before". This, Trump said, is how America defeated Communism and Facism, and emerged as the world's unparalleled super power.

Ending on an optimsitic note, Trump said that "our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream. We must chose whether we are defined by our differences, or chose to transcend them.

"This is the time to reignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit and set our sights on the brightest star."

"We must keep America first in our hearts, and keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America's destiny, that one nation under god must be the hope and the promise and light and glory among all the nations of the world."

And with that, Trump wrapped up the speech at 10:30 pm ET on the dot. After speaking for 1 hour and 21 minutes, his speech was ever so slightly longer than last year's, but not quite as long as the 1 hour, 29 minute address delivered by Bill Clinton in 2000.

* * *

It's that time of year again. With Pelosi perched on his shoulder, President Trump will deliver his 2nd State of The Union address tonight (after last year's marathon 80-minute oration). However, Trump's call for cooperation did little to change the atmosphere of bitter partisan acrimony that has only intensified in Washington over the past year.

After a divisive year that featured partisan battles over the confirmation of SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's zero-tolerance border policies and - most recently - the government shutdown, according to Conway, Trump is once again planning to strike a conciliatory tone to try and silence critics who joke that his speech would be more aptly referred to as "the State of Disunion".

"This president is going to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution and call for more comity," Conway said, spelling out the last word.

Many of President Trump's recent decisions have been controversial among both Republicans (the trade war, his decision to pull troops from Syria and Afghanistan) and Democrats (immigration, the wall, the shutdown). And as the president seeks to rally support as the 2020 campaign season gets underway, previews of the speech published by the Hill, the New York Times and NBC News suggest that Trump will spend the bulk of his time touting his victories and selling his policies to the public, while calling for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground on issues like passing a sweeping infrastructure bill. The "optimistic" tone will go a long way toward setting out Trump's goals for the coming year.

Some key highlights include:

  • *TRUMP TO SAY HIS AGENDA IS AGENDA OF AMERICAN PEOPLE

  • *TRUMP TO ANNOUNCE 2-DAY MEET WITH KIM IN SOTU SPEECH

  • *TRUMP TO SAY IMMIGRATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO PROTECT LIVES, JOBS

  • *TRUMP: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION DIVIDES WORKING, POLITICAL CLASSES

  • *TRUMP TO SAY GREAT NATIONS DON'T FIGHT ENDLESS WARS

  • *TRUMP TO REITERATE CALL FOR CHEAPER DRUGS

  • *TRUMP TO URGE BOTH PARTIES TO UNITE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

Watch Live, starting at 2100ET...

*  *  *

But, if you find yourself drifting off - like during the Super Bowl - here are some prop bets (courtesy of ActionNetwork.com)

Will Trump say “thanks” or “thank you” first?

  • Thanks +300 (25% chance)

  • Thank You -500 (83.8% chance)

What will be the length of Trump’s speech?

  • One hour or longer -250 (71.4% chance)

  • Less than one hour +140 (37% chance)

What color will Trump’s tie be?

  • Red -120 (54.5% chance)

  • Blue +110 (52.4% chance)

  • Other +450 (18.2% chance)

Will Trump say Caravans?

  • Yes +275 (26.7% chance)

  • No -450 (81.8% chance)

Will Trump say Fake News?

  • Yes +800 (11.1% chance)

  • No -2500 (96.2% chance)

Will Trump say Make America Great Again?

  • Yes -550 (84.6% chance)

  • No +325 (23.5% chance)

Will Trump say National Emergency?

  • Yes +275 (26.7% chance)

  • No -450 (81.8% chance)

Will Trump say Witch Hunt?

  • Yes +1200 (7.7% chance)

  • No -5000 (98% chance)

Which will be said more times during Trump’s Speech?

  • Wall -600 (85.7% chance)

  • Huge +400 (20% chance)

How many times will “Kavanaugh” be mentioned?

  • Over 1.5  -115 (53.5% chance)

  • Under 1.5  -115 (53.5% chance)

Will Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi stand and clap for Trump?

  • Yes +200 (33.3% chance)

  • No -300 (75% chance)

Will Alexandria Ocasio Cortez stand at any point during Trump’s speech?

  • Yes -220 (68.8% chance)

  • No +180 (35.7% chance)

How many times will Trump say “Democrats”?

  • Over 2.5  -300 (75% chance)

  • Under 2.5  +200 (33.3% chance)

How many times will Trump say “Crisis”?

  • Over 3.5  -105 (51.2% chance)

  • Under 3.5  -135 (57.4% chance)

And finally - though we implore responsibility - here is the SOTU drinking game (source)...

*  *  *

And because we are fair and balanced - here is The Democratic Party's response by Stacey Abrams...

  • *ABRAMS TO HIGHLIGHT FREE, FAIR ELECTIONS IN RESPONSE TO TRUMP

  • *ABRAMS SAYS SHUTDOWN WAS A `STUNT' ENGINEERED BY TRUMP