‘Unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises. We did our job…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) To imply that President Donald Trump ever conveyed anything short of confidence would be a mischaracterization unworthy even of CNN’s fake-news reportage.
Yet, a year ago, Trump took the podium to deliver the State of the Union battle-wearied and uncertain, having just ceded the control of the House of Representatives to a vicious, radicalized and hostile force.
His first showdown—the budget impasse that led to a government shutdown—had cast into question even the SOTU address itself as seasoned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., determined to undermine his legitimacy.
On Tuesday, Trump re-ascended the platform and—much like the state of the union itself, as he reported—seemed to have regained his former steadfast footing.
Wiser to the threat of his enemies domestic and abroad, more aware of their idiosyncratic tells and bluffs, Trump—a day away from his impeachment acquittal on actions yet unforeseen a year ago—seemed not only confident but fearless.
He came, of course, well-armed with a string of unprecedented policy successes, most notably the economic prosperity like none ever before witnessed in U.S. history.
“The years of economic decay are over,” Trump began. “The days of our country being used, taken advantage of and even scorned by other nations are long behind us.”
He highlighted the “unbridled optimism” that has now silenced even the most insistent of economic alarmists, including not only job growth, unemployment reductions and a booming stock market, but also the specific ways his economy has benefited middle-class workers.
“This is a blue-collar boom,” he said, touting a 16 percent rise in median pay.
He noted, in one of many contrasts with the previous Obama administration, that with record numbers of veterans, minorities and people with disabilities rejoining the workforce, 7 million Americans had been weaned off food stamps and 10 million off welfare.
He credited Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, with promoting “opportunity zones” in which wealthy Americans had been able to invest in lower-income areas to revitalize downtrodden sectors of the country.
Along with the bipartisan criminal-justice reform Trump helped to spearhead, he said, “the roaring economy has, for the first time ever, given many former prisoners a chance.”
Trump also was able to highlight the bipartisan success of replacing the NAFTA free-trade agreement with the USMCA deal, one that will reassert “fairness and reciprocity” among U.S. neighbors for the first time in many years.
“Unfair trade is perhaps the single biggest reason that I decided to run for president,” he said.
But whereas countless politicians had promised reform that went nowhere, he delivered.
“Unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises,” he said. “We did our job.”
Not only in dealings with Mexico and Canada, but also other major players on the global stage, Trump said his firm and resolute negotiations had paid off.
He said not only had the trade war with China yielded positive results, but it had improved the relationship between the two countries.
“They respect what we’ve done, because quite frankly they could never really believe that they were able to get away with what they were doing,” Trump said.
From newly reasserted economic strength, he transitioned into the ways that the U.S. was advancing the principles of freedom by standing up to socialist tyrants like Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.
Among Trump’s invited guests to the speech, he said, was the “true and legitimate” Venezuelan president, Juan Guaido.
“Socialism destroys nations, but always remember freedom unifies the soul,” Trump said, expressing American solidarity with Guaido’s cause, a moment clearly structured to put Congress’s own socialist delegation ill at ease.
Not surprisingly, it appeared that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio—Cortez, D-NY, and other ‘Squad’ members were noticeably missing from the audience. Their absence seemed yet another victory in the war of attrition Trump has been locked in with the lower legislative chamber.
Shockingly, of the radical Democrats who were in attendance, some seemed so determined not to cede any ground to Trump that they refused a standing ovation to 100-year-old Charles McGee, one of the original Tuskegee airmen, who came with his 13-year-old great-grandson, an aspiring astronaut, in tow.
“From the pilgrims to the founders, from the soldiers at Valley Forge to the marchers at Selma—and from President Lincoln to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Americans have always rejected limits on our children’s future,” Trump said.
“Members of Congress, we must never forget that the only victories that matter in Washington are victories that deliver for the American people,” he continued, seemingly the only subtle nod of the night to House Democrats’ failed impeachment attempts.
Trump challenged Congress to step to the plate on several educational initiatives, including “opportunity scholarships” to allow greater school choice, as well as vocational and technical education in every high school.
In addition to trumpeting his reforms to the Obamacare system, the president highlighted what he said was an even bigger development: an executive order mandating price transparency, which will take effect next year.
Trump laid into the Medicare-for-All proposals and other government-run health plans that have been embraced by nearly all of his prospective Democratic opponents in this year’s presidential election.
“One hundred and thirty-two lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our healthcare system,” he said to jeers from the Republican wing.
“To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know, we will never let socialism destroy American healthcare,” he added.
He excoriated those who had endorsed free healthcare for illegal immigrants, which would “raid the Medicare benefits … that our seniors depend on while acting as a powerful lure for illegal immigration.”
Along with the the firewall of congressional legislation, he continued, a “long, tall and very powerful wall” was physically being built on the southern U.S. border with 100 miles laid down already and 500 miles expected in a year’s time.
Trump touched briefly on a series of health-related issues—including the ongoing fights against opioid addiction, HIV and the new Coronavirus—before arriving at a very special guest, conservative host Rush Limbaugh, who was seated next to First Lady Melania Trump.
The president praised the cancer-stricken radio icon as a fighter and awarded Limbaugh a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of the millions of people he inspired and his longstanding commitment to charity work.
Trump called on Congress to approve $50 million for neonatal research, drawing ovations from across the aisle, before hitting them with a right hook: a call to ban late-term abortions as several blue states have recently sought to expand the reach of abortion laws.
“Whether we are Republican, Democrat or Independent, surely we must all agree that every human life is a sacred gift from God,” he said.
He again struck a conciliatory tone touting paid family leave—a popular Democratic cause—the “one-trillion trees” environmental initiative and a call to rebuild infrastructure—once considered the cornerstone of bipartisan cooperation, which fell by the wayside as the acrimonious impeachment proceedings and other personal disputes arose between Trump and Democratic leaders.
He promoted legislation introduced by Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, that would allow victims to sue sanctuary jurisdictions when a loved one was injured or killed as a result of their negligence to comply with federal law.
Trump also proudly declared the end of “catch and release” policies after a hard-fought legal battle in which activist left-wing judges repeatedly sought to impose injunctions.
He said illegal border crossings were down more than 70 percent since May, dropping steadily for the past eight months.
Trump noted his success in confirming a record number of judges with “many more in the pipeline” before launching into the “siege” against constitutional rights—addressing his embrace of both First Amendment religious liberties and Second Amendment gun rights.
He highlighted the war against Islamic terrorism, including the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with the heart-rending story of a 26-year-old humanitarian worker who was tortured and murdered by the ISIS leader.
He introduced the parents of Kayla Mueller, as well as the mother and son of Sgt. Chris Hake, who was killed by a roadside bombing orchestrated by the late Iranian Qud general Qassem Soleimani.
Trump had another surprise in store while addressing the need to end America’s longest-running war in Afghanistan, introducing Amy Williams, a military wife and mother of two from Fort Bragg, NC, before reuniting her with husband, Townsend, recently returned from his fourth deployment.
“America’s the place where anything can happen,” he said. “America’s the place where anyone can rise—and here, on this land, on this soil, on this continent, the most incredible dreams come true. This nation is our canvas, and this country is our masterpiece.”
Trump closed on a note of hope and optimism for the future, infused with the sense of rugged perseverance inherited from America’s past that paralleled his own bumpy presidential narrative.
In spite of it all, he said, “our grandest journeys are not yet made. … Our spirit is still young. The sun is still rising. God’s grace is still shining—and, my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come.”