Trump’s State of the Union Extols US Economy, Says Little about Foreign Policy and National Debt
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Never in recent memory has a president given a State of the Union Address amid so many political controversies and a nation fractured along partisan lines. However, that is what President Donald Trump faced Tuesday night.
Trump had to navigate the political landmines of immigration reform, the Russian investigation and the impending release of California Congressman Devon Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee memo which alleges abuses of power by the Department of Justice and the FBI.
Partisan Divide on Full Display
Even before Trump began to speak, the divisiveness was well established. Several Democratic members of Congress, objecting to how Trump has conducts himself as President – and seemingly unable to accept the fact that he is the President – decided to boycott the State of the Union address.
From the outset of his address, one could feel the sharp partisan divide. Democrats sat angrily silent, not even rising in applause when Trump spoke about issues they champion – including the economy, infrastructure and the low unemployment rate of African-Americans. In fact, the Democrats only showed emotion to boo Trump’s immigration proposals.
Trump Highlights Revival of US Economy
As expected, Trump highlighted the strength and growth of the economy since he assumed the presidency.
“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,” he said.
Trump went on to note that unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low, and African-American and Hispanic American unemployment rates are at their lowest level ever.
Trump said small business confidence is at an all-time high, and the stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value.
“That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension and college savings accounts,” he noted.
State of the Union: Plea for Bipartisanship Fails
Trump’s 80-minute speech gave the American people a chance to see a different side of the president. His speech overcame any doubts of his fitness for office, and he also kept his conservative base happy with his continued support for the border wall with Mexico and his call for immigration reform to end so-called “chain migration” and the visa lottery system.
However, despite Trump’s call for bipartisanship, some Democrats booed his mention of ending these two programs. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and other Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to rise in response to the president’s outreach.
Trump spent a good portion of his address showcasing the revival of the U.S. economy, but his proposals were short on specifics, especially how to fund his massive infrastructure plan.
Trump Asks for $1.5 Trillion to Repair Nation’s Infrastructure
Trump called on Congress “to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need. Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments,” he said, “and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment – to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit. Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process – getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.” But, President Trump did not address how, or when, this could be accomplished.
No Mention of National Debt
The president also failed to address the problem of the national debt, which now stands at about $20.4 trillion and growing; Rep. Joe Kennedy, (D-Mass), who gave the main rebuttal for the Democrats, made note of that omission.
Trump strongly urged Congress to fully fund the Pentagon.
“I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military,” he said. “As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal.”
How this can be done also remains to be seen. Both political parties have paid only lip service to tackling the national debt and have exacerbated the situation by pushing the hard choices into the future.
President Pivots to Foreign Policy
Trump turned to foreign policy only in the last part of his speech when he called out the depraved regimes of Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. However, there was also no mention of Russia, China or the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.
Trump cited the fight against terrorism and the defeat of ISIS. He rebuked his predecessor, President Obama, who was unable to convince Congress to close Guantánamo Bay and move the remaining detainees to the United States.
“I am keeping another promise. I just signed an order directing [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay,” stated Trump.
Much was said in the address, but many details were missing – similar to most State of the Union addresses throughout history.
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