Trump uses State of Union to campaign; Pelosi rips up speech

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on.

President Donald Trump laid out his blueprint for the coming election campaign in a wide-ranging State of the Union address in Washington, Tuesday night, said two professors of political science.

“It was one of the most comprehensive State of the Union messages I’ve ever heard,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, Franklin and Marshall College, “and I’ve covered a lot of them. He went through his economic agenda and a whole lot of issues. It was extraordinarily comprehensive.”

The other noteworthy side, Madonna said, “is that there were 119 applauses, and the divisions between Democrats and Republicans were stark on the vast majority of them because of the polarization and the big differences on policy. There were few standing ovations by Democrats.” 

Giving radio personality Rush Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom was a surprise, Madonna noted. 

The speech combined boasting about the state of the economy and trade deals with lots of red meat for his base about illegal immigrants, said Robert Speel, associate professor of political science, Penn State, The Behrend College. 

“It was interesting that the Middle East peace plan which Trump had advertised earlier in his presidency as transformational for the Middle East only got a passing mention after it received mostly a lukewarm to negative international response last week,” Speel noted. 

There were lots of tributes to veterans, which is common in State of the Union speeches, Speel said.

“The biggest surprise in the Trump speech for his opponents was probably that he made no direct mention of the impeachment or the circumstances that led to it,” Speel said, suggesting that his advisers and Congressional Republicans likely talked him out of any discussion of that controversy, which was probably a smart move from a politically strategic standpoint. 

There will probably also be some discussion in the days ahead about Trump’s refusal to shake Nancy Pelosi’s hand before the speech began, Speel said.

Overall, Madonna noted, the speech was well structured, Madonna said. “You can disagree with him, but he covered a wide array of subjects. First, he started with economic data, then talked about people, then personalities and the invited guests in the audience. He used his guests to highlight some of the sacrifices made by many Americans. Virtually everything he has done as president was put on the table.

“Trump spoke to his base, talking about abortion, the wall and Second Amendment rights. But at times he also attempted to reach out to minorities,” Madonna said. “What he basically did was to lay out an agenda for his re-election.”

Recommended for you