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Trump 'Did What He Needed to Do' in SOTU Address

'He wanted to take a reasonable, bipartisan tone'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2018 4:47 AM CST
Trump 'Toned It Down' for SOTU Address
President Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.   (Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)

(Newser) – "We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag," President Trump said in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, adopting a moderate tone that insiders tell Politico was the product of weeks of planning. "He wanted to take a reasonable, bipartisan tone" and urged speechwriters to come up with a traditional address, Republican sources say. Analysts say that while Trump succeeded in adopting a tone reminiscent of many other SOTU addresses, the policies he outlined were as controversial as ever. In other coverage:

  • "Few minds changed." With his strong focus on immigration—and talk of "terrible loopholes exploited by criminals and terrorists to enter our country"—Trump will have energized his base, but the speech provided "few reasons for those voters who view him with distaste to take a fresh look," writes Niall Stanage at the Hill.

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  • "He did what he needed to do." And in a "speech that could in tone have been given by a conventional politician," writes Dan McLaughlin at the National Review. Trump "leaned heavily on stories of inspirational people in the gallery, a dolorous and saccharine tradition begun by Ronald Reagan," McLaughlin writes, noting that their powerful stories may counter suggestions Trump is "callous toward ordinary people."
  • Low marks. According to a CNN poll, only 48% of viewers said they had a "very positive" impression of the address, and 22% were "somewhat positive," which is the lowest net positive SOTU rating recorded in 20 years of polling. CNN notes that SOTU viewers tend to be more supportive of the president than the general population.
  • Iconic moment. Breitbart praises the "iconic" moment when North Korean dissident Ji Seong Ho held up his crutches after being recognized by Trump, who recounted his struggles and praised him as an inspiration.

  • "The illusion of unity." In a list of winners and losers, the Washington Post calls Trump's "illusion of unity" a winner, noting that he alluded to unity, even while raising "highly divisive issues such as national anthem protests and crimes by undocumented immigrants." The losers include genuine bipartisanship, the truth—and brevity, since the 80-minute speech was the longest SOTU since Bill Clinton's 2000 address.
  • An attempt at a reset. The address seemed to Ross Douthat at the New York Times like a Trump attempt to reset his presidency and become a "centrist dealmaker." But while ideas like "cheaper prescription drugs, a $1.5 trillion gusher of infrastructure spending, even a promise to pursue paid family leave" are indeed popular, there's little chance of getting them past his own party and no apparent plans to try.
  • Reaction in the chamber. Reuters reports that the unity Trump spoke of was hard to spot in the House chamber, where Republicans cheered many of Trump's lines while dozens of Democrats, including many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, remained in their seats. More than a dozen other Democrats boycotted the speech. A source tells Politico that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged Democrats to avoid interruptions and let Trump be his "slobbering self." She predicted that "if his nose isn't running and he isn't burping," the media will say "he did a great speech.
(Here's what fact-checkers had to say about the address.)

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