Once again, I’m procrastinating my homework to deliver analysis and a reaction to President Trump’s State of the Union. This was his first real SOTU address, although he gave an address to Congress last February (and you can catch my reaction to that speech here), so this is kind of a big deal. Presidents usually use these speeches to lay out their policy priorities for the coming year, and it deserves to be covered. If you want to read an analysis by actual professional journalists and researchers, check out FiveThirtyEight’s live analysis. Full disclosure, I was reading their analysis while watching the address, and they deserve credit for some of the facts and figures I cited here. I also cited PolitiFact’s fact checkers a few times, so check them out too.
(NOTE: I wrote this on the evening of January 30th, and published it the following evening)
9:00p: Speaker Ryan and Vice President Pence are no longer twinning. Major disappointment for certain conservatives who might like that sort of thing.
9:14p: The President thanked the guests he brought to the State of the Union. To his credit, he didn’t say “Puerto Rico” weirdly. Unfortunately, he’s still ending federal aid operations in the territory, even though 20% of the island still lacks electricity and clean water. Whooooops.
9:15p: Also honored: Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who is walking without crutches less than a year after an assassination attempt.
9:17p: Obligatory “the State of our Union is strong” moment. Trump is taking credit for stock market highs and unemployment lows attained since taking office, though not everyone gives him credit for the booming economy. Not mentioned: Tuesday’s 363-point drop in the Dow. Also not mentioned: Americans give President Obama more credit for the economy than President Trump.
9:21p: The first major lie of the night! The President claimed that last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the largest tax cut in history, a claim that has been refuted over and over again. President Obama enacted bigger tax cuts in 2010 and 2012, as did President Reagan in 1981. That’s not to say the tax cuts didn’t do anything, though, because as the President points out, the standard deduction and the child tax credit have been raised (for now). However, some of the personal tax cuts will end up getting phased out in several years, but the corporate tax cuts are permanent.
9:27p: FiveThirtyEight’s “Poll Bot” has brought up the fact that, according to a WaPo-ABC poll, “60 percent of adults think the new tax law favors the rich, 11 percent think it favors the middle class, 2 percent think it favors the poor,” and “18 percent think it treats all equally.”
9:27p: Going down a list of new investments, President Trump has claimed that ExxonMobil and Apple are both planning to create more American jobs as a result of the latest round of tax cuts.
9:29p: OH GOD THAT MIC JUST CRACKLED BIGLY
9:29p: The President really leaned into the mic when he recited “In God We Trust,” the national motto. When then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama gave his legendary 2004 DNC speech, he made a big emphasis on our other (original) motto: “E Pluribus Unum,” or “out of many, one.” Just thought that might be interesting.
9:32p: “…why we proudly stand for the National Anthem.” ohhh boy…
9:33p: President Trump has nominated a record amount of judges, as well as Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. These nominations are largely possible because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow President Obama’s judicial nominees to come before the floor for a vote. Remember Merrick Garland?
9:33p: Also, shout-out to Neil Gorsuch.
9:36p: Eliminating regulations isn’t always a good idea. I like small businesses as much as the next American, but Scott Pruitt’s EPA has gutted environmental regulations and abandoned all pretenses of protecting the environment.
9:36p: Ended the war on “beautiful, clean coal”? That’s loaded with problems. Coal is the dirtiest energy source compared to every other major source. Coal jobs have been declining for decades thanks to automation and the phasing-out of coal, and the dominant energy utility for Michigan, DTE Energy, has promised to completely phase out coal by 2040. Compared to natural gas, coal is not only more toxic, it’s more expensive, which is why utilities are abandoning it. President Trump loves to harp about how Democrats are fighting a war on coal, but coal is no longer able to compete in the free market. If Trump actually stuck to his principles of free market conservatism, he wouldn’t peddle an expensive, outdated fuel source such as coal.
9:41p: President Trump is open to reducing the prices of prescription drugs. It’s supposedly a top priority of his… but keep in mind that it’s been “Infrastructure Week” since June 2017 and we still haven’t gotten anywhere on infrastructure reform. Maybe he’ll talk about it later.
9:42p: “We expect trade relationships to be very fair and, most importantly, reciprocal.” President Trump likes hating on trade deficits, but what he likes to forget is that American trade deficits are only made possible because Americans want to buy foreign goods. And he claims he’s a proponent of the free market.
9:43p: Infrastructure mention! Does this mean Infrastructure Week is happening again?
9:44p: $1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure. Nice. What’s not so nice is that Congressional Republicans won’t be too fond of paying for that investment, and the White House intends to make state and local entities foot most of the bill anyways.
9:46p: CNN cuts to a dejected-looking Bernie Sanders clapping for the President.
9:47p: Open support for paid family leave. Nice. Perhaps Ivanka Trump had something to do with that. $10 says the administration won’t actually be able to pass a paid family leave bill, though.
9:48p: Criminal justice reform. That’s another good idea. Shame he spent less than forty words on criminal justice reform and barely even got into the details of things that needed fixing. To be honest, I don’t expect the administration to deal with criminal justice reform this year, given the amount of time President Trump spent on immigration.
9:51p: This speech does a really good job of integrating special guests into the text. I guess that’s a plus.
9:52p: President Trump’s newest immigration proposal is centered around two policies: firstly, increasing funding for border security to prevent illegal immigration from happening. Second: granting a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of support at the moment.
9:54p: You know you’re doing something right as a special agent when a gang orders your murder and you’re standing in the gallery of the United States House of Representatives.
9:54p: “Americans are Dreamers too.” The President is implying that Dreamers aren’t already Americans. He may as well have said “Americans are Dreamers too, not just non-American undocumented immigrants.”
9:58p: Terrorists generally haven’t entered the country via the US-Mexico border… I don’t know why Trump and other prominent Republicans keep saying this. Most terrorists are either homegrown, or originate from countries not included in the administration’s silly travel ban.
10:01p: Boos! President Trump claimed that family reunification migration (or, as he calls it, chain migration) allows a single immigrant to bring unlimited amounts of people in his or her family to the States… and some Democrats weren’t buying it. Still, booing is highly frowned upon at SOTU addresses, and the rest of the party (and the majority of the chamber) shushed them.
10:04p: The President makes a big deal about fighting the opioid epidemic, but the President’s Opioid and Drug Addiction Commission disbanded last December, its own members have dismissed it as a charade, and the White House has made no indication that it plans to actually fund their fight against opioid addiction. FiveThirtyEight’s Poll Bot has also pointed out that sixty percent of Americans believe the President isn’t doing enough to fight it.
10:08p: Please, please please please end the defense sequester. The military is having a hell of a hard time trying to figure out its budget, and the combination of budgeting via Continuing Resolutions and the sequester’s budget cuts has contributed to poor training and low military readiness.
10:09p: Have you noticed that ISIS isn’t making as many headlines as it used to? They’ve lost almost all of their territory to the Iraqis, Syrians, and Kurds. The Syrian city of Raqqa, formerly the ISIS capital, has been freed. The same goes for the Iraqi cities of Mosul, Ramadi, and Fallujah. This administration has continued President Obama’s siege on ISIS-held territory, although FiveThirtyEight’s Poll Bot has once again pointed out that only “19 percent of adults think Trump has made a lot of progress against ISIS.”
10:14p: President Trump announced in the speech that he will not close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Treating terrorists like enemy combatants makes sense. Bringing them to Guantanamo Bay doesn’t, because Guantanamo Bay has become infamous for its willingness to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on its detainees. For those of you who don’t know what “enhanced interrogation techniques” means, there’s another word for it: torture. The Geneva Convention calls torture a war crime, and torture has been repeatedly proven to be an unreliable source of intelligence gathering. Nevertheless, President Trump has repeatedly endorsed torture, particularly the simulated drowning practice of waterboarding.
10:16p: Jerusalem has been Israel’s de facto capital for quite some time, hosting the Israeli Parliament and other major government institutions.
10:17p: President Trump has asked Congress to withhold foreign aid funds from any country that disagreed with the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and is already withdrawing $65 million from the UN’s Palestinian Refugee relief program. Secretary of Defense James “the Warrior Monk” Mattis has made it very clear in the past that foreign aid is necessary to maintain peace around the globe, and that if the government cuts foreign aid budgets, he’ll need to buy more ammunition. We can cut off foreign aid to countries that disagree with us, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a good idea for global peace and prosperity.
10:25p: No disagreement here. The North Korean regime is pretty evil. Missing: any specifics on how the Trump administration plans to counter their nuclear ambitions. President Trump just said that we would meet them with “total American resolve.”
10:29p: Americans “push the boundary of science and discovery.” Clearly American science hasn’t had much of an impact on President Trump, who continues to parrot the disproven belief that climate change is a hoax, and recently claimed that Arctic ice levels had hit an all-time high, when they had actually hit an all-time low.
10:31p: And that’s a wrap. Next up: the Democratic response from Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Francis Kennedy and grand-nephew of President Kennedy.
—DEM. RESPONSE, CONDUCTED BY REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III—
10:43p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Wow, he looks a lot like his grandfather.
10:45p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Controversial opinion: Nazis are bad. At least, I guess that’s controversial now.
10:49p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): “Fun” fact, the President didn’t say a word about protections and rights for LGBT Americans. Joe Kennedy’s response is the first I’ve heard of it.
10:52p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Joe Kennedy is speaking Spanish, channeling the spirit of Senator Tim Kaine.
10:55p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Hey, Kennedy just said “out of many, one.” Those of you who actually made it to the end of this post will notice that I referenced Barack Obama’s use of the phrase in 2004.
10:57p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Kennedy’s speaking cadence sounded a lot better and more “genuine” than President Trump’s, as if he actually wrote the speech himself, or had at least read it once beforehand. Unfortunately, the speech itself seems pretty bland, and you can tell that Kennedy finished writing his speech before the SOTU even began, because he doesn’t make any specific references to what Trump said last night. I’m glad that Kennedy doesn’t sound like an angry robot, and that he didn’t accidentally say he was a Republican, but the speech lacked specificity.
10:57p: (DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE): Maybe I’m just being hard on Joe Kennedy because his grandfather improvised a speech that stopped a riot from happening after the death of Dr. King, one great-uncle gave a speech that laid the foundation for the modern Democratic Party’s platform, and his other great-uncle may have been the single greatest orator of the 20th century. Joe Kennedy could have torn down the house and I probably wouldn’t have blinked.
Last year, when President Trump gave his first address to Congress, I quoted conservative pundit Ana Navarro when she said “you can disagree with him on policy, but this is most presidential Trump has ever sounded. If I had amnesia, I might even forget he is insane.”
I am too lazy to find another quote for this year, so I’m just gonna quote Ana Navarro again:
You can disagree with him on policy, but this is most presidential Trump has ever sounded. If I had amnesia, I might even forget he is insane.
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