Edited by: Fern Sidman
Electricity filled the air on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night, as President Donald Trump began his third State of the Union touting U.S. economic gains since he took office.
The theme of Trump’s third State of the Union speech was “The Great American Comeback.” Although his Democratic detractors labeled his address as highly partisan, Trump rolled out his vision, despite the fact that impeachment by the House of Representatives and a trail in the Senate has dogged him for many months.
Besides sporadic booing and vocal jeers from Democratic party legislators, the big controversy of the evening occurred when the president handed his prepared remarks to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It appeared that Trump ignored her when she reached out to shake the president’s hand.
Fox News reported that it was unclear if Trump didn’t see her hand or just didn’t want to reciprocate, but he promptly turned away from her to face the crowd gathered on the House floor.
Pelosi, whose signature adorned the articles of impeachment brought against Trump in December, apparently thought it was a snub, as she pursed her lips in surprise when Trump turned around, according to Fox News.
At the conclusion of his address, Speaker Pelosi ripped up the copy of his remarks in an apparent message of her dissatisfaction with him and his policy agenda.
“In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American Decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” he said in the opening minutes of his speech. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”
“I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been. Our military is completely rebuilt, with its power being unmatched anywhere in the world — and it is not even close. Our borders are secure. Our families are flourishing. Our values are renewed. Our pride is restored. And for all these reasons, I say to the people of our great country, and to the Members of Congress before me: The State of our Union is stronger than ever before!
As chants of “Four more years!” rang through the Senate chamber, Trump spoke of record low unemployment, especially among African-Americans, women, and veterans.
He said, “Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs — 5 million more than government experts projected during the previous administration. The unemployment rate is the lowest in over half a century. Incredibly, the average unemployment rate under my Administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country. If we had not reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witness to America’s great economic success.”
He described the surge in jobs as a “blue collar boom,” and boasted that his administration’s cut in regulations has led to the U.S. becoming the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas. He said the United States is “where the action is.”
Trump also said crime is falling, U.S. enemies are “on the run,” the military is completely rebuilt, U.S. values are renewed, and that the country is “highly respected again.”
A few of the president’s words drew audible groans from the Democrats while the president’s Republican supporters jumped to their feet at nearly every one of the president’s pronouncements of economic success.
One of Trump’s surprise guests at the event was Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The president gave as an example of American leadership throughout the world his administration’s support of Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president and called the 2018 re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro illegitimate.
Trump said, “The United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken. Here this evening is a man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans. Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland. All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom! Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.
“Mr. President, please take this message back to your homeland,” Trump said to Guaidó. “All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom! Socialism destroys nations. But always remember, freedom unifies the soul.”
Turning to domestic programs, Trump said students are trapped in failing government schools. Touting school choice, he appealed to Congress to pass a bill that includes tax credits for groups offering scholarships to private schools.“
Building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American dream.”
One of Trump’s two official guests for his address was a former U.S. Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Tony Rankins of Cincinnati, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and became addicted to drugs, which led to several prison sentences and living out of his car.
“Opportunity Zones are helping Americans like Army Veteran Tony Rankins from Cincinnati, Ohio. After struggling with drug addiction, Tony lost his job, his house, and his family — he was homeless. But then Tony found a construction company that invests in Opportunity Zones. He is now a top tradesman, drug-free, reunited with his family, and he is here tonight. Tony: Keep up the great work,” said the president.
Speaking of fulfilling his promises on vanquishing such trade deals as NAFTA, Trump said, “One of the single biggest promises I made to the American people was to replace the disastrous NAFTA trade deal. In fact, unfair trade is perhaps the single biggest reason that I decided to run for President. Following NAFTA’s adoption, our Nation lost one in four manufacturing jobs. Many politicians came and went, pledging to change or replace NAFTA — only to do absolutely nothing. But unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises. Six days ago, I replaced NAFTA and signed the brand new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) into law.
The USMCA will create nearly 100,000 new high-paying American auto jobs, and massively boost exports for our farmers, ranchers, and factory workers. It will also bring trade with Mexico and Canada to a much higher degree, but also to a much greater level of fairness and reciprocity. This is the first major trade deal in many years to earn the strong backing of America’s labor unions.”
Touting his buildup of America’s military as a deterrent to the constant threat of war and the proliferation of terrorism, Trump said, “To safeguard American Liberty, we have invested a record-breaking $2.2 trillion in the United States Military. We have purchased the finest planes, missiles, rockets, ships, and every other form of military equipment — all made in the United States of America. We are also finally getting our allies to help pay their fair share. I have raised contributions from the other NATO members by more than $400 billion, and the number of allies meeting their minimum obligations has more than doubled.”
Referencing his creation of the Space Force which he officially launched only months ago, Trump spoke of the late President Harry Truman and his creation of the Air Force 70 years ago.
He then introduced his next guest, 13-year old Iain Lanphier of Arizona.
“In the gallery tonight, we have one of the Space Force’s youngest potential recruits: 13-year-old Iain Lanphier, an eighth grader from Arizona. Iain has always dreamed of going to space. He was first in his class and among the youngest at an aviation academy. He aspires to go to the Air Force Academy, and then, he has his eye on the Space Force. As Iain says, “most people look up at space, I want to look down on the world.”
Sitting beside Iain tonight is his great hero. Charles McGee was born in Cleveland, Ohio, one century ago. Charles is one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen — the first black fighter pilots — and he also happens to be Iain’s great-grandfather. After more than 130 combat missions in World War II, he came back to a country still struggling for Civil Rights and went on to serve America in Korea and Vietnam. On December 7th, Charles celebrated his 100th birthday. A few weeks ago, I signed a bill promoting Charles McGee to Brigadier General. And earlier today, I pinned the stars on his shoulders in the Oval Office. General McGee: Our Nation salutes you.”
Speaking of lifting the restrictions on educational opportunities for the nation’s youth, the president spoke of 18 states that have created school choice in the form of Opportunity Scholarships. He said that the programs are so popular, that tens of thousands of students remain on waiting lists.
Trump then took pride in introducing his next guest, Janiyah Davis, a fourth grader from Philadelphia.
“Janiyah’s mom Stephanie is a single parent. She would do anything to give her daughter a better future. But last year, that future was put further out of reach when Pennsylvania’s Governor vetoed legislation to expand school choice for 50,000 children.
Janiyah and Stephanie are in the gallery this evening. But there is more to their story. Janiyah, I am pleased to inform you that your long wait is over. I can proudly announce tonight that an Opportunity Scholarship has become available, it is going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice!”
Taking a snipe at socialism and the deleterious effects that it has on our nation’s healthcare system, Trump said, “The American patient should never be blindsided by medical bills. That is why I signed an Executive Order requiring price transparency. Many experts believe that transparency, which will go into full effect at the beginning of next year, will be even bigger than healthcare reform. It will save families massive amounts of money for substantially better care.
But as we work to improve Americans’ healthcare, there are those who want to take away your healthcare, take away your doctor, and abolish private insurance entirely. One hundred thirty-two lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our healthcare system, wiping out the private health insurance plans of 180 million Americans. To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!”
Trump was roundly booed by Democratic legislators when he spoke of taking on “Big Pharma.”
He said, “My Administration is also taking on the big pharmaceutical companies. We have approved a record number of affordable generic drugs, and medicines are being approved by the FDA at a faster clip than ever before. I was pleased to announce last year that, for the first time in 51 years, the cost of prescription drugs actually went down.
And working together, the Congress can reduce drug prices substantially from current levels. I have been speaking to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others in the Congress in order to get something on drug pricing done, and done properly. I am calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it into law without delay.”
Speaking of battling diseases such as kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and mental health, Trump paused during the address to award conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
He said, “Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh: Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country. Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
Trump also addressed the often thorny issue of illegal immigration and support for law enforcement authorities, including the men and women in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
On January 10th in Queens, an undocumented immigrant murdered 92-year old Maria Fuertes.
According to a report in the NY Daily News, the federal government on Monday asked a judge to force the city to provide documents related to 21-year old Reeaz Khan of Guyana, who is accused of killing the elderly woman.
Trump said, “A better tomorrow for all Americans also requires us to keep America safe. That means supporting the men and women of law enforcement at every level, including our Nation’s heroic ICE officers.
Last year, our brave ICE officers arrested more than 120,000 criminal aliens charged with nearly 10,000 burglaries, 5,000 sexual assaults, 45,000 violent assaults, and 2,000 murders.
Tragically, there are many cities in America where radical politicians have chosen to provide sanctuary for these criminal illegal aliens. In Sanctuary Cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public, instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed.
Just 29 days ago, a criminal alien freed by the Sanctuary City of New York was charged with the brutal rape and murder of a 92-year-old woman. The killer had been previously arrested for assault, but under New York’s sanctuary policies, he was set free. If the city had honored ICE’s detainer request, his victim would be alive today.”
Another Trump guest was U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz, “who has helped protect America’s homeland security for nearly three decades.”
Trump said, “Last year, I traveled to the border in Texas and met Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz. Over the last 24 months, Agent Ortiz and his team have seized more than 200,000 pounds of poisonous narcotics, arrested more than 3,000 human smugglers, and rescued more than 2,000 migrants. Days ago, Agent Ortiz was promoted to Deputy Chief of Border Patrol — and he joins us tonight. Chief Ortiz: Please stand — a grateful Nation thanks you and all the heroes of Border Patrol.”
Senators are scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. It is virtually certain they will acquit him on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice as his Republican party holds a majority in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be needed for conviction and removal.
“It’s unprecedented in our nation’s history to have a State of the Union address from an impeached president running for re-election,” noted University of Akron Political Science Professor David Cohen. “These events read like political thriller fiction except they’re actually happening.”
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