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Takeaways From the 'Strangest SOTU Ever'

It included some 'reality show' flourishes
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2020 6:11 AM CST

(Newser) – Love him or hate him—and Tuesday's State of the Union address won't have moved many people from one camp to the other—President Trump knows how to work a crowd. While most Democrats remained silent, the president got cheer after cheer from Republicans during the heavily partisan address, which included flourishes like awarding Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the spot. John F. Harris at Politico calls it "the most defiant, most boastful, most ostentatiously theatrical, most overtly campaign-oriented, most am-I-hearing-this-right? outlandish—the most flamboyantly bizarre—State of the Union Address of All Time." Some takeaways:

  • No love lost with Pelosi. Trump and Pelosi hadn't been this physically close to each other since an ill-fated meeting in October—and tensions post-impeachment seemed even higher. He snubbed her handshake just before the speech, and she ripped up her copy moments after he finished speaking. During the address, Pelosi could be seen shaking her head.

  • Economic Pinocchios. Trump boasted at length about the strong economy, though fact-checkers found numerous false claims and exaggerations. Aaron Blake at the Washington Post notes that Trump spoke of ending "years of economic decay," but on his watch, the economy has continued the progress that began under his predecessor. "Trump has a good story to tell on the economy," Blake writes, "but he insists on ... pretending that the economy he inherited was in some kind of free fall, which just wasn’t the case."
  • A "reality show State of the Union." Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels at the Hill note that the address included several "made-for-TV" moments, including the Rush Limbaugh honor and the reunion of a military family. The flourishes were "uniquely Trumpian given his penchant for production value and headline-grabbing moments, and they produced lighthearted moments that softened what was otherwise a caustic evening," they write.
  • Attacks on socialism. Trump, continuing what is expected to be a major theme in his re-election campaign, slammed socialism both in the US and overseas, the New York Times reports. "To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: We will never let socialism destroy American health care," he said.
  • Policy proposals. The address was relatively light on policy proposals, but Trump did call for legislation to lower prescription drug prices, which led to chants from Democrats who have sent legislation to the Senate. Trump also called for more vocational training, a ban on late-term abortions, and a law allowing people to sue "sanctuary" cities if they are the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. "And that was pretty much that," writes Anthony Zurcher at the BBC. "If the president is going to campaign on any bold, new ideas, they'll have to wait for another night to be unveiled."
  • The elephant in the room. The Times notes that Trump made no mention of his impeachment trial, despite the fact that he was speaking on the eve of his widely expected acquittal.
(Read more State of the Union Address stories.)

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