Wednesday 18 September 2019

Five takeaways from Trump’s State of the Union address

These are the key things to know about the US president’s speech.

Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Jill Colvin, Associated Press

US president Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, calling on Democrats and Republicans to work together.

Here are five key takeaways from his remarks:

– He is not budging on the wall

“I will get it built,” he declared.

Addressing a joint session of politicians, Mr Trump yet again emphasised his now-familiar case for building a wall along the US-Mexico border, insisting the situation represents a crisis that demands a physical barrier.

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The speech was delivered to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

But the president outlined no plan or new strategy for convincing Congress to approve money to build the wall.

He issued a broad call for all sides to “work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe”.

He notably made no reference to his continued threat to circumvent Congress by declaring a national emergency if politicians refuse to give him the billions of dollars he is demanding.

– The house was in order

With Democrats now in charge of the House and amid a bitter border wall battle that led to the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history, the White House was bracing for a less-than-friendly reception from those gathered in the House.

Instead, the speech was punctuated by lighthearted moments, including when politicians from both parties sang a spontaneous rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Judah Samet, a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh who survived a shooting that killed 11 people in October. Mr Trump joked that the politicians would not break into song for him.

The president also prompted cheers from the female House Democrats when he touted the number of new jobs created that women have filled.

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Members cheer and high-five after Mr Trump acknowledges more women in Congress (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The women — dressed in white in honour of early 20th-century suffragettes — stood on their feet, with one raising her hands in the air.

Mr Trump seemed taken back by the outbursts. “You weren’t supposed to do that,” he said, before congratulating all the women who hold seats in Congress.

– Shutdown? What shutdown?

Mr Trump made no reference to the 35-day government shutdown that rocked the nation’s capital, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay and freezing many government services during the first month of the year.

It was a notable omission from a president who had once said that he would be proud to own the shutdown — and came just 10 days before the government is set to run out of money again.

Mr Trump did note that Congress “has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure our southern border”. But he did not mention the funding deadline.

– An appeal to the base

As he does often in his toughest political moments, Mr Trump tried to rally the Christian conservative voters who have proven to be some of his most loyal backers.

He seized upon recent controversies surrounding “late-term abortions” and warned against legislation that he claimed “would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth”.

“These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world,” he said, calling on Congress to pass legislation that would limit abortion rights.

– A few swipes at Democrats

Even as he called for a new age of bipartisanship and urged politicians to “govern not as two parties, but as one nation”, Mr Trump could not help but take few digs at Democrats, including the “resistance” movement in defiance of his presidency.

“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” he said.

Later he touted an “economic miracle” taking place across the country that he said could only be stopped by “foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations”.

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