Trump claims to have ‘shattered the mentality of Amerian decline’ in divisive speech
So what did he actually say?
Speaking just three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump took to the podium to take credit for a booming economy and tell the country it is in better shape than ever.
The partisan discord was on vivid display as the first president to campaign for re-election while facing impeachment made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted “Four More Years” as their Democratic counterparts made their rejection of the president and his administration abundantly clear.
“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump declared. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back.”
Holding out the nation’s economic success as the chief rationale for a second term, Trump’s speech resembled a lower-volume version of his campaign rallies, providing something for every section of his political base.
But while he tweets daily assailing his impeachment, Trump never mentioned the “i-word” in his 78-minute speech. That followed the lead of Bill Clinton, who did not reference his recent impeachment when he delivered his State of the Union in 1999. Trump spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate one day later was expected to acquit him largely along party lines.
The president entered the evening on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong. He struck a largely optimistic tone. But in past moments when Trump has adopted a tone of bipartisanship and co-operation, he has consistently returned to harsher rhetoric within days.
Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class, though the period of growth began under his predecessor, Barack Obama. And what Trump calls an unprecedented boom is, by many measures, not all that different from the solid economy he inherited from Obama. Economic growth was 2.3 per cent in 2019, matching the average pace since the Great Recession ended a decade ago in the first year of Obama’s eight-year presidency
Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.
While the White House said the president was offering a message of unity, he also spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue – immigration – trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.
He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.
The Democrats were supplying plenty of counter-programming, focusing on healthcare – the issue key to their takeover of the House last year. Trump, for his part, vowed to not allow a “socialist takeover of our healthcare system” a swipe at the Medicare For All proposal endorsed by some of his Democratic challengers, notably Bernie Sanders.
Here’s Phil Thomas and Clark Mindock with a more comprehensive match report.