I wanted to offer some thoughts about President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address tonight. Here are five quick takeaways from the speech (not meant to be exhaustive).
1. The stories were great.
When Presidents talk about their guests at the State of the Union it is an opportunity for some powerful moments. President Trump’s speech was no exception.
I loved the pro-life example given of Ryan and Rebecca Holet who adopted the baby of a homeless heroin addict.
They named her Hope, and yes they are an example of what makes our nation good. I appreciated the story.
My heart broke for the parents of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens who were murdered by members of MS-13, as well as, the parents of Otto Warmbier who was sentenced to 15-years in North Korea to be later released shortly before his death.
Ji Seong-ho, who bravely fled North Korea, holding his crutches over his head was a powerful image.
I could go on because there were other stories as well. This, bar none, was the best part of his speech.
2. The economy speaks for itself.
The strongest case that President Trump can make for his administration was economic growth. In particular:
Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.
Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history.
Then comes the tax cuts which outside of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was probably the greatest achievement in his first year in office.
He highlighted how it is stimulating the economy:
Small businesses have also received a massive tax cut, and can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.
Here tonight are Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger of Staub Manufacturing — a small business in Ohio. They have just finished the best year in their 20-year history. Because of tax reform, they are handing out raises, hiring an additional 14 people, and expanding into the building next door.
One of Staub’s employees, Corey Adams, is also with us tonight. Corey is an all-American worker. He supported himself through high school, lost his job during the 2008 recession, and was later hired by Staub, where he trained to become a welder. Like many hardworking Americans, Corey plans to invest his tax‑cut raise into his new home and his two daughters’ education. Please join me in congratulating Corey.
Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands of dollars per worker. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.
3. His immigration plan will make both the far right and far left angry.
In terms of policy, this is where he provided the most meat.
The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age — that covers almost three times more people than the previous administration. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States.
The second pillar fully secures the border. That means building a wall on the Southern border, and it means hiring more heroes like CJ to keep our communities safe. Crucially, our plan closes the terrible loopholes exploited by criminals and terrorists to enter our country — and it finally ends the dangerous practice of “catch and release.”
The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people. It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system — one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.
The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future.
The far right will not like offering DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship. The far left (or should I just say the Democratic Party) will be unhappy with the rest. This is going to be a big lift and I’m doubtful Congress will pass this.
4. The optics of Democrats’ staying seated when they shouldn’t.
I am not sure if Democrats think they are making inroads with average Americans by not applauding historically low unemployment claims, tax cuts, and corporate investment at home, but they are not. This mindset is exactly why they lost in 2016.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the State of the Union was watching House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) throughout the speech when they would flash at her.
Democrats need to find a different game plan other than “we hate Trump.”
5. It was policy-lite.
With the exception of the immigration, his speech lacked a lot of detail.
He’s planning on spending a lot of money on infrastructure, but I’m still unclear what his plan will look like. He’s changing the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, but what does that mean? He doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes made by other Presidents with North Korea, so what will he do differently?
Somethings like his plan for keeping Guantanamo open and ending the catch and release program for terrorists is pretty clear.
I was half expecting that he was going to call for Congress to declare war on MS-13, way, way, way too much time spent on that.
Overall it was a good speech, probably too long, but good. I don’t know if it will move the needle for him, speeches rarely do, but if he can stay off Twitter and give speeches like this it will go a long way.